Chapter 5: April 21, Last Year
Ah, you also heard about that? Yes, things were not pretty to see. I've just heard from Mr. Nitwit, he called the hospital and got the news. It's tough, doc. To lose a brother is not an easy thing, let alone this one that had been with us for a long time. Poor thing, he suffered a lot. Oh well... Very sad, doc.
No, no, he had nothing until last night. He was fine, making jokes, laughing with us. We were sitting there, checking the flow of things and making comments on those who passed by, but by the evening he got sick. We were already sleeping.
Ah, I don't know if it was the food, doc. We all ate the same thing: a bowl the other brother got on that bakery across from Jabaquara. We split it up among us with some leftovers, but only that brother got sick. That's why I think it wasn't the food. But you can't tell what it was.
What hospital? If I tell you I know, I would be lying, doc. In this muss I forgot to ask, I think I got terrified. Mr. Nitwit was the one who asked and took the number from the ambulance team. We were startled. These things are hard because we don't know very well what to do besides screaming for help. We can't take anybody anywhere and neither can we know for sure where to take them, what to do, how to proceed. And there's more, doc, we are from the streets and that changes everything. The times we tried to get in an Emergency Room were really hard because the bodyguards put us out, and when there are no bodyguards, we remain ignored in a waiting line outside that they set only for us. In this case, Mr. Nitwit being smart as he is, didn't say anything about him being one of us, he just said that it was someone at the bakery, a customer I think. Then the ambulance came quickly, only because of that. I don't know how they don't send a hearse right away when they know it's one of us, one from the streets. Anyway, they took him there and we heard nothing more about it until now, when Mr. Nitwit managed to talk to them after insisting for so long. I don't know if they were really busy in the hospital or just shrugging off the case. I'd rather think they were busy.
Yeah, I am vexed, doc. Forgive me, but it's tough, you can't remain resigned. I'm not even talking about the brother's problem. Maybe it was something that there was nothing to be done, but let us be honest, with us things are different. We have no families there awaiting, we have no homes to be sent back, we have no money to pay for the taxes that keep things there, not even documents with our names we have - that is, when we still have names - so there is no reason why wasting time and drugs with people nobody will really miss, and if they do it'll be just for a few days, nothing more, as if they noted a small change in the landscape, that only appears in gentle eyes, but soon enough escapes the mind and the landscape really turns into that, as if it were always like that.
Ah no, they didn't say anything, just confirmed that he died. Mr. Nitwit insisted, but they were kind of rude, you know? He said that when he got someone to pick up the call and returned to the phone after he explained the situation, the answer was: "Oh yes, he passed away this morning, there was nothing we could do, thanks!” Mr. Nitwit kept on asking what happened, what was the cause of death and other details, but just got a harsh: "Unknown causes. He was street dweller and who knows what he was into".
Seriously, doc. Mr. Nitwit was out of his mind, but there wasn’t much he could do, it happened and it's very, very rare indeed one of us coming back after getting into an ambulance. This is actually a major hardship we have when one of the brothers feels sick, because we're between calling an ambulance to help him or doing nothing and pray that God does something and everything gets fixed, without an ambulance that could take him to nevermore.
I don't know, doc, it's tough because it's hard for us to get the news, you know? Some say the brothers died, others go to some sort of shelter and are better off there. I even try to believe that, but in desperate times we really don't know what to do, and then comes the fear. Honestly, I have never talked to someone that came back. At most, I got some news like that of the brother that got bathed in hot water. The others, I never saw, heard of or spoke to again. These things take away the little hope and faith we still have in our hearts. Our heart now beats tight, and I have to say: not just for the brother that lost his life and may be better now, but because tomorrow it can be our turn.
Mr. Nitwit managed to call the hospital again and heard he's being buried as an indigent because there was no document or anyone who could confirm who he actually was. What a thing, right, doc? The guy is born from a father and a mother, receives some name, spends a lifetime struggling to survive and when he dies he gets to be thrown away in some mass grave like an animal without an owner, no cross, no picture, no sayings and no dispatching of his soul to the Lord. Can you imagine? One moment you have a job, a home, family, and suddenly you have nothing left, even your dignity's been stuck in your butt. This life really sucks, doc!
