Chapter 9: October 7, Last Year
Yeah, I was distracted. Do you see that family under the Bingo shelter? I think they got there yesterday, I'm not sure, I just know that soon enough someone'll take them from there, for sure.
Why? Oh, doc, you know how it is, nobody wants people living in there, even if the Bingo is restricted by the prefecture. It's the dirt, doc, the dirt from pooping and peeing, from the view, you know? That's how these things work. Especially because with a family big like that, you can't go looking for a place during the day and come back only to sleep, they have children. You see there, in that little pile? I counted three little heads. The tiny bodies must be all wrapped one to another to warm themselves up. What a pity, doc. It breaks my heart, you know? For us that are already grown-ups, it's not easy, but to a kid? Tell me about it. Toddlers starving, feeling cold and not living like children... Oh, doc, it should be forbidden by God... May He forgive me, but I think like that. Children should be forbidden from being in need, being sick, and being buried by their parents, oh yes!
But you can write it down: soon someone's coming and taking them to a faraway place, where they'll stay out of sight – out of the landscape, if you get what I mean. As I told you the other day: I don't even know how we're lasting so long in here.
See there, doc! Can you see the little girl? Oh, doc, is this life for a child? Look, look, doc! Poor thing, just woke up and has to bend over on a little bucket, lift the dirty tiny dress in front of everyone for the first pee of the day. Oh, Lord, have mercy!
Yeah... I'm overwhelmed, doc... On a Sunday morning like this, nice, with a white sun and blue sky, at this time, I was already with the kids playing at the playground. And looking at these children there, going through what they're going through, it does this, it makes me sad for them, and missing them, too. You're a father and you know what I'm talking about.
Yeah, I know, I was also a father, doc. The father of a beautiful couple of kids. But it's been a long time, they must be grown-ups by now, if the Lord wants, and so He should!
Hehe, I'll explain, doc, I'll explain.
Not a problem, doc, there's nothing to say sorry for, don't bother! It's just that I start talking and then I don't stop, and I don't want to waste more of your time.
I didn't live my entire life in the situation I'm today. I wasn't born in a golden crib either, but I managed to build my things. I managed to have a little study and, thank God, a lot of health to work. And I worked, doc, oh how I worked in this life! I did a bit of everything, and little by little I was building my life. I was still young when I met the mother of my kids. It was a very beautiful thing, you know? Those crushes at first sight? She was so pretty, doc! A television thing. I remember quite well of when we met. She was the secretary at a transport company that I was in charge of. We started going out, then the thing went on, we dated, saved some money and started paying for our little house. I think six years of dating were enough for us to get married. It was a simple, but very beautiful wedding and with all the family and friends... She was so beautiful! She had a smile that no woman had in this world, it was the prettiest smile I've ever seen and it gave me such great calmness! I was very happy by her side, doc. She was a real friend, a partner, you know? Her head was all brains. I thanked God for every day I had her in my life, for every night by her side and for being able to have that smile in my days. Actually, I still do, because that was the most beautiful phase of my life, the best of all...
Then, after a couple of years married, she got pregnant and gave us the first best gift of my life: my girl! She looked like me, doc, the cutest and sweetest thing that has ever existed in the lands of the Lord. She was giggly just like her mom, but with my traits. Even her ways were like mine. Everybody that saw her would go crazy about her. There was no one who wouldn't look at her on the street, who wouldn't stop by the bakery to tease her and admire the big blue eyes she had. And she was all studious, my goodness, how she studied. There were days that I wanted her to stop studying so much, hehe, can you believe it!
And then, about three years after she was born, I was probably your age already, the second best gift of my life came: my boy! One heck of a clever boy, doc! You know those real smart guys? He was like that. He wouldn't get in trouble, wouldn't make any serious mess, but he liked messing around, hehe. Oh, and he chased after a ball like no one. It was one heck of a problem to convince him to study and not just be after a ball. Suddenly, he could even be a famous soccer player, but just in case, we had to be sure of his studies. And wasn't he good at studies, too. But in classes he actually didn't pay much attention. He ran away from studying and doing the homework, but the report cards came with great grades, he never failed or got detention. But we were always called in school to hear complaints over him talking too much, not wanting to pay attention, and making a mess in classes with jokes; and when the report cards came, the boy came with good grades, hehe, he's like his mother!
And we lived like that for a long time, doc. Me and their mother working a lot, and hard, to give them study and good conditions and we always managed to. The last time I saw my girl, she was already graduating as a dentist, can you believe it? And now I have my teeth falling off, hehe!
