The day after

“What are you going to do tomorrow?” Alan asked me, at four in the morning, during one of our regular insomnia episodes.

I answer him distractedly, while at the same time sliding my thumb over the surface of my cell phone to check the latest Facebook posts from Brazil. I’ll try to make a video-release for one of my authors. I’ll work a little on the house project. I’ll finally begin to translate my novel into English, which is my next professional assignment. Nothing. Nada. I’m not doing anything at all. I’ll just keep myself alert.

I’m in a total state of alertness, actually so alert I almost passed up on my weekly obligation to write, which I ended up fulfilling anyway, thanks to habit, and to the utmost relief brought by this practice. I’ve been very active on the political forum formed by Brazilians on Facebook to discuss the upcoming impeachment of the president, keeping the energy high all week to avoid indulging in depression and lethargy.

To tell you the truth, I’ve been living in a state of “suspended animation,” or better said, divided not only between two countries, but also between two different states of mind: while staying committed to previously assigned projects and some urgent, unpostponable choices, a good percentage of my mind is occupied by the Brazilian political scene and the impeachment process results.

Although I don’t have to confront the Brazilian reality on a daily basis, facing, as a friend told me, “the empty streets, because people lack the basic money even for a bus ticket over the weekend,” or witnessing in person the absurdity of an artificially divided Esplanada — the impressive avenue in Brasilia, lined with government buildings, and with the National Congress at its apex — I still feel as if I were physically present in Brazil. After almost two years of self-exile, I still find myself unable to truly feel that “I’m not in Kansas anymore,” I mean, in Itaipava. If I were actually there, I would probably enjoy a peaceful weekend, including a delicious lunch in the brand-new Pizzeria Matilda, which belongs to a friend of mine. All this, despite the loud rumors of a “coup,” yeah, right. Maybe. On the other hand, if I were still there, it would be much more difficult for me to figure out some kind of solution, since I would probably be part of the growing unemployed and hopeless mob, who knows.

My physical body, together with the available percentage of my brain, keeps developing the 5th or 6th version of the Paris Mountain house architectural plans. The one completed by a professional, well-paid architect, actually proved unbuildable, oh, yes, con artists are not exclusive to the Brazilian way of life. Moreover, we can now count on the support of a benevolent builder, although I’m staying skeptical in order to avoid the evil eye.

We are in need of a benevolent builder, that is correct. One who is willing to accept our clean, logical, simple and fluid house plans, which apparently go very much against the local neo-rococo style, insisting instead on the impractical Bauhaus slogan “form follows function.” We’ve already been rejected by three or four other builders… Who could imagine we would end up missing our Brazilian contractor and the guarantee of his “mustache”?

It is my belief that, thanks to the detailed simplicity we are theoretically seeking, builders must unrealistically conclude their percentage won’t be enough to fulfill their first-world ambitions, who knows. Nobody in the United States wants to work for a small amount of money, or for the love, the excitement of the job. Nobody wants to be an “amateur,” as one could say (from Latin, amator, amare). This could eventually change, if, by chance, Bernie Sanders was elected president. Not really. I’m not supporting him at all, I’m done with government leftism for whatever life I have left.

According to Alan, everybody has a family to support and a mortgage to pay. Which obviously includes the blunt, insistent telemarketers. Caramba! You cannot solicit any information in this country without eliciting endless unwanted phone calls! You need a high level of wariness to protect yourself from these slaves of percentage, something I had previously ignored. The other day, for instance, I was naïve enough to provide my data to a college network while looking for English courses, et voilà, they never stop calling. I had to give up looking for a better insurance deal because I refused to fill out a number of forms with my real information.

However, my worst experience was still to come, when I gave in to an emphatic invitation from LinkedIn to apply for an “Outstanding Professional Women’s Award” or something, which at some point, I believed, could help me find my way in the U.S.

How gullible of me. It was early one morning when I got the call from New York. A pretty persuasive woman informed me my application has been “accepted,” but to confirm it, she would need to proceed with a 15-minute interview (if this reminds you of something, it is not coincidental).

“Go ahead,” I said.

It was like giving her my head on a plate. Let’s see how far will this go, I told myself. And while the woman used me to fulfill her percentage expectations, I used her to lift up my deeply affected exile morale. I started to tell her in detail about my remarkable trajectory as an ebook pioneer in Brazil, the old, useless tale I’m so tired of telling everywhere I can. At the same time, I couldn’t stop thinking about the present situation in Brazil, where everything I might have ever accomplished was torn to shreds, once again, when compared to the urgency of the moment.

My “fifteen minutes” ended abruptly when the woman tried to charge me $900 for a lifetime membership, quickly replaced by a cheaper 5-year one, to end up melancholically with $150 for a one-year trial, which I also refused. When I told her I would call her back, she grew suddenly mad, almost yelling at me seconds before hanging up on me, destroying all of her dedicated efforts from the last few minutes: “Didn’t you read the membership rules before applying?”

Honestly, I’d tried. But I couldn’t find anything about fees in the convoluted form, carefully designed to fool people eager for some recognition, easy targets for this kind of advertising “ambush.”

Our ideal networked reality is being made into a virtual jungle, my friends. And this outdoes, with its unsuspected creative virulence, the sad corruption on both sides of the Brazilian political scene. On the eve of the vote for impeachment in the Brazilian Congress, I keep counting vote by vote, trying not to consider the possibility of defeat, so great is the envisioned relief if the impeachment is approved at last, notwithstanding the future challenges we might be faced with, in order to maintain democracy on its proper tracks.

Time to invoke our daily Churchill to support us a bit: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” It is hard to imagine there are still some people who accuse us of perpetrating a political coup, using the lowest of arguments and moral lynching in order to convince us of their failed notions around pristine social justice. Just minutes ago, I read an “intellectual” statement affirming that ex-president Lula is “the biggest Brazilian leader alive today,” and there’s no reason to “submit to an illegitimate government.” Illegitimate, though backed by Congress and the Supreme Court, not to mention the weight of popular support.

On the personal side, I’ve developed a profound disgust related to ex-president Lula. Last night, when he appeared on BBC News, while I was running on the treadmill, I was forced to avert my eyes, something which has only happened to me twice before: First, when I was a child, watching The Ten Commandments, in order to avoid the leper’s scene, as advised by my mother; and second, whenever I see someone injecting heroin or crack — free association allowed.

So be it. Less than 24 hours from now, we might be facing an entirely new set of circumstances in Brazil, and I’m ardently anticipating it. There may be lots of garbage, lots of dust clouding the way, but still, for the first time in our history, we won’t be sweeping it under the rug, and this will per se make the air more breathable.

Little by little, we will recover the capacity for a whole night’s sleep; we’ll have our lives back, lives rudely taken from us by the criminal nerve of the odious character who will soon be behind bars, God willing. And I’m sure God will, since he must be anxious to prove he was “born in Brazil,” as we locals dare to believe.

About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.
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