The Foretold Tragedy

It was the first days of fall, about two or three years ago. The scorching heat was still intense, at the peak of the hottest days of the summer that had just ended. A summer of unbearable temperatures that reached record numbers.

João was walking down the streets around the Central Station, headed toward the famous clock tower, behind which there was a warehouse in very bad shape being used as a makeshift transportation station. His destination was Fluminense County and, even though it was part of his daily routine, he was yet to get used to the urban degradation of that area—it's still the same today. A Dante's vision of lack of interest and abandon from both the public sector and public transportation users alike.

Suddenly, an empty soda can bounced off the asphalt, falling right in front of his feet. His eyes met the eyes of the woman who had thrown it, quickly enough for him to see that her hand was still hanging in the air. He couldn't disguise how stunned he was and didn't mince his words.

“Ma'am! Don't you see there's a trash can right next to you?”

“I'm not the only one who does that! I gotta run to catch the bus, so don't bug me or you'll make me run even latter!”

“Yeah, you're not the only one, but you could be the first to try to change these bad habits. That would really help to improve the look of these streets and, who knows, maybe even everybody's quality of life.”

“I have better things to worry about,” she said, shrugging her shoulders as she walked past him. 

He lost her among the crowd of passersby. Some of them were also throwing away crumpled napkins, disposable cups, cans, and similar items. Even newspapers and magazines were thrown left and right, no matter that they could end up clogging the rain drains. All this trash was piling up on the side of streets, close to the sidewalks.

In disbelief, João picked up the can and threw it away in the trash bin, then hurried toward his station. He needed to secure a place on the long line of people awaiting the bus.
It's always the same. Each summer, we feel like the temperature is rising compared to the year before. And this big mass of people living in Rio de Janeiro and the Fluminense County—who doesn't get any assistance and is tired of being subjected to these well-known problems—just keeps on living without questioning the lack of interest in solving issues that have become more trivial with time.

Fast forward two or three years later. First week of leaves falling. After all that time, João still follows the same routine. He only changed the type of transportation and now takes the train Monday through Friday to go to downtown Nilópolis, where he works as the doorman of a commercial building. That exchange with the unknown woman got stuck in his head when the storm swept the town that fateful night.
He barely had enough time to get home and soon the sky in Grande Rio was coming down in a violent storm. He was back with his family and grateful for the roof over his head in his humble home. Even though they were extremely poor, they were as safe as they could be.

The early morning brought about chaos and the sad realization that the population would have to assess the damage. The situation was so bad that not even Homeland Security could grasp what the most pressing situation should actually be: trees taken down by the strong wind, cars dragged by the flood, roofs blown away and houses destroyed to pieces, light posts blocking the streets, blackouts in several neighborhoods, and cliffs that had collapsed, taking everything along the way until they finally reached the foot of the hills.

It was painful to read the newspapers the following days. The picture of that same woman among so many victims... The images weren't so clear, but there was a lot of destruction and wreckage amid the mud. He was sure one of those victims was that woman who he had reprimanded a few years ago, or rather argued about how important it was to not throw trash on the streets and sidewalks.

The woman had been carried by the force of the water that flooded the riverbanks surrounding the community where she used to live. Her life had been taken away too soon and she couldn't possibly have realized how she had contributed to those events. She wasn't the only one tragically affected by the lack of education, disinterest and urban disorder intensified by the violent rainstorm.

Amalri Nascimento was born on April 21, 1971, in Brejinho City, State of Rio Grande do Norte in northern Brazil. During his years in the Navy, the capital city of Natal became his second home, until he was transferred south to Rio de Janeiro, where he now lives.

He admits he was a "lazy reader" in his teenage years, being impressed most of all by police novels. However, he used to write down some short stories and poems in a notebook, which has unfortunately been long lost somewhere in the past.

In 2006, co-worker and poet Malu Oliveira convinced him to sign up for a poetry contest, and he entered a poem he had scribbled down on a napkin.

Since then, his poems and short stories have received several awards in Brazil. And, even though he doesn't label himself an artist, some of his paintings have been displayed in a few art galleries as well.

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