It was just another night…

It has been a strange day today, my first day of rest after this trip to Sao Tome, my first destination abroad, out of my usual vacation area, and well, it has been, I think, a very good idea, to arrive with all that I have come to experience and turn myself, in an almost frantic way, in a long week of work, which, to deceive me, has been chaotic, intense, full of continuous incidents. …crazy, and it’s something that comes to mind, when what I do is make a living as an assistant in a psychiatric ward.

But today…

Today you have sent me some pictures of you, of where you are, a couple of audios with the one who, it is just an appreciation of mine, is one of the voices that most tempers my mood, and well, knowing, half out of breath by the coincidences of this life, of those sensations that you are experiencing in those lands, that together with the one I have just visited, share common histories, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe, both former Portuguese colonies, make me sigh and, well, throw my memory back.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was stranded in those cabs that only start when they are already full, sharing five seats in theory with no less than seven, six Saomatenses as black as blight with a white man who is a head taller than them and who also, well, that’s it, has a white beard.

As I tell you, the cab was full, a creature that we were passing from arm to arm to see if it was possible that, baby luck, was comfortable and quiet in one of us, when we heard an even stranger noise, believe me, driving with these cars is a symphony of strange noises that make you wonder at what moment they will disassemble into a thousand pieces.

Well, the cab stops, and, I know, in the movies usually happens that awkward silence that makes you wonder, sitting there in the seat, that surely something will happen soon.

Well, no!

Here what is going on is a mixture of Portuguese, the Creole they speak and my Spanish, to say, in my case at least, a resounding … what the hell is going on now?

I have changed the demons, when in reality I said…well, my favorite anatomical part, but it’s a bit dirty, isn’t it?

As in one of those puzzles that you disassemble piece by piece, we get out of the cab and we only just glimpse, it’s almost night, a column of smoke rising from the hood of the cab.

We gather around the driver, well, they gather, I stay a little aside, because between my total and usual ignorance of an engine and that I do not want to be near something that, to all lights, seems to be going to explode … well, I think it is wiser to leave it to the professionals.

In these days that I’ve been on the island, the language has caused me a lot of ups and downs, but well, the fact of being forced to try with all your strength to make yourself understood…it helps, not much, but I have learned something by listening to them talk, and I understand something like that it lacks water, that if the rope that had been placed as a belt has already broken, that if the brake has burned… I think there is too much information for me and my confidence in this junk.

But it’s already dark out.

Imagine the situation, the night is easy to situate, maybe the rest is something else, I don’t know, I’ll try to define it for you.

It’s night closed as the blight except for that half a million stars in the sky.

On both sides of the road, sorry, road on the map and on wikipedia, here we would call it road because there are no weeds and with every pothole that…in short, that at each margin, there are no streetlights with which I am so used to, nooooo, as I know that there are no SOS posts to call a tow truck, an assistance…did I tell you that there is hardly any insurance, well that too, you know that no assistance car or anything like that is going to come.

And to top it all off…. 45 cms from the edge of the road….this is the jungle.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I have the jungle on both sides of the cab.

What the hell are we going to do…?

I think they’re calling me and…oops, they’re going into the jungle, a jungle filled with a multitude of dangerous animals and monsters lurking in the dark…what a movie I’m making for myself.

But no, I just understood and it is a very grateful adjective, that we will spend the night sleeping in the jungle, because the «assistance service, the cousin of the driver», can not come until the morning, and between one end of the road and the other, the next villages are a few km away, enough for them, who have more experience, to consider that it is not worth walking.

You know, I can not talk much, but instead do … so I approach them and help them to carry the packages that accumulate, not only in the trunk but also on the roof of the car and inside, let’s not forget the interior of the car, that between a corner and another corner of the legs, have entered the odd bundle of clothes or food, near where it has been decided to spend the night.

I know they are looking at me… weird, maybe because I only nod my head when I ask them to give me more suitcases, bags and bundles of clothes to carry, and believe me, not to brag, but I can still do well the donkey.

We are all together now, well, I think so, because I assure you that the dark and dark as coal night is an understatement, I hardly see them, except when I hear them laughing.

