14.9.07

Prayer

We went in this candle store in Astor Place because she wanted to check some scented wax. I normally hate this kind of casual shopping but on that day my mood was good; it wouldn’t take more than ten minutes or so, because I was the one fielding the bill. The store was small, but had rows and rows of multicolored candles, all sizes and shapes. One of them caught my eyes. It was a big one, twenty inches long, something out of a movie prop or an oversized soccer mom wet dream. Printed outside of the white wax, it was an image of Our Lady, the Virgin Mary. And everything came back.

When I was five years old, mom used to take I and my older sister to the countryside, to our uncle’s house, during the Day of the Dead. It was a long holiday weekend and almost half of it we spent on the bus going there, through dusty back roads and dead cities with ugly houses with disheveled dry wall or bars with liquor prices crudely painted on the facades. When we actually got there, mom would phone her brother from the bus station and he would pick us up with his battered Toyota, so we would go through some more dusty ways amidst the dry vegetation and sandy soil. His house was nothing more than a hollow brick house with an old ceiling in the middle of his land, where he managed to screw up even to toughest savanna crops. During noon, the sun would shine through the holes in the ceiling. Lucky for us, it never rained around there. You couldn’t raise anything in there, not even those goats that would eat everything, rubbish or newspaper.

The house had two rooms and a large kitchen-living room with a gas stove and a TV with awful rececption. The only two books in the house were “Germinal” and the Holy Bible. Even though I already had learned to read a bit, I stuck with the illustrations from the Book of Revelations. The old guy, who wanted to be a priest in his youth but never got around to studying and praying all day (he preferred some good cane liquor and loneliness), actually had a copy of the Book with classic Albrecht Dürer illustrations, the sort that would be seen in a protestant German edition. And they were good; I spent hours checking out the four riders of the apocalypse or the dragon-headed snake, the seventh seal and such.

The real reason for those travels, I learned later on in life, was to escape my dad’s cheating and boozing ways. It was already pretty bad at that time, and she couldn’t admit it. I guess she just decided to escape to there, in the middle of nowhere, away from the shame of the neighbors peeking through the half-opened windows and seeing dad spread out on the sidewalk after some cab driver had dropped him off unconscious. By that time she had become obsessively religious, and I suspect that those travels made her even more of a devout Christian. She picked out the fact that I was reading the Book at such a young age and took it as a sign. It was a sign all right; that I was terribly bored.

So after two weeks of the heat, flies, dried meat with manioc flour or rice, the skies closed and develop a deep gray tinge. People on the village started to whisper their concerns to each other, some of the old folks even screamed out of nowhere, like flesh barometers going wild in the unnatural humidity. Some of them started to pray. The mayor of the shit hole gathered some of the more concerned people and told them that it would rain hard, but that it would be good for the crops. I wouldn’t now what sort of crops he was talking about, all I saw planted around were manioc roots and sisal hemp, the kind you made ropes from. Those things grew on nothing, on a drop of dung, peasant blood and sweat.

When became undeniable that the sky was going to fall on us, my uncle bought a bottle of liquor and some extra reserves, some brown sugar and coffee and extra bread, and told us to stay at home. Huge discharges fell from the sky and shook the ground like it was the end of it all. My mother prayed. And then a huge storm came, like the oceans where invading them barren lands and transforming the savanna into tropical lush.

The lightning came closer to the house. We had no lightning rod, no way to protect ourselves. My sisters, at that time a full blown rebellious teenager, became more and more restless. When a particularly strong bolt hit the backyard, she screamed and ran out of the house into the pouring rain. I ran after her in the new mud, but mom held me tight and pushed me back to protection. My uncle went after her.

Mom grabbed a candle from the kitchen and lighted it. Holding our hands together, she told me in a very quiet and desperate voice: “Now son, we must pray for your sister. If we fail, she will die. We must pray, and god will deliver”. I stared at her face in fascination. The candle warmed and began to melt, little drops of fervent wax going down into our hands, burning the skin and then the flesh. “We must. Hold on. The pain is a sign. Is a sign that we are true to our faith. Hold on”.

“But mom, it hurts”, I said in a whiny voice, but unable to cry or understand. She was oblivious, chanting a regular church going song with her eyes closed. Now the wax covered our hands in multiple layers, cooling down, still warm though. My uncle came back, pulling my sister by the hair. She was crying and they were both covered in mud. Mom wouldn’t let go of the candle. The pain made me cry. The next day, we left back for the city and huge brown puddles soaked everything. But the grass was greener, like some miracle had revived the scorched land.

Of those burns from the candle, only a small spot remained after twenty three years. Mom continued to pray, even more when she was committed. Now she is dead. I never prayed again and I still can’t cry.

3 comentários:

emece disse...

very good indeed, although sergipe sucks.

emece disse...

very good indeed,although sergipe sucks.

Anônimo disse...

yeah, it does.

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