Revenge is a dish best served cold, as Ana Maria Braga once said. Really Your Life Is An Impossibility has never been one for revenge, because to seek it you presumably need to suffer in some way to begin with, and YLIAI, charmed life that he has led, doesn’t feel that he has suffered all that much.
Though it appears, given the events of the Sunday just past, that YLIAI has done a terrible wrong to someone, somewhere. He wracks his brains trying to think who it might have been. A baby kitten? Eamonn Holmes? Parsons? Then he remembers. Feels vaguely guilty. Remembers why he did it in the first place. Stops feeling guilty. The victim? The capital of Paraíba, geographical if not spiritual neighbour of Pernambuco, João Pessoa. The crime? Saying bad things about the capital of Paraíba, over a four year period.
As regular readers might know, YLIAI spent a miserable year living in João Pessoa, or Jampa as the locals, presumably ironically aping São Paulo’s Sampa moniker, like to call the place. During this year he had no friends, no girlfriends (Ex or otherwise), no dog, no luck, no love. He found João Pessoa, pretty as it is, to be a desolate, godless place, filled with a particularly well heeled, smug stripe of gringo, contentedly sliding into unthinking senility by the beach at Cabo Branco alongside the slack-jawed locals, who in their turn stubbornly refuse to accept even a little of the dramatic progress the rest of the nordeste is making.
It is the kind of place where people stare, open-mouthed and pointing, at the sky when a plane passes over, no doubt thinking the great metal bird has returned to punish us. It has no football, no carnaval, no teeming downtown boozers, no manic energy, no hustle, no bustle, no buzz. Two of the city’s newspapers don’t come out on Mondays. Nobody seems to know why this might be. It has only a fraction of Recife’s vibrancy. In fact it has only a fraction of Campina Grande’s, or Caruaru’s vibrancy, and it’s three or four times bigger than either of those places. It doesn’t even have much urban ultra-violence for God’s sake, which makes it a piss poor example of a Brazilian city, in YLIAI’s opinion.
But João Pessoa has had the last laugh, as things turn out, and YLIAI supposes that this at least deserves a doffing of the cap. He should have known – the rain is biblical in the days leading up to Sunday’s trip. The rumours (which turn out to be wrong, but only slightly) are that a bridge has been swept away near Goiana, closing the BR. But in the end the journey there, and the occasion itself (Santa Cruz vs Alecrim in Serie D of the Campeonato Brasileiro, of which more here) pass smoothly enough. It is on the way home that things get interesting.
A few miles out of João Pessoa the traffic grinds to a halt. YLIAI immediately gets a mild bout of the willies and feels that this will be a bad one – up ahead there is nothing but an endless ribbon of red, blinking brake lights stretching into the darkness. And a bad one it is – two hours later the van pulls into darkened gas station, having moved all of 2km. The gas station has closed, though, for fear (unjustifiably) of being ransacked by marauding Inferno Coral gangs. This overlooks the fact that the marauding Inferno Coral gangs probably just want to get home like everyone else.
Back on the road progress continues to be measured by the inch rather than the mile. Car engines are switched off and passengers stretch their legs along the hard shoulder. One car rolls past pouring out gruesome funk. Four teenage boys sit on the roof, their legs dangling. Every so often another group of teenage boys wander past, their eyes roving, possibly – possibly – on the lookout for easy to swipe treasures – a wallet left on a dashboard by an open window, a cell phone loosely clasped to an ear. In YLIAI’s van middle class Brazilian panic is in full swing – que cara do ladrão! Feche as janelas! and so on. In truth the boys soon wander back to their car, pockets far from bulging. It seems they were just visiting their equally face of a thief pals in another bus. Off the road the darkness is immense, immeasurable.
It is about half past ten by the time the van gets to the front of the queue, only to be told by the nice policeman that the BR, and the city of Goiana, are under a metre or two of water. There are two choices – go via Pedras De Fogo, where the road is terrible and is also flooded, and where vans can’t pass anyway, or via Campina Grande, Caruaru, and finally Recife, a detour of about 400kms. YLIAI feels very sad indeed, and is sure he can hear, way back in the distance, a city quietly snickering.
The dubious decision is made to return to João Pessoa, have something to eat, and wait it out, though no-one knows what it might be. Maybe the water level will magically go down in the space of half an hour, maybe the van will sprout wings, maybe Jampa will develop a strong sense of its own identity and a lively cultural scene. The rest of the van head off to Bob’s Burgers. YLIAI settles for a tapioca, a beer and a reviving whiskey. At about midnight the van leaves to try again. Fearing the possibility of ten hours in a cramped minibus, YLIAI elects to stay in João Pessoa and catch a normal bus back the next day.
Only – and here Jampa really has its fun – of the 16,000 tricolores who came here for the game it appears that at least 15,980 have been marooned in this Village Of The Damned and there are no hotel rooms. Anywhere. YLIAI wanders the streets for over an hour, knocking at the door of at least six hotels around Tambaú, only to be told each time, with a slightly smug shake of the head, that there’s no room at the inn, porra. YLIAI thinks he might cry, and one point starts to consider the possibility that he may very well have to spend the night on a park bench, in the rain, in João Pessoa (though he knows he probably won’t – even without hotels there are still a boatload of sex motels out on the BR that’ll rent him a room by the hour, and might even throw in a bit of female companionship at the same time, should YLIAI desire it).
Eventually inspiration strikes. YLIAI is, to his chagrin, an old João Pessoa stager, probably unlike the majority of his tricolor companheiros. Most of them will have headed straight to the better known hotels at the beach. Fewer will have ventured downtown. YLIAI jumps into a cab and heads for the really rather beautiful Lagoã, where in a grotty side street he nabs The Last Hotel Room in João Pessoa.
And that is basically it, except that the next day there are no buses until 14.00, and when YLIAI gets to the ticket window he is told that the last ticket has just been sold to the person in front of him. So YLIAI gets the 16.30, and gets home, finally, at about 20.00, having taken around twenty six hours to complete what is normally a two hour journey. And on the bus, drooping gently into sleep, he can hear The Village Of The Damned snickering all the way.