Return to São Paulo in a cursing rage. A black depression falls as soon as I enter the apartment that doesn't feel like home. Why oh why didn't I stay in Rio, for another few days at least? I already cleared my schedule until next week.
It's the bank's fault, I remember. Stop kicking yourself. I ran out of money and my card wouldn't work. So I had to get a ride back. But I'm sure if I had tried harder I could have found a way to organise things. On the ride home I am in sick regret, knowing I won't have the chance to go back for a long time. I despair of ever doing anything right. I know I will never make a correct decision in my life.
The apartment nauseates me. I can't stay in here. I get out on the street. The card still doesn't work and I have R$1. I buy a pinga and knock it back. I keep walking, avoiding my usual circuit of bars, because I will see people I know who will buy me drinks, and I don't want that, not now. I go back to the flat but still can't bear to see it and still can't sleep. I collect a handful of 5 and 10-centavos from the shelf and back to the street.
Walk and walk. Watch the transvestites, eavesdrop on the conversations of whores with their customers, sit on the pavement with the homeless, watching the traffic and smoking. Count the change, buy a beer and a last pack of the cheapest cigarettes. Determine to stay in the street all night, whatever happens, and not go back to that goddamn apartment. But my God I would like to drink.
This is when I spot a strange character propositioning women in the street. He looks like a cross between Borat and a Kabul street junkie. He is well fucked-up, but at the same time one of those people I instantly know is sound. We walk. He keeps asking people for directions to places he knows perfectly well. He babbles to me in portuspanglish until I tell him to shut up and speak one language at a time. He buys five papers of coke. We keep walking aimlessly.
It turns out he is an agent of cosmic balance. A well fucked-up character, interned many times, who seems to have been sent to restore the balance to my feverish mind. We drink pinga with grizzled old beggars, shoot snooker with traficantes, joke with whores, loud samba and old Corinthians games. Moment by moment my head is straightening out. We share cigarettes with street kids out of their heads on crack and glue, he sets me up with some hopeless girl, street people in rags ply us with stinking cheap aguardente and Paraguayan cigarettes. The rage and loathing is dissipating. Walk through tunnels, the zombie-movie streets of Cracklandia, over bridges and elevated causeways. Find another bar and sit for a time, and then keep walking. Seeing this side of the city is worth more to me than any number of beaches or palm trees or girls in bikinis.
Does cosmic balance exist?
Are there critical points in time, cusps of action, nodes in the web of destiny, crossroads of fate? Sensitive moments, critical times when your action or your intention or your words or your thoughts determine the course of the future and set your trajectory through the universe? Was deciding to leave Rio the afternoon before one of these points?
Is it so?
Or is it really never too late?
Tomorrow finally arrives. I go home and sleep, free of the crawling loathing.