ash wednesday – last day of carnival

I could summarize everything by writing “from ashes to ashes we are”, but that would be too fucking corny.

in reality, today is the day that most revelers cry (I, myself, included). today is the reminder that life is about to go back to moving on, and that, in just less than 24 hours, the new year is about to start (even though we are in the beginning of the new year’s second month already). however, this is not a matter of calendar, of mundane abacus of hoursm it’s about feelings.

today is the day we finally wake up, get our brooms, buckets and mop the dirty confetti floors, turning off the lights because tomorrow – oh, much dreaded tomorrow – we go back to the starting line.


knowing this, I wake up early, even before the sun is born in the toothless mouth of earth that is the open Rio de Janeiro sky.

time goes by, very quickly but also very slowly. it’s like a deadline to a lifeline, very conflicting, confusing. I vote for coffee out, when it’s still cool from the early mornign breeze.

no shower, no comb, no nothing. just the search for coffee, for I have too much time on my hands, time to kill before the party awakes, and not enough time for everything.


I feel manic, like my brain, which has been slowly cooking, has finally turned into the mushy, bloody stew it always seemed to be. I’m just too buzzed from excitement, caffeine and sugar, and my heart bounces like a ball in my chest, my pulse a heavy bass line, a fish out of water.

my phone finally rings – it’s time for the showdown – and I gulp down a cup of water on my way out. I take the cup and all with me, tying my shoelaces on the door step, no time to lose.

my mother even laughs, like he hasn’t in a long time. she is amused with my antics for the first time since the beginning of carnival, since the beginning of this all. at last, she isn’t mad or angry or worried – she is probably relieved that it is all coming to an end, that normalcy and routine and tidyness are about to fall down on our heads again, so we can go back to being normal, confortable in the cozy little everyday squared boxes we reserve for ourselves. but I don’t blame her – she, unlike me, dislikes upside down, chaos, and likes sleepping nights and waking mornings; I really don’t blame her or yell, roll my eyes. I won’t do this because she is relieved and I know it, and she knows I know it, but she has the decency not to tell me, not to express her motherly concerns and, for this and many other things, I’m relieved too.


the buses that go up to Santa Teresa are those small, driver slash ticket collector buses that take forever to arrive and even longer to depart. so, since I have to stand on the bus stop, on the endless line and wait, I buy a nice, imported beer on the bar in front of it and it’s heavenly, even though it cost me 14 bucks. and, you know what? I don’t even fucking mind. “why worry?”, says a big hairy man few steps from me, a tall man dressed as the devil, long horns, a goatee and red underwear (not another stitch on), to a friend on the phone. why worry, in fact?

so I don’t mind anything: the packed bus or the loud, cranky teenagers, the heat that causes droplets of sweat to travel down my back and into my pants, nothing.

I feel like Buda, if Buda had been a brown girl dressed in green and black, with a leprechaun’s hat in the middle of Brazilian carnival, sharing a beer with the devil in a crowded city bus. I’m a fountain of Zen.


walking its limestone-paved streets makes me remember how much I love the city I live in and, specially, how much I used to love Santa Teresa. don’t be fooled, I still like it, but a little of the intensity has gone away, washed away over time like the wall paint chipping off the arches of Lapa.

(I had to let it go of my love, for him, because of him. it wasn’t healthy. but that is a sad, long story that has been told way too many times.)

the novelty, though, never wears off. every little shop nested on the high walls, every garage-turned-bar, every terrace-turned-samba is just new and pretty all over again, even though there isn’t a streetcar anymore. God, don’t we miss that little yellow bundle of joy that used to decorate the charming streets up here? let’s never forget.

and so, against the wall next to Bar do Mineiro I stand, slack, relaxed. my belly is full of feijoada and imported beer, a nice warmth from beans and meat and malt swimming inside me, loving my stomach, my liver, my internal gears and mechanisms. there is new graffiti here, love messages, protest songs. I breath in and it’s all art and pot smoke from an Italian couple smoking in front ot me. all I need is love.

and a new bloco parade passes us by, wind instruments, drums, very vocal people. they chant like footballers, only here the love is for the same team: happiness. a young girl smiles at me, enchanted. she is probably barely ten. I drown in her watery eyes. later, I will cry of happiness on the subway, remembering the love only a child can feel on her fist carnival.

happiness is contagious and, definitely, the only feeling allowed in carnival, in this place.

I forget about him, let my memory of him be stomped upon by the dancing, animated feet  and throw my heart in the revelry, all my love pouring out. I swallow hate, every word of it, to be digested together with my meal and it works wonders: my adoration for Santa is born anew.

blossoms here a new meaning for ashes.


they have caipirinha popsicles up here. buckets and more buckets of ice and of those little green plastic, frozen bags of joy up here.

oh, inventive little carnival rascals, this is just too perfect! be blessed the bored, infamous minds that invented this weapon against heat, sobriety and boredom.

they also have water guns and a kid hoses me down with its pistol from a makeshift tourist camp set up in a enormous Victorian backyard. it’s heavenly.

we can all be happy again, like big drunk children.


I’m dizzy when going down, the slopes to steep to walk in this state.

however, the view of the ugly, old, gray pyramid cathedral is magnificent, all the brownstones encrusted in the mountain’s stone, breathtaking. it sober me up. and it’s all too much for a moment and I’m overwhelmed with emotion that I can hardly breathe.

a pair of friendly arms catch me, a hand holds mine and down we go. like rivers to the ocean, like I said, we end up in Lapa…


I come home and it is very late that night.

my mom is about to open her mouth but decides against it. she can see my tear-streaked cheeks and understands. she doesn’t have another thing to worry about. it’s all over. for a moment, sadness flashes in her eyes too. she knows, she knows.

but she is happy, too. tomorrow is the day, the one she has been waiting for, the it is the day alarm clocks will ring again and rip children away from their sweet baby dreams, and will wake up lovers out of their warm beds to push them into buses full of other grown, responsible people. back to work, back to life.

the wall clock strikes midnight like it’s chanting “it’s over, it’s over” but I’m not desolated.

I just feel like today is new years and that 2013 won’t break my spirit.

in fact, today is a brand new Monday and I still got a smile to show to the world.


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