Oh doc, I'm sorry! But you must know: when the heart's uneasy, the mouth has no clue on what it's saying. It's just, everything's so unfair, the man has at least the right to his dignity but not even that remains. Everything is taken away from us. Besides the humiliation that we have to live with, Sun after Sun, we must go through it with no dignity at all, being treated like sewer rats that sneak in the curbs after a heel to bite and to infect everything with our pests.
Yeah... But it won’t be a thing, it's okay, he got some rest from this life. God is our Lord and he will welcome him in a pretty and plentiful place, I'm sure of it, oh yes, Thanks God, amen, amen, amen, my Lord.
Ah yeah, so, he was fine yesterday; actually, he's been fine for a long time, not even a single cold he had. During the day he stayed around here, went for a walk around the square to look at the traffic, as he always enjoyed doing, then came back before the rain and stayed there, sitting. The other brothers arrived and the last one of them was who brought the bowl that I told you about. We ate together and it was good, y'know? Warm and had tasty beef, oh yes! Then we ate, cleaned things up for the night and sat, under the canvas that we arranged during the night to see the people passing by, comment about the things that happened in the crossing, and we talked a little. Everything was fine, nothing abnormal. We decided to go to sleep.
What time? It was around nine, Mr. Nitwit's bakery was full of people, after all, people cherish Friday a little more. Then we lay down. I slept quickly and didn't see at what time the rest of the brothers fell asleep, or at what time he slept -if he did sleep- but I did. But I didn't sleep much; an hour must have passed by, an hour and a half. It was almost two hours later that I woke up at him flouncing. We fell asleep with our feet facing each other. By my side, there was another brother and by his side, no one. The others were in the other part of our tent, heads turned to mine. We make some different divisions in there to avoid that one puts his foot in the other's face. You know how it is, the brother dreams and we get kicked, hehe. Besides, we can't quite keep ourselves neat around here, so, you can imagine our feet's situation. It's best to leave them with other feet. And it was his feet that woke me up when flouncing nonstop against mine. I even thought it was another dream of his, or that he was waking me to see something that was happening and was worth having a good laugh. But I was sleepy and grumbled for him to leave it alone, because I wanted to sleep, but he didn't stop. Not even for a second; he didn't stop and continued to bug me - or so I thought, that he was bugging me to see something - so I sat and when I looked at him, with my eyes still kind of blurry, I realized it wasn't just the feet but the whole body was shaking violently. It looked like all of his muscles were acting on their own without matching the others: some contorted, others trembled, others had spasms and others remained stiff like rocks.
Yeah, convulsion, that's the word I was looking for, it looked like - and it probably was - a convulsion. The scene was terrible, doc. When I got up to help him, I went already screaming for the other brothers. The one who brought the bowl left running straight to Mr. Nitwit's bakery after help. The others went with me to help him. I thought we could hold his arms and legs, while we tried to calm him down, but no, we weren't able to hold him. What scared me the most, after seeing him flouncing that way, was when I got close to his head: he was bleeding through every single hole. A very thick and dark, almost black blood left his nose. His mouth was shut tight, foaming like a crazy dog, only it was a yellow foam, and then red, I don't know if he was biting his own tongue or if it was the blood from the nose that blended with it. The same dark and thick blood left his ears, doc, can you imagine? Only it left his ear more than the nose. And all of that being splashed, blending, spreading like moss as he was flouncing. And the eyes, doc? My God, the eyes wouldn't bleed as much as the other parts, but you could see some blood leaving them, as if it were tears, y'know? But, in the eyes, the blood was the least of the problems, because they looked like they were about to explode! The eyelids were stretched and struggling to hold the eyes in for those seemed to be being pushed out by something from within; terrible, terrible, doc! And the worst of all is that, in the middle of all the crisis, with all that blood and muscles contorting themselves, you could hear him groaning and, doc, those weren't groans caused by the attack, as if the throat muscles and the lungs caused that; that was him groaning from pain, from fear, from despair, as if asking for help, doc! I know that!
