I went to visit my "grandmother" on Friday. She was my neighbor back in the favela days, and we were quite the goofy pair. When bullets zinged down our street, she'd stomp on the floor and I'd bang the ceiling with the broom handle--our little Morse code for "All okay!"
She's one funny, strong, beautiful lady.
To get to her place, though, has become somewhat of an ordeal, taking nearly 2 hours each way. Thank you, Rio de Janeiro, for your traffic jams and general chaos.
As I left the subway stop nearest her home, I noticed a person sitting by the preferred public urination point. The concrete is worn and permanently discolored from the rivulets of pee that have flowed down to the street over the years. I wasn't honestly sure whether this person was male or female, but as they were still sleeping, decided that if they were still in the same spot on the way back, I'd give them the other toiletry kit that was in my bag.
Several hours later, I saw she was awake and so I approached her. It's not often that people scream when I talk to them, but she was scared out of her wits! I suppose she hadn't been on the streets very long, because she wasn't asking for anything. All she yelped out was "You scared me!"
But after I calmed her and said I had a little bag of goodies from my church to give away, she brightened up. She pointed to the bruise on my arm (sustained after a poorly executed turn into the bedroom connected my arm with the unyielding door frame) and showed me her own purpled eye. Mugging.
She was eating a tangerine. "All I've eaten in the last few days..." she said, half mournfully, half apologetically, gesturing to the bag at her feet full of the orange globes. They smelled wonderful, but I imagine a monofruit diet would get old quite fast.
"Well, there's a chocolate milk in there," I said with a wink, as I walked away, already well on my way to being late for my evening appointment.
I cannot remember the last time I saw someone enraptured by the thought of a chocolate milk. She tore into that bag as if it contained a half-century of unopened Christmas presents, and her voice glittered with uncontained anticipation as she warbled her thanks...
Note to self: UHT chocolate milk=better than a handout.
Whoever brought those to the party last month, let me tell you...pure genius!