Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Down the alley...

Sioux lives in a house made of wooden planks and assorted bits of rusty things that don't seem to hold up well against the Brazilian humidity. It's a bit like the Doctor's TARDIS: it's bigger inside than it looks from the outside. There's room for a fridge and a stove, the requisite television, a bathroom where the shower almost rains directly into the toilet, and a bed, on which tottering stacks of foam mattresses are piled. These mattresses line the floor at night, providing beds for Sioux's sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts and any other assorted bodies that might need a place to stay. It takes a lot of sheets to cover the beds during the cooler winter nights. The place is cramped and the children mostly play in the street during the day, making mud pies, playing dolls and avoiding with terrified screams the horses and pigs that occasionally take a stroll down the alley.

Sioux's home now includes bloodstains and a few holes in the floor, after last week's police invasion. With the help of the helicopter coverage, they recovered a few stolen cars, some 30 odd stolen motorcycles, pounds and pounds of pot and crack, and racked up some more statistics on police killings in Rio de Janeiro. Including three who had the bad luck to try to hide in Sioux's home. The police followed them in. There was nowhere to go. They ordered the children out. And then they used the sheets as body bags.

The children still play in the street, terrified of helicopters, horses, running men. Sioux stamps her chubby little feet, worried about how her mother is going to tuck them into bed at night, now that their sheets are gone, buried or tossed like garbage, like the bodies they held. I tell her story and wonder how it is that we have gotten used to this.

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