How? Just seeing, doc, just being there and seeing, you would know how the groans were... And they stay in my head, doc; it was a lot of pain that poor thing was feeling. Poor thing, doc! May the Lord have him by his side, free from that. Maybe it was like a final moment that God showed Himself to him so that he went through that and entered the Heavens clean.
Ah yes! We couldn't do anything; we tried to hold him, but we couldn't, doc. He was like a bull! It's in these times that we really see the strength of a man, isn't it? They say it's in despair, in the absence of thoughts that the body explodes in pure raw strength. You see, doc, he wasn't a large man, on the contrary - he was skinny and thin, but we couldn't handle him!
It was only when he couldn't take it anymore and passed out that everything stopped. Out of the blue, like a snap, he passed out and softened. He was collapsed, all sprawled, with his face in the puddle of his own thick and dark blood. I tried to wake him with some slaps on his face, but nothing, he wouldn't wake up. But he breathed, and that made us calmer -or less worried, right?- because it was as if the crisis had ended and he was just sleeping, tired. If it weren't for all that bleeding, we would leave him that way, just waiting for him to rest and recover, and then see if there was any damage; but we couldn't ignore that much blood and the groans of pain that were inside him and are now in my head. It was as if he was trapped in his own body, suffering, being attacked by some demon... Oh my, was it that the demon was in his body? I just thought about it now, doc... No, no, God wouldn't allow it, God no... But then, it looked like he was trapped and wanting to get out, as if the groans were screams he couldn't let out. So I thought we should really call an ambulance. Maybe he had more chances of going to some shelter later; at least he'd be fine. But I didn't even have time to think of what I said and the other brother came running with Mr. Nitwit right behind him. Mr. Nitwit got very nervous, too, when he saw all that blood and was quickly calming us down, saying the ambulance was coming. Soon we heard the ambulance turn the Tree Square, sounding like crazy. Mr. Nitwit ran there to inform, at the last minute, that the patient was lying under the canvas. My goodness, doc, you could see in the driver's face the deception and irritation when he saw who it was actually about. But the doctors, nurses, I don't exactly know who they are, the ones who assisted the brother didn't seem to care. There are people who do their work with love, aren't there, doc? They did, oh yes, they didn't even care and treated him the way they could. They gave him some injections, stuck a tube in his throat and started to bomb air with a balloon, put a serum bag in which they put a whole lot more of injections. I think those were more meds, weren't they?
Yeah... I think so. Well, then they rolled a metallic cover over, it seemed like it was supposed to keep him warm - he was a little cold already. In all that rush, I heard a doctor telling the other that there could be a problem inside his head. That worried me, but one of the doctors came to talk to us, while they finished settling him, to know what had happened. And I told him everything I told you. While they put the brother in the ambulance, Mr. Nitwit talked to the driver to know where they were going. Then they turned the sirens on and rushed away. Only after the ambulance left that he told me he didn't say who it was for.
That's right, doc, nobody slept after that. And y'know, I think not even Mr. Nitwit. He stayed at the bakery and soon closed it, but at dawn I saw there was a light on in his house and, once in a while, I saw his figure walking from one side to the other.
And that's it, doc! We just got real news recently, like I told you. I only ask God to welcome him in His herd and give him the comfort he deserves. The rest, we keep on doing around here.
Yes, it is... The sorrow and missing the buddy still remain, but we must keep the ball rolling, we must go on; otherwise we'll pass away fast, too. We must go on because it's not easy when things are in their right places, so like this, it gets even worse. We are one less now, doc; some are satisfied by that, right?
Yeah, doc... You know this is how things work. But the others, like us, you, Mr. Nitwit, and Cidão, are going to miss him. And you'll see -that works for us, too- that it will be quick, soon we won't even miss him or talk about it, oh yes. In the best of the situations, doc, we are numbers in this life; in our case, we cannot even be numbers. That's life, doc, and nothing stays in it and nothing is taken from it.
Yeah, not even the littlest thing...
May God go with you, my brother!
Ah yes, doc, we are fine, you can go unconcerned. We'll be here, existing. Oh yes, you can bet I'll pass it on, thank you very much, doc. And sorry to bother you with all that story, but I thank you. I feel even lighter after talking to you.
See you when I see you, doc!