Diary of a John Doe

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Chapter 10: November 18, Last Year

Oh, doc! You won't die, will you! How nice of you to show up. I wanted to talk to you. I just told Mr. Nitwit I would try to find you.

You know what, doc?

Hehe! That's true, doc, excuse me. I'm a little agitated today. Ok, I'm calm already, hehe!

So, doc, it's just that I wanted to check if you don't have at your place some trash bags, those large and thick ones, you know? It's just that Mr. Nitwit doesn't have any, and Cidão is on his day off today, so there's no way of asking him to go get some at the market, because the Japanese man’s market near here doesn't have any either. Then I thought of you, who could have it at home.

Oh, you don't? No problem, doc, we can make do around here.

No, doc, no getting it at the market! No problem, for real, chill out.

Is that so, doc? Are you sure? I don't want to bother, not even be an expense to you, it was just a favor, really. But if there's no problem, I'm taking it, doc, and I'm thankfully taking it, ok? Thank you very much!

Oh yes, doc! We need these bags to put our stuff, stuff we have to keep and we can't leave behind.

Oh my! Let me explain, because I can tell by your face that you don't know: we're leaving, doc!

Oh, doc, it's complicated, but it's because they pressed charges against us in the prefecture of the region, and on Monday, from what they said, they're coming to take us. So we're already packing our stuff up. We still have time, today's still Wednesday, right? Yeah! There's time to pack things up and go somewhere else and settle down again.

But I admit that I'll miss it in here. The brothers, too, they are a little upset, too. They like it in here. It's not just the place that is good, since here we don't have problems as floods, there's not much wind and there was this wide shelter here for us to settle at night. Not to mention the flow, that is really fun and different. But it's also because of the people, we had so much help in here, doc. From Mr. Nitwit, his wife, Cidão, Mrs. Mercedes, you... You are golden people that God put in our lives as an undeserved gift. We thank Him a lot for that.

No, doc, don't get angry or upset. Things are just like that! They always were and will always be. At least this time we could know beforehand and so we have time to pack things up. Other times were harder, because we were caught off guard and ended up losing a bunch of our stuff, so you can figure, right? But it won't be a thing, doc, like I told you, we have to cherish things. We have been here for longer than we were in any other place and here, you can be real sure, was the place that we were treated the best and we most felt sheltered, oh yes! And because of these and other things I tell you that we'll miss it, but we have to move on and it's no use to complain, rant or get angry; that's our condition, our reality, doc, we are people from the streets, homeless people, nameless people, faceless people. We go from a place to another, we don't have a fixed place, we don't have a guaranteed shelter and we're so scarred of both the cold and hunger. We live day after day, each day at a time, doc, not as if it were the last, but hoping and doing whatever we can so it is not. We can't plan a lot that isn't eight hours away. We just don't mess things up because we have faith in soon going crazy and losing grip of this reality, we pray for it every day, but we know it won't happen while we don't pay everything we own, doc, that's how the thing works. We go on walking, day after day, until our time has come... But we'll be together, doc, and that keeps us strong. Together, we are people with a family, hehe, oh yes, hehe, people with a family, a family of brothers!

And they're all nice guys, right doc? Very nice guys! There were more, we've already been more brothers than now but with time only the ones that are like us stayed, that think alike, and we already know more or less the other's ways. Everybody here respects one another, shares things, helps one another, and where one goes, the rest goes right after. That's a blessing, doc, we lived with some troublesome ones that the only thing they did was tricking us, put us in difficult situations, God forgive me! But now we're in a nice crew, and that you already know for I must've probably told you a lot about it but that's because I'm glad when I look at them. It's as if God had sent a little help for us to go through all this probation of ours a little more easily. I appreciate that, doc, just as I appreciate the new day that rises. I've already cursed the days, doc. I once wanted to sleep and never wake up again, a very hard time. Craziness wouldn't come, days were long, sickness wouldn't leave me and I was alone in the middle of so many shameless ones. Yes, sir, shameless! It was as if everything that had to be wrong was like that, happening to me, doc, and I wanted so much, I prayed so much for God to take me, or at least give me insanity... But, you know doc, I had to go through all that... What I did... Yeah, what I did... I have to pay, doc, it's even wrong of me to ask otherwise. But even so, God sent me these brothers that I have up to now, He also sent us to a good place as this and He's sending us to another place, another life. That's how it is indeed, God has His plans. So, doc, I stopped complaining for dawning and started to cherish it. I started smiling when opening my eyes and finding myself alive among the brothers! That's how we keep on going, doc, going forward, just like a song says, hehe.8

