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'My dear, it's better to be unhappy with a rich man than happy with a poor man, and over there you'll have far more chance of becoming an unhappy rich woman. Besides, if it doesn't work out, you can just get on the bus and come home.'might be a girl from the backlands, but she was more intelligent than her mother or her future husband imagined, and she said, simply to be provocative:
'Mama, there isn't a bus from Europe to Brazil. Besides, I want a career as a performer, I'm not looking for marriage.' Her mother gave her a look of near despair.
'If you can go there, you can always come back. Being a performer, an actress, is fine for a young woman, but it only lasts as long as your looks, and they start to fade when you're about thirty. So make the most of things now. Find someone who's honest and loving, and marry him. Love isn't that important. I didn't love your father at first, but money buys everything, even true love. And look at your father, he's not even rich!'was bad advice from a friend, but good advice from a mother. Forty-eight hours later, Maria was back in Rio, though not without first having made a visit, alone, to her old place of work in order to hand in her resignation and to hear the owner of the shop say:
'Yes, I'd heard that a big French impresario wanted to take you off to Paris. I can't stop you going in pursuit of your happiness, but I want you to know something before you leave.'took a medal on a chain out of his pocket.
'It's the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady of the Graces. She has a church in Paris, so go there and pray for her protection. Look, there are some words engraved around the Virgin.'read: 'Hail Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who turn to you. Amen.'
'Remember to say those words at least once a day. And...' He hesitated, but it was getting late.
'... if one day you come back, I'll be waiting for you. I missed my chance to tell you something very simple: I love you. It may be too late now, but I wanted you to know.' Missed chances. She had learned very early on what that meant. 'I love you', though, were three words she had often heard during her twenty-two years, and it seemed to her that they were now completely devoid of meaning, because they had never turned into anything serious or deep, never translated into a lasting relationship. Maria thanked him for his words, noted them in her memory (one never knows what life may have in store for us, and it's always good to know where the emergency exit is), gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek and left without so much as a backward glance.returned to Rio, and within a day she had her passport (Brazil had really changed, Roger said, using a few words in Portuguese and a lot of gestures, which Maria took to mean 'before it used to take ages'). With the help of Maflson, the security offlcer-cum-interpreter-cum-agent, any other important purchases were made (clothes, shoes, make-up, everything that a woman like her could want).the eve of their departure for Europe, they went to a nightclub, and when Roger saw her dance, he felt pleased with his choice; he was clearly in the presence of a future great star of Cabaret Cologny, this lovely dark girl with her pale eyes and hair as black as the wing of the grauna (the Brazilian bird often evoked by local authors to describe black hair). The work permit from the Swiss consulate was ready, so they packed their bags and, the following day, they were flying to the land of chocolate, clocks and cheese, with Maria secretly planning to make this man fall in love with her - after all, he wasn't old, ugly or poor. What more could she want?arrived feeling exhausted and, while still in the airport, her heart contracted with fear: she realised that she was completely dependent on the man at her side - she had no knowledge of the country, the language or the cold. Roger's behaviour changed as the hours passed; he no longer made any attempt to be pleasant, and although he had never tried to kiss her or to fondle her breasts, the look in his eyes grew more and more distant. He installed her in a small hotel, introducing her to another young Brazilian woman, a sad creature called Vivian, who would be in charge of preparing her for the work.looked her coolly up and down, without the least show of sympathy for someone who had clearly never been abroad before. Instead of asking her how she was feeling, she got straight down to business.Minutes
'Don't delude yourself. He flies off to Brazil whenever one of his dancers gets married, something which seems to be happening more and more frequently. He knows what you want, and I assume you do too: you're probably looking for one of three things - adventure, money or a husband.'did she know? Was everyone looking for the same thing? Or could Vivian read other people's thoughts? 'All the girls here are looking for one of those three things,' Vivian went on, and Maria was convinced that she really could read her thoughts. 'As for adventure, it's too cold to do anything and, besides, you won't earn enough to go off travelling. And as for money, once the cost of room and board has been deducted, you'll have to work for nearly a whole year just to pay for your flight back home.'
'But...'
'I know, that isn't what you agreed. But the truth is that, like everyone else, you forgot to ask. If you had been more careful, if you had read the contract you signed, you would know exactly what you were getting yourself into, because the Swiss don't lie, they just rely on silence to help them.'felt the ground shifting beneath her.