The money wasn't much, but it was enough for studies, to keep our home cozy, no lacking of food or medicine. We could travel every once in a while, mainly to my in-laws' house. And what nice folks they were, ok? You would like to meet them, I'm sure. We were happy, doc, she was a good mother, a good wife and I was also a good father and a good husband...
But everything got screwed up, doc, everything went downhill, I messed it all up!
I can't tell you exactly when it was, you know, I don't have a good memory anymore, hehe. But I remember when it was that year's July, it was real, real cold. It was terrible! Some relatives lost almost all the kale crops due to the frost. It was a real strong cold and the weather was real dry, then you know, the cold cuts through us.
And it was this cold that caught my boy, doc. He started with a little cough, hehe, I even know what you're thinking, and you're thinking right, he got real sick. It was a very strong pneumonia that scared even his doctor. The poor thing got very sick, all weak, coughing, with a running nose, and with all that snot coming out. It's tough, doc, to see a son of yours in a situation like that. To see that that little thing that is bigger than our own life, all weak. I feel a lump in my throat, a weakening, a sensation of incompetence, you know? It's sad, doc, very sad! You're a father, you know.
So, the boy got very sick and I reacted in a strange way. I think it was the sensation of failure, but I started walking backwards, you know? Today, I realize that it was then that it started, but in the occasion it didn't even look like something was going on. I thought it was just my concern. And the boy went on getting worse and worse until his doctor stopped believing him. Do you know what it is like to hear from the doctor that your son's not going to live anymore, doc? You know what it is to look at your wife and have to hold on seeing her breaking down in tears? Do you what it is to have a whole life with him passing by your head in farewell? Well yeah, doc, and I hope, and I ask God that you never come to know. My life has fallen apart, it just wasn't worse because I had to hold on tight at home. But I cried like a baby from home to work, and back home again. It was very hard, doc, for all of us. But I reacted badly!
Oh, doc, I reacted badly because I couldn't hold on, I couldn't keep on being tough, you know? I had to remain still so people could count on me, but I couldn't be like that!
Yes, doc, I know, but you know that in these times people expect it from others and if we fail, guilt comes chasing right after. It's helpless, if you weaken, you're alone. It's no use, that's the truth. When we're fine, everybody's smiling by our side. Now then, if we waver everybody runs and points fingers.
But that wasn't even the big problem, you know? The big problem is that I went head first into drinking. I drank every once in a while. I went out with friends after work to drink a beer once a week or every fifteen days. But I started drinking almost every night. A sip here, other there, but every single night. It was the way I found to relieve the pressure. I can't even tell you where this being a solution came from, I just know it was.
The boy got better, doc, I'm telling this to calm you down. It took some thirty days, I believe, and he already went home and finished taking care of himself. But during the period he was still in hospital, the news that struck me the most came: I lost my job! Then, things got real messed up. You know, I was already getting old and it was cheaper to hire the young ones to stay in my place than keeping me. So, in the first chance they got, they cut me out and hired two boys. I tell you that I was happy for them but for me, that was my ruin. I devoted myself so much to that company, so many years, so many nights, so many jitters, and in the first chance they got, they kicked my ass out, even knowing of my boy's situation!
But I was already too close to booze and with my boy sick, the thing only got worse. I went from having a few sips at night to downing whole bottles. I went from having my sodas at lunchtime to have bottles as my company - yeah, that's right, more than one. I wouldn't go after a job and wouldn't do anything but drinking. I couldn't react, doc. Anyway, my wife – ex-wife, right? – gave me a ultimatum, because, poor thing, she would only feel nervous around me, I would embarrass her, she was under her family's pressure and didn't even have me as a man inside the house. There is a period of about eight or ten months of my life that I don't recall quite well. It's a void that I have no idea of what really happened, just a few flashes of memory, or things that some friends told me, or that my ex-wife rubbed it in. The truth is that I didn't even know who I was anymore -and I think I didn't want to- and I ended up screwing everyone's life, including my family's.
Those months were when my wife -oh my, ex-wife- suffered the most. Later, she put me out of the house on the day I came home so drunk that I hit my girl because of a boyfriend waiting for her outside. That really embarrasses me and makes me real angry at myself, doc, but that's the truth. I would never do that to anyone, just like I had never done, and then I did it to my girl! Her mother had to dismiss the boy because our girl was too swollen to do so.
The divorce came quick and it didn't even have to be litigious. I knew I was wrong. I was selling the house stuff to keep myself tipsy, can you believe that? That's very serious, so much that they put me out of the house, with nothing to call my own; actually, nothing fairer since I had been losing everything already. And it wasn't just going to the streets, doc, I went to the streets under curses and promises of never seeing me again... And that has been fulfilled quite well...