Oh, doc, you don't have to be like that, no! It's a new thing for you, but not for us. The only difference is that this time we stayed longer and surrounded by nice people! But one time or another we would have to leave anyway, or did you think we would stay wandering over here and getting shelter there at the driving school forever? Of course once or twice the time would come for us to leave. And this time it's super ok. For many times, doc, we left because things were nasty, in others we were excommunicated, others we were also robbed, and other time we even got a beating. It won't be a thing, doc, you can rest assured!

Life's like that, and you must already know, some time one leaves, another time another one comes, and memories remain. And look doc, all the memories remain. Some say that only the good ones remain and we forget the bad ones but it's not like that: all the memories remain! What happens is that we prefer the good ones, but the bad ones come haunt us every once in a while, bringing everything that's bad with them. It gets at us! Now, if these bad ones remain, can you imagine the good ones? And I have a lot of good memories that I'm taking from here, doc. I'm sure the brothers, too. And that's what makes it all worthy! Life's too fast and we take nothing from it but then, the only things that can't be taken from it are memories, that's why, doc, we have to enjoy every little thing so there's nothing behind that makes us regret it. And we have to keep in mind that at every corner, on every new street, on every door we pass by, there are many things to be enjoyed and kept as memories! And we hope for them to be good, right? Hehe, yes, we do, we only want the good ones; there are times though that there's no way out, that's for sure.

But also, doc, you see: would there be peace with no war, would there be love with no anger, goodness with no evil? Everything in this life, doc – and we only learn that with time, and I say that's true intelligence, that's the true growing old, and only those who can understand that everything has to be weighed, that everything in excess is not good, it's the balance that we see glimmering in the look and smile of our elders. And that's exactly why, doc, for that balance, for that constant getting it right that comes with age is what makes us certain of so many past mistakes we made. Nobody gets wise for being born knowing or because one day they find the light of wisdom, but because they decided to learn with the many difficult moments that life gave them. It almost seems unfair, right doc? But that's how life works... Yes sir, that's God's planning, it's God's planning... Amen, so be it, amen.

Oh no, doc, that's no wisdom. Maybe one day, who knows, but not yet. Actually, what I tell you is just ignorance!

Hehe, I already expected that you would find it strange, oh yes, hehe... But it's ignorance, doc, and this, you can trust me, is the best medicine we have to live the life we live.

What I mean is, doc, it's not that we're ignorant. Of course we are in almost all sciences, including speaking. Many don't even know how to read and write, they are on the streets ever since they were born or came here for not knowing. In these aspects, we are ignorant indeed. But the ignorance I'm telling you is not a natural ignorance, it's an ignorance on purpose, an ignorance that we end up deciding on having.

Can you imagine how it is to constantly live with the lack of food? We live like wild animals, fighting day after day for food, fighting for crumbs and leftovers they give us or that we find on the trash. And that is a fight that we lose most of the times. And we lose not for not knowing how to hunt, but because we lack preys.

Can you imagine how it is to live walking astray on the streets without having a place we can call "home"? Many of us never even knew what that is. During the day, we wander around, looking for spots in which we'll bother the least the lives of normal people! And even so, we have to find a place to arrange everything that's ours, all our "furniture". What we can carry, we carry. The rest, we stuff things in and pray they will be there when we get back. We don't even have a wall to protect us from the cold, the rain and the others' sight. There has been many years we don't even know what intimacy is. We don't have a toilet even, to relieve our needs.

Can you imagine how it is to live off of favors from others, the good will of blessed people that God puts in our lives? We don't even have the dignity of taking care of ourselves, getting our own food by our own merit. We wait, we pray, and we ask. In fact, we beg and get things out of people's mercy, doc. We don't know what the expression of a fulfilled duty is, because we don't even have a duty. We bother, doc, and many of the times we get something it's so that the discomfort we cause with only our presence, our smell can go away. We scare others! We're the reason people change sidewalks. We're the reason people look at other things that are not interesting, just to pretend they didn't see us. When we have money, doc, it doesn't help much, because nobody wants us to enter their businesses. You see, doc, we have nothing and when we have a little money, we can't go in a restaurant to eat, because we bother! It's almost funny.