'And as for a husband, every time a girl gets married, that represents a great financial loss for Roger, so we're forbidden to talk to the customers. If your interests lie in that direction, you'll have to run great risks. This isn't a pick-up place, like in Rue de Berne.'de Berne?
'Men come here with their wives, and the few tourists who turn up get one whiff of the family atmosphere and go looking for women elsewhere. I presume you know how to dance; well, if you can sing as well, your salary will increase, but so will the other girls' envy, so I'd suggest that, even if you're the best singer in Brazil, forget all about it and don't even try. Above all, don't use the phone. You'll spend everything you earn on it, and that won't be much.'
'He promised me five hundred dollars a week!'
'Oh yeah.'Maria's diary, during her second week in Switzerland:
/ went to the nightclub and met the dance director who comes from somewhere called Morocco, and I had to learn every step of what he - who has never set foot in Brazil - thinks is the samba. I didn't even have time to recover from the long flight, I had to start smiling and dancing on the very first night. There are six of us, and not one of us is happy and none of us knows what we're doing here. The customers drink and applaud, blow kisses and privately make obscene gestures, but that's as far as it goes.got paid yesterday, barely a tenth of what we agreed, the rest, according to the contract, will be used to pay for my flight and my stay here. According to Vivian's calculations, that will take a year, which means that during that time there's no escape.what's the point of escaping anyway? I've only just arrived. I haven't seen anything yet. What's so awful about having to dance seven nights a week? I used to do that for pleasure, now I do it for money and fame; my legs don't ache, the only difficult thing is maintaining that fixed smile.can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It's all a question of how I view my life.chose to be an adventurer in search of treasure - she put aside her feelings, she stopped crying every night, and she forgot all about the person she used to be; she discovered that she had enough willpower to pretend that she had just been born and so had no reason to miss anyone. Feelings could wait, now what she needed to do was to earn some money, get to know the country and return home victorious. Besides, everything around her was very like Brazil in general and her own small town in particular: the women spoke Portuguese, complained about men, talked loudly, moaned about their working hours, turned up late at the club, defied the boss, thought themselves the most beautiful women in the world, and told stories about their Prince Charmings, who were usually living miles away or were married or had no money and so sponged off them. Contrary to what she had imagined from the leaflets Roger had brought with him, the club was exactly as Vivian had said it was: it had a family atmosphere. The girls described on their work permits as 'samba dancers' - were not allowed to accept invitations or to go out with the customers. If they were caught receiving a note with someone's telephone number on it, they were suspended from work for two whole weeks. Maria, who had expected something livelier and more exciting, gradually allowed herself to succumb to sadness and boredom.the first two weeks, she barely left the boarding house where she was living, especially when she discovered that no one spoke her language, even if she said everything VERY SLOWLY. She was also surprised to learn that, unlike in her own country, the city in which she was living had two different names - it was Geneve to those who lived there and Genebra to Brazilians., in the long, tedious hours spent in her small, TVless room, she concluded:
(a) she would never find what she was looking for if she couldn't express herself. In order to do that, she needed to learn the local language.
(b) since all her colleagues were looking for the same thing, she needed to be different. For that particular problem, she as yet lacked both a solution or a method. From Maria's diary, four weeks after arriving in Geneve/Gene bra:'ve already been here an eternity, I don't speak the language, I spend all day listening to music on the radio, looking round my room, thinking about Brazil, longing for work to begin and, when I'm working, longing to get back to the boarding house. In other words, I'm living the future not the present.day, at some distant future date, I'll get my ticket home, and I can go back to Brazil, marry the owner of the draper's shop and listen to the malicious comments of those friends who, never having taken any risks themselves, can only see other people's failures. No, I can't go back like that. I'd rather throw myself out of the plane as it's crossing the ocean.you can't open the windows in the plane (I had never expected that. What a shame not to be able to breathe in the pure air!), I will die here. But before I die, I want to fight for life. If I can walk on my own, I can go wherever I like.following day, she enrolled in a French course that was run in the mornings, and there she met people of all creeds, beliefs and ages, men wearing brightly coloured clothes and lots of gold bracelets, women who always wore a headscarf, children who learned more quickly than the grown-ups, when it should have been the other way round, since grown-ups have more experience. She felt proud when she found out that everyone knew about her country Carnival, the samba, football, and the most famous person in the world, Pele. At first, she wanted to be nice and so