London, São Paulo, Cuenca, Istanbul, Katmandu, Peshawar, Mapusa.
Geography is just an excuse.
The sky is out of tune and out of focus, like a broken black and white tv.
I'm going to get a cachaça and sit in Largo Sta Cecília by the church and watch the girls and pigeons and chat with the homeless dudes.
Wherever I go, the same discontent, the same longing for a place far away.
I like it here, but I miss a girl in England. ["hips like cinderella... lying there like you're tame..."] I'm a lot more sentimental and a lot less cold than I had thought. There are lots of girls here, after all, everyone keeps reminding me.
It's so goddamn arbitrary.
I got robbed last night, finally. Well they only got a packet of Marlboros, my travel card and about R$10. I held on to my phone for dear life, which is vital for the numbers, and sort of sentimental cause I bought it in Kabul and it writes text messages in Persian. I never walk around with my wallet, because it would be a disaster. I would probably wake up a week later under the minhocão with all my bank accounts empty.
And it was my own fault, anyway, which is fine and educational, otherwise I would be kicking myself. But there are places where you can't walk head down and lost in your thoughts. If I had been awake and walking fast and aggressively like I usually do it would never have happened. And not only that, but the little voice would have told me where to go. But I was perversely ignoring the little voice last night. (The little voice? Yes, the little voice. It knows exactly what's right for you. You just have to have the courage to follow its lead...)
I was incredibly impressed. In London, if five kids rushed you in the street, they would really fuck you up. Stab you, probably. These kids, street kids, eyes almost glowing with glue and hunger, came out of nowhere, and one each wrapped himself around my arms, legs and head, and dipped my pockets.
It was almost gentle. I hit one of them and bit the arm of the one trying to put me in a headlock, but they were gone. They had no interest in hurting me for the sake of it.
Everyone warns me about violence here. Not to walk in certain places at night. I do anyway. It is violence born of desperation. Not out of sheer malice and sadism, like you will find on almost any street in London. Violence is still violence for all that, and you will still be dead if someone puts a bullet in you. But.
So. I carried on walking. This old homeless dude of incredible dignity and gravitas who had seen the show called me over. I sat down with him there on the pavement. It was a dodgy side street in Republica that lots of people I know here would walk a mile to avoid. He said if it had got serious he would have intervened. I shrugged and sat there for a while and talked. I didn't really give a damn. He pointed out people on the street to me, empty ghosts moving in empty darkness: "Look, he's keeping look out... And look, that's a victim, wandering up that way all innocent..." A police car slowed to shine lights on us. A worried-looking civilian woman was looking out of the window with the cops. He greeted her as if he knew her, the car speeded on. "Do I know her? Hahaha. No, she's been robbed and they're looking around... But the cops drive that way, the robbers have always gone that way."
All the street people knew him. These guys came up and he handed them bread out of this big plastic bag he had. Another mugger passed by on his way rob someone and the old guy wished him luck. "You understood what he was talking about?" - "Yeah, he's on his way to work."
And then I walked. It was worth it, to meet Mario. I left him the last of my change, and then realised I didn't have any cigarettes, which led to the final comedy of the night. I stopped this guy on São João to ask him for a smoke, but he had just thrown away the packet and was on his last one, so he offered to smoke it with me.
Overly camp gay dude. "You're not Brazilian, are you?" - "No, I'm English." - "Really? I lived in London for three years!" and he drops into English. I generally refuse to speak English with most people, maybe on the "When in Rome..." principle, so I maintain my side of the conversation in Portuguese, smoke with him, and walk as soon as possible.
He calls me back as I am walking away. "Yeah, what's up?" I say.
"You're not English, are you?"