This story will start at the end. As much as I would like to imagine that there’s an alternative universe where a 26 year old, scorching hot Brazilian (does the noun even need to be qualified?) would want to have sex with me, there is no such place. Not even my imagination is that good. I could make up a good story, for sure, but it would be a lie. And anyway, the real story is better.
I met the Brazilian a couple of years ago at a winter birthday party in a dive bar in the wilds of un-gentrified Brooklyn. The bar was graced with smart assed old black guys, an insanely good jukebox, and an enthusiastic amount of Obama family memorabilia. It’s a bold and carefree venue, the kind that doesn’t give a flying weasel that the Christmas lights are up all year long.
The Brazilian is six foot four, well-built, dark skin, a beard, close cut dark curly hair and a smile that would melt plutonium. When I met him he had just arrived from Sao Paolo. He showed me a few samba steps. I acquainted myself with the brutal truth that I am too white to dance the samba.
He said he didn’t intend to stay long, a few months.
But lots of people fetch up in New York not intending to stay long. The city is packed to the gunnels with us.
Two years later, I get a text. He’s still in New York, still has my number. We text the headlines of our lives. He suggests drinks.
When something truly awful happens in your life, the tenor of your friendships change. It’s hard to have a boring conversation when your life is ashes. Small talk doesn’t exist. It gets swept away in the tsunami that has also taken your peace of mind and your sense that you think you know what’s going on. We’re talking about the real stuff here; death and grief and the truly, wretched wonderful ghastliness of being alive.
I said that the Brazilian is 26 but he’s not really. I think his true age is about 500. This might have something to do with the fact that he lost his brother at 15. The kid got sick and they took him to the hospital and he died. The Brazilian is the only child left now. Incredibly, the family stayed together—I can’t imagine the effort it must have taken to stay married under those circumstances—but years later his parents still struggle with the unnatural horror of having buried a teenaged son.
We talk about loss and uncertainty. I try to convey how hard it has been for me to come to terms with my husband being with another woman. I tell him that no matter how frightened and angry I am, I have discovered to my surprise that I no longer suffer from a nagging, low level depression that used to sneak up on me and rob me of even simple pleasures. I have found out in the most brutal way that pain is the universe’s way of telling you you’re not dead.
“If you were depressed when you were married, then there was something wrong with the relationship,” he points out. “You’re free now. Free to be yourself.”
How does he even know that? I knew nothing at 26.
It’s not all bad news. The Brazilian has a girlfriend. With his sweet smile he tells me she’s a waitress, from the Midwest. Their eyes literally met over a crowded room. He was eating with his parents at the restaurant where she worked. He didn’t want to hit on her with his folks under foot, so along with the tip left his number and a business card. (You’ll have to take my word for it that the decision to call that number can’t have been difficult.)
They’ve been together a year.
The best part? It was a restaurant that was featured in the movie “You’ve Got Mail.” Nora Ephron had died the day before the Brazilian told me that story. She would have approved.
These days, when I hear about love it puzzles me. It’s like finding out about that cargo cult tribe in the South Pacific that worships the Duke of Edinburgh as a god. On some level you think, “Cute,” but deep down what you really think is, “How does that work, exactly?”
Maybe some day that feeling will stop. In the meantime I lean heavily on my friends, old and new.
Or, in the more elegant words of the Brazilian; “We are together on this journey through unknown lands.”