tried to correct their pronunciation (it's Pele! Pel£!), but after a while, she gave up, since they also insisted on calling her Maritf, with that mania foreigners have for changing all foreign names and believing that they are always right.the afternoons, so as to practise the language, she took her first steps around this city of two names. She discovered some delicious chocolate, a cheese she had never eaten before, a huge fountain in the middle of the lake, snow (which no one back home had ever touched), storks, and restaurants with fireplaces (although she never went inside, just seeing the fire blazing away gave her a pleasant feeling of wellbeing). She was also surprised to find that not all the shop signs advertised clocks; there were banks too, although she couldn't quite understand why there were so many for so few inhabitants, and why she rarely saw anyone inside them. She decided, however, not to ask any questions. After three months of keeping a tight rein on herself at work, her Brazilian blood - as sensual and sexual as everyone thinks - made its voice heard; she fell in love with an Arab who was studying French with her on the same course. The affair lasted three weeks until, one night, she decided to take time off and go and visit a mountain on the outskirts of Geneva; this provoked a summons to Roger's office as soon as she arrived at work the following day.sooner had she opened the door than she was summarily dismissed for setting a bad example to the other girls working there. A hysterical Roger said that, yet again, he had been let down, that Brazilian women couldn't be trusted (oh dear, this mania for making generalisations about everything). She tried telling him that she had had a very high fever brought on by the sudden change in climate, but the man would not be persuaded and even claimed that he would have to go straight back to Brazil in order to find a replacement, and that he would have been far better off putting on a show using Yugoslav music and Yugoslav dancers who were far prettier and far more reliable.might be young but she was no fool, especially once her Arab lover had told her that Swiss employment laws were very strict and, since the nightclub kept back a large part of her salary, she could easily allege that she was being used for slave labour.went back to Roger's office, this time speaking reasonable French, which now included the word 'lawyer'. She left with a few insults and five thousand dollars in compensation - a sum of money beyond her wildest dreams - and all because of that magic word 'lawyer'. Now she was free to spend time with her Arab lover, buy a few presents, take some photos of the snow, and go back home in triumph. The first thing she did was telephone her mother's neighbour to say that she was happy, had a brilliant career ahead of her and that there was no need for her family to worry. Then, since she had to leave the room in the boarding house that Roger had arranged for her, she had no alternative but to go to her Arab boyfriend, swear undying love, convert to his religion and marry him, even if she had to wear one of those strange headscarves; after all, as everyone knew, all Arabs were extremely wealthy and that was enough.Arab, however, was already far away, possibly in Arabia, a country Maria had never even heard of, and, deep down, she gave thanks to the Virgin Mary because she had not been obliged to betray her religion. She now had a reasonable grasp of spoken French, enough money for her return ticket, a work permit as a 'samba dancer' and a current visa; so, knowing that she could always go back and marry her former boss, she decided to try to earn money with her looks.Brazil she had read a book about a shepherd who, in searching for his treasure, encounters various difficulties, and these difficulties help him to get what he wants; she was in exactly the same position. She was aware now that the reason she had been dismissed was so that she could find her true destiny, as a model.rented a small room (with no television, but she had to live frugally until she began earning lots of money), and the following day, started doing the rounds of the agencies. They all told her that she needed to get some professional photos taken, but this, after all, was an investment in her career - dreams don't come cheap. She spent a large part of her money on an excellent photographer, who spoke little, but was extremely demanding: he had a vast selection of clothes in his studio and she posed for him in various outfits, sober and extravagant, and even in a bikini of which the only person she knew in Rio de Janeiro, the security officer-cum-interpreter-cum-former agent, Mailson, would have been proud. She asked for several extra copies and sent them off to her family with a letter saying how happy she was in Switzerland. They would all think she was rich and the owner of an enviable wardrobe, and that she had been transformed into her town's most illustrious daughter. If all went to plan (and she had read enough books on 'positive thinking' to be convinced that victory was assured), she would be greeted by a brass band on her return home and would try to persuade the mayor to have a square named after her.she had no permanent address, she bought a mobile phone, the sort that use pre-paid phone cards, and in the days that followed, she waited for job offers. She ate in Chinese restaurants (which were the cheapest) and, to pass the time, she studied furiously.time dragged, and the telephone didn't ring. To her surprise, no one bothered her when she went for walks by the lake, apart from a few drug-pushers who always hung around in