They laugh all the time, as well as they are serious, they are reserved when you pass by them, but if you greet them, if you smile at them, if you shake their hand when you have finished buying something, a piece of chicken skewer, I think it is chicken, a few bananas bread, I do not know, you make them see that yes, you are a tourist, but also someone who does not look at them and judge them over their shoulder, that only distances you from them, well that’s it, the distance of birth, that we are not very different, that we like the same things, that we are invaded by the same fears, that we face different challenges, yes, but on the other hand, we both have the same simple desires to see how the days go by with the hope that each and every one of them does not bring us sadness and misfortune, they smile at you with one of the most sincere smiles you could ever imagine.

But I was telling you that I was carrying the suitcases, and while, apparently, there have been a couple of brave people who have gone into the darkness of the jungle, to collect some firewood, some food, yes lady, they are looking for coconuts, mangoes, breadfruit, or at least I understood it that way, bananas…. what do I know.

Meanwhile, the three women who accompanied me on this trip, one of them with the baby on her back in a bundle, are preparing part of what they have brought those who had gone out to collect, I would have said pillar, but it is better this way.

It’s time to make fire, and what can I say, except if I use the lighter, if it’s for me, I eat the food raw, but on this occasion, it seems that there are problems, the wood, the bark they are using is wet from the last rains, and don’t ask me how they are doing it, but the fire does not just ignite.

I still can’t see their faces, but it’s not easy to guess some of their frustration, so…fuck!!!, sorry, it slipped out.

I go to my backpack and upon hopefully rummaging around….I found it!!!!

I think if I could see their faces, they would think I’m crazy, because I’m screaming with joy, because, my daughter knows, not even when I go to the Iron, when I take a backpack to go hiking, when…anyway, whenever I go out, I always put in my backpack a knife with flint, that is, a tinder to light.

I don’t know, maybe my memories of when I was younger…maybe too many chapters of Frank of the jungle, even when I was already carrying these gadgets, long before I saw him, maybe my time in the military, Rambo movies, I don’t know what the reason is, but I always carry it with me when I have something like that, something like that, an adventure.

I know they are staring at me, I can’t tell them that I’m going to try to make fire in a different way than them, but they notice it, they see it, they perceive it, so they leave me some space and when I turn my head… I think I see how the little girl who, just an hour before had fallen asleep in my arms, is looking at me.

Yes I know, I can’t see their faces and I think I see how a little girl is looking at me, but damn, I’m convinced of it!

I prepare the firewood, look for the alcohol wipes I carry to clean the camera lenses and… Voila, sparks appear and the fire is lit.

Oh my gosh …. I think they almost pulled my shoulder out of the place from the slaps they give me as thanks, smiles all around me that I can finally see again, laughter for how I let myself fall sitting on the ground, you know, I’m not very agile, and nothing, we have fire.

The rest?

Little is left for the imagination, a roof with banana leaves for the women and the girl, and the men and the white tourist, around the fire, telling stories, of which I only remember three words, and a sense of wellbeing, of feeling part of a whole, that I had not felt for decades.

We smoked, we shared the pipe tobacco I was carrying and they were surprised by how strong it was for them, they kept laughing at the joke that, I repeat it ad nauseam on this island where there are so many women, that I don’t want any more «mulheres», that I’ve already had four and I’m tired of it, that they only give «dor de cabeça», that I am already «muito velho», and that well, one of those that I thought I was sleeping says something that makes them laugh even louder and that, after my surprised face, I more or less understand as «será muito antigo, mas se for tan forte em todos os lugares…. «, fuck, turning red at this point in my life. …but it’s like that, and I have to admit that there is a certain warmth that invades me, perhaps because, without knowing it, she has just made me the most sincere compliment that I could have believed or deserved in a long time.

The night passes between less resonant chats and soon we are all sleeping, three saomatenses and a white tourist, sleeping on a floor, which has been covered with leaves and which, I can not fool myself, I thought I was going to be uncomfortable and, I could not explain it, but I slept luxuriously.

Tomorrow ….

Tomorrow the sun will rise again, we will return each one to the destination we had fixed when we were coming back, but there is one thing for sure…a bonfire, some laughs, a palm wine and a good pipe, have united in an intimate and incredible way seven strangers and a baby, who only fell asleep when I sang to him…. raise your beer, toast to freedom, drink and come and party, hell is this bar¡¡¡¡.

Loosely, that is, he sang it loosely.

*** Translated with (free version) ***

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