Summer in Rio

The sidewalk clock read 8 p.m. as I stepped off the ferry. It seemed late when I boarded 20 minutes earlier. Now, however, the terrifying dark clouds loaded with summer rain made it look like the sun had been stolen from the sky; darkness reigned. My skin was being burnt by the sizzling hot winds and the heavy humidity created an invisible barrier that made it difficult to walk.

Like a brainless machine, I marched quickly along with the rest of the just-released cattle, carried by the crowd. The wind felt like the breath of a fire breathing dragon. The incomparable amount of trash left in the streets of Rio was rolling frantically now all over the place. Sheets of paper, tin cans, food jars, all sorts of objects that we discard were coming back to us with a vengeance. Blown by the wind, they rolled down to all available manholes joining the fallen leaves for the clear purpose of flooding our roads. Madness spread. Shame on us.

The big old tin can with its massive rubber wheels finally arrived and a horde of perspiring people started boarding it, filling out the empty spaces inside. Each one of them carrying their plastic bags, backpacks, purses, shopping bags, suitcases, strollers, children and whatever else people insist on carrying in their commute back home.

At half past eight, the sidewalk thermometer read 104 degrees. But it was wrong. I was positive. The heat was probably 130 degrees inside the immorally crowded junker. I do not know how to pray, nor am I a believer, yet, at each bus stop, I began pleading to a higher power to stop people from coming in – as a pious devotee. Of course, I was not heard; the Supreme Being laughed and laughed at the absurdity of my plea.

Since the skies decided to pour down that thick summer rain, how could God stop us -- the pressed sardines-- from running and finding shelter at home? Well, when it rains, it pours...

I found a seat near the exit of the bus and braced myself for the hell I knew was to come. Sweat dripped down my legs and the temperature in my damp neck neared 120 degrees. The air could not circulate inside the big junker. I observed the first despair-induced confrontation in a dialogue between a passenger and the driver:

"There's no change. Wait there, please." said the ill-mannered driver.

"No, I can’t!" responded the outraged passenger.

"What can't you do?! You CAN’T wait???" replied the angry driver.

"NO! This piece of shit will soon be crowded with people and I will not be able to get out." explained the passenger, in all fairness.

After such claim, it was impossible to deny that the sweaty girl dressed in gym gear was right. The driver simply found some change and freed the way for another five hundred sardines that wanted to board the damned public bus. And the trip went on...

The rain gave up. The heat laughed gruesomely and seized all the spaces that used to be filled with the breath coming from the dragon's nostrils. The bus's steel floor turned it into a running oven that picked up more and more of us along the way. I could barely put my feet, inside the ballerina flats, on the burning floor. And it was night already.

When I thought things could not get worse and that I would soon be making up a plan to exit and get home... I looked out the window and panicked... there was a whole soccer team of barefoot, sweaty kids, just coming from the beach and trying to get into the already overcrowded bus. They were coming from practice and were all filthy.

Naturally, as expected, they squeezed themselves in between the other sardines and rubbed their sand-covered bodies against the other passengers, knocking into the purses of grimacing women. They stopped right in front of me, blocking the passageway through which I expected to exit the bus. Appalled, I observed the sweat running down the foreheads of the smelly, sandy teenagers; their arms up in the air holding on to the metal bar, their sticky breasts sometimes bare, sometimes dressed in drenched Flamengo jerseys.

Each movement of the rocking bus threw one of the kids on top of me, sweat drops and all. I searched and saw the reason nested in his left hand: the soccer ball. While one hand held on to the bar, the other had to embrace the filthy ball. There was only one thing to do:

"Do you want me to hold the ball?" I asked with a fake smile.

"It's covered in sand." said the sweaty kid.

"That's not a problem. This way you stop falling..." (on top of me, I thought).

I grabbed the ball with my nails and placed it on top of my backpack. A liquid that could be sweat or sea water dripped from the ball, decorating my backpack with dirty sand. I looked at the object in my hands and realized the weight (and heat) of my situation; canned in a bus with two hundred sweat-covered people and I laughed to myself: in shit, once you are in, you are in!

I got home alive... and ran to the shower! Of course, the water coming from the water tank was boiling hot...  

CLARICE D'IPPOLITO was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1977. She majored in Tourism in 2003 before going to Law School and working as an intern at a law firm. 

She has worked as a translator, a chambermaid in an international cruiseship, a travel agent, and in large state companies in Brazil. 

Coming from a family of writers, she started writing as a hobby from a very early age.

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