I reached that point I had shivers in the morning, doc, that would only go away after two big sips – two! I reached rock bottom and they put me out of the house. She went away with the kids to her family, at least that's what they told me.
No, doc, I've never seen or heard of them. I went to a friend's house, but soon I became a pain and had to leave. I even said that I had some money to keep myself going, but it was a lie to comfort my friend. His wife wasn't putting up with me anymore either. I had nothing, not even for the next sip. I slept one, then two, and then on the third night I understood what had really happened. But at the second night I really felt the absence of booze in me already.
Oh yes, doc, ever since I live on the streets. And you know what, it's been good!
How? Oh, doc, it was the only way for me not to have booze! Of course I've done some pretty ugly things to get a few sips, but misery cured my absence. Terrible, doc, we get in a shockingly surprising stage. That lasted a few weeks and it wasn't easy. I even turned trash cans upside down in search of some bottle with a little liquor. I licked a lot of bottles thrown away, trying to soak up the last drop. Today, when I remember all this, I am still shocked with the situation that an addiction like this causes. It's really terrible, doc. But it was the hard way, and how hard that was, but I quit the damn drinking.
Not easy, doc! Not easy at all! But that's life... I prefer that all of them are far away from me. I'm paying my price. Today, I think and wonder they're better off than with me. They must be happy and getting on with life. I keep imagining the woman she's become and the man he has turned into!
Why, of course, doc! After all the wrong I've caused them, what did you want? I have to pay for everything I've done and also for what I haven't done. Do you know what a daughter saying she's ashamed of you and inviting as her prom godfather your brother-in-law that you have never seen but has paid almost everything is? Do you know what seeing your son happy for having played soccer with his likely-to-be stepfather, as if you had never existed, because you're on a hangover in the back room is? Do you know what seeing the woman of your life, that beautiful lady you have fallen in love with and devoted yourself to, downgrading you to the worst of the sick worms is?
Drugs? No, doc, oddly enough I haven't even tried them. And chances weren't lacking for me! Here on the streets, it is very easy to have drugs around us. There is always someone offering, and there is always people wrestling each other for a bit of whatever it is. But as I said, I have always had the opportunity and I'm not even sure why I didn't get into it, too. I say this because of the period that I joined the streets, it was quite easy to get into drugs the way I was. But after I quit drinking, none of these things could affect me anymore. Here, drug use doesn't begin just because your pal gets into it or because it's a trend as they say out there, but it begins because of lack of knowledge, it begins because of hunger, cold, and also pain, doc. Not physical pain of a wounded, but the pain of a saddened, abandoned and hopeless heart, and I think that is the greatest reason. That's why I tell you I don't even know why I didn't get into drugs, I had everything to do so; everything. Actually, doc, I do know, I know why: it's because God wanted that way, He preferred to protect me taking away any wish or temptation that could fall upon me. God is too good, doc, even for me that deserved to get into drugs to cope with my failures.
No, doc, I don't blame them, at all; on the contrary, I pray for their well-being! I want wholeheartedly that they are fine.
Me? I'm paying my due, the price for having been weak, for not having endured the hardship! And that's why I always tell you how happy I am for waking up every day I wake up. I made some silly things and now I have to pay, and that's the only way that the Lord will take me as a son in His reign. That's why I don't complain and just wait for my time, doc! There's not hope, but payment! And in this whole situation, can you believe I'm happy? Because I am!
Oh my, doc! I'll end this talk, you're overwhelmed! And you can rest assured, because I live what I have to live through. All of us, every one of us lives what they have to live, because of their acts' guilt, or their silence, or their injustice. But what we do in this land we also pay here; what we take to superior judgment is a little more serious!
Now that I see this little girl peeing in a bucket in the open, I remember my little girl and I see how long it's been, I realize that I've been in this life for almost ten years and I still didn't go crazy, even if I pray for such thing. It breaks my heart and brings all these memories of what I once was... To tell you the truth, doc, there are times that I don't even know who I am anymore...
Well, doc, let's end this talk and let's move on with the day. It's a beautiful Sunday and you must spend it with family and not with me. Mr. Nitwit's fried chickens are almost ready and one of them will be our feast, you don't have to worry; on the contrary, forget everything I said and go home to kiss your missus and kids.
Yeah, doc, go!
You, too, have a nice day! And never forget, the day you fall down, nobody is going to be by your side to give you a hand. So don't fall!
Take care, doc! See you when I see you!