Can you imagine how it is to live in the dirt, without even recalling what your own skin color is anymore? We can't take baths every day, not even every week. A bath, when we do have, is in the rain, in Miss Mercedes's hose, it's in some fountain at night, but it's never a hot bath, it's never a bath with soap, it's never a bath with a sponge, it's never a right bath. We live grimy, long haired, long bearded, with long and dirty nails. We have no restroom to relieve ourselves. We have to walk around, looking for a small place on the street to have our needs, and we can't even clean ourselves up, doc! Many times we have to run away, pants down in the middle of the doing, leaving swearing and shame behind. We have louse, scabies and God knows what else. Look at this wound in my leg, doc. It's open and leaking for more than a year probably, and how am I going to heal it? Thank goodness there are no worms in it, can you imagine when it does, being eaten alive by worms? We smell bad, doc, and that you already know. We smell of people, of animal-man, not perfume!

Can you imagine how it is to live alone? I'm not talking about my life today, you know, but moments we've been through. You know how it is to feel alone right in the middle of a city like this, doc? I even thought I knew what loneliness was, but I found out that what I knew wasn't even close to what true loneliness is. You know what it is to feel alone right in the middle of Praça da Sé on a Monday morning? Because that's the worst of loneliness, doc, the loneliness of living in life itself. This absence in the middle of so many. It is the loneliness for being ignored, for being cast aside. Not even an animal is ignored. And that hurts, doc, that hurts a lot. It is a different pain, it's a pain that aches in our stomach, it chokes our throat, and we can't do anything but hang on and accept that it's like that. Doc, do you know what it is to forget how your own voice is?

Can you imagine how it is to live without tenderness, without a caress? I'm not even talking about love, doc. I'm talking of a simple pure look, with that smile of who is happy just because we exist. On the contrary, our existence creates other kinds of expressions. We do have companionship for ourselves: yours, Mr. Nitwit's, Cidão's, Miss Mercedes's, the people that truly help us. You know, doc, we don't have women! Some still manage to get something in other crews, others manage to have it with some crazy ones that also live on the street, some poor girls that don't even know what they are doing, but you know how that longing is; the flesh, right doc? We have our longings, and a man misses women in his life, doc. Oh how he does! And I'm not saying this just because it's good, but because sex makes us feel alive, makes us feel like people and it makes us real happy, hehe!

Yeah... What a thing, huh?

Hmm... Yes, sir... It's tough, it's tough! Not easy... Yeah... Not easy...

But it's life, hehe, what a life!

Ah doc, forgive me for all the talking. Oh my! Sorry to drop it all on your ear. You know, I'm not complaining, I'm only explaining to you the true reason why we go for this ignorance. I think that these minutes of clarity, with no ignorance, were already enough for you to see what its absence can cause in a man's life. That's why, doc, that's why we go -and we have to- for this ignorance. It's like it said in a book I read, and now I understand right: "Ignorance is strength!".

Maybe this ignorance delays a little more the insanity we so look for, that we so pray for; but at least it makes the pain of this reality smaller. It's that thing, doc, of shutting down the brain, remember? So, it's like that.

And there's another side, doc, one that traps us in this situation even more and that no brother wants to lose: freedom! No matter how difficult our situation is, nobody in this world has the freedom we have, no matter how good their life is. We are free! And you can trust me, it's a freedom that one can't explain, only who has it knows it, but to have it, you saw what it takes, hehe.

But I'm really sorry about all this story, doc. Everyone has what they deserve, what they plant. It has nothing to do with you and you don't have to hear and think about these things, it won't be a thing, God knows what He’s doing!

Well, let's move on, doc! You go do your stuff because you've spent too much time with silly things today, hehe, oh yes.

Yes, I'll be around here, doc, but if I'm not when you're back, you can leave the bags with any of the brothers, or even Cidão.

No problem, doc, thank you very much, ok? You are a very good man, may God allow you to remain like this and that you earn everything in double! Thank you very much, doc! See you when I see you.

Amen, may God watch over you, too, oh yes, amen!

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