the same place, underneath one of the bridges that connect the lovely old public gardens to the newer part of the city. She began to doubt her looks, until an excolleague, whom she bumped into by chance in a cafe, told her that it wasn't her fault, it was the fault of the Swiss, who hate to bother anyone, and of other foreigners, who were all afraid of being arrested for 'sexual harassment' - a concept invented to make women everywhere feel worse about themselves.Maria's diary, one night when she lacked the courage to go out, to live or to continue waiting for the phone call that never came:today outside a funfair. Since I can't afford to fritter my money away, I thought it best just to watch other people. I stood for a long time by the roller coaster, and I noticed that most people get on it in search of excitement, but that once it starts, they are terrified and want the cars to stop.do they expect? Having chosen adventure, shouldn't they be prepared to go the whole way? Or do they think that the intelligent thing to do would be to avoid the ups and downs and spend all their time on a carousel, going round and round on the spot?the moment, I'm far too lonely to think about love, but I have to believe that it will happen, that I will find a job and that I am here because I chose this fate. The roller coaster is my life; life is a fast, dizzying game; life is a parachute jump; it's taking chances, falling over and getting up again; it's mountaineering; it's wanting to get to the very top of yourself and to feel angry and dissatisfied when you don't manage it.isn't easy being far from my family and from the language in which I can express all my feelings and emotions, but, from now on, whenever I feel depressed, I will remember that funfair. If I had fallen asleep and suddenly woken up on a roller coaster, what would I feel?, I would feel trapped and sick, terrified of every bend, wanting to get off. However, if I believe that the track is my destiny and that God is in charge of the machine, then the nightmare becomes something thrilling. It becomes exactly what it is, a roller coaster, a safe, reliable toy, which will eventually stop, but, while the journey lasts, I must look at the surrounding landscape and whoop with excitement.she was capable of writing very wise thoughts, she was quite incapable of following her own advice; her periods of depression became more frequent and the phone still refused to ring. To distract herself during these empty hours, and in order to practise her French, she began buying magazines about celebrities, but realised at once that she was spending too much money, and so she looked for the nearest lending library. The woman in charge told her that they didn't lend out magazines, but that she could suggest a few books that would help improve her French.
'I haven't got time to read books.'
'What do you mean you haven't got time? What are you doing?'
'Lots of things: studying French, writing a diary, and ...'
'And what?'was about to say 'waiting for the phone to ring', but she thought it best to say nothing.
'My dear, you're still very young, you've got your whole life ahead of you. Read. Forget everything you've been told about books and just read.'
'I've read loads of books.', Maria remembered what Mailson the security officer had told her about 'vibes'. The librarian before her seemed a very sweet, sensitive person, someone who might be able to help her if all else failed. She needed to win her over; her instinct was telling her that this woman could become her friend. She quickly changed tack.
'But I'd like to read more. Could you help me choose some books?'woman brought her The Little Prince. She started leafing through it that same night, saw the drawings on the first page of what seemed to be a hat, but which, according to the author, all children would instantly recognise as a snake with an elephant inside it. 'Well, I don't think I can ever have been a child, then,' she thought. 'To me, it looks more like a hat.' In the absence of any television to watch, she accompanied the prince on his journeys, feeling sad whenever the word 'love' appeared, for she had forbidden herself to think about the subject at the risk of feeling suicidal. However, apart from the painful, romantic scenes between a prince, a fox and a rose, the book was really interesting, and she didn't keep checking every five minutes that the battery in her mobile phone was still fully charged (she was terrified of missing her big chance purely out of carelessness).became a regular visitor to the library, where she would chat to the woman, who seemed as lonely as she was, ask her to suggest more books and discuss life and authors -her money had nearly run out. Another two weeks and she would not even have enough left to buy her ticket back to Brazil., since life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant, the phone finally rang.months after discovering the word 'lawyer' and after two months of living on the compensation she had received, someone from a model agency asked if Senhora Maria was still at this number. The reply was a cool, long-rehearsed 'yes', so as not to appear too eager. She learned that an Arab gentleman, who worked in the fashion industry in his country, had been very taken by her photos and wanted to invite her to take part in a fashion show. Maria remembered her recent disappointments, but also the money that she so desperately needed.arranged to meet in a very chic restaurant. She found herself with an elegant man, older and more charming than Roger, who asked her: 4 5 6 7 8 9 ... 17 2014-07-19 18:44
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