The Queen of São Paulo
On the fourth floor of an apartment building, unrecognized by most, sits an old lady, watching and judging what is going on below.
Most people crossing the street of Elias Chaves probably don’t know that they are subjects to her Royal Highness. Not the man rumbling through the trash collecting recyclables nor the crack addict in need of the next hit, not the business woman rushing off to work nor the street artist looking for a wall to paint. But she is up there, fourth floor, two bedrooms, balcony, red suede throne. Watching, sitting, judging.
The Queen dislikes dogs because of their barking and the excessive need for attention and she dislikes politicians for the same reason. These politicians that lost her city to crack and her country to corruption, which are, come to think of it, similar in many ways: fastly spreading, quickly hitting, easily accessible highs that last shortly and leave you craving more. And more. And more. Till there is nothing left to lose.
And like an addict on withdrawal, Brazil is pounding under the corruption scandals and changing governments, frantic, panicking, looking for a way out or a way in or a way back. On the fourth floor on her red suede throne, the Queen suffers with it. But there is nothing she can do. Not any longer.
It has not always been like this.
Before she became Queen she had been many things:
a mother of four and a sister to nine, a lawyer, the first in her family to graduate from college. A manic worker, an unforgiving predator, a beauty courted by many. Always in the middle of everything, never resting, never stopping. Two of her kids she lost, one to the drugs and the other to, well, family dynamics. It pains her. It is a deep sadness engraved in a mother’s heart, always present, even if she forgets everything else: what her house looks like, to go to the bathroom on time, the right side of her body and how to use it. Because this is what Alzheimer does.
It is cruel. But it is also a shield. Protection against the knowledge she has, the things she has seen, the truths she had to find as a woman making her way in a sexist society, in a military regime, in economic recessions, and during crazy growth. She was good at that. Well, sometimes more, sometimes less.
But not today. Today, she could be another lost soul in São Paulo, this 12 million people monster, forgetting her name, her life, her family. It is her daughter who saves her. The daughter that will pat her back and kiss her cheek when she does something stupid. Her daughter who takes her out to the restaurants every day to make her move and who watches the same news with her over and over again so she can understand and remember. It is her daughter who, when she is particularly grumpy, will laugh and call her “Royal Highness.” It is the daughter who makes her Queen.
In our weak moments, it is up to those who jump in, who take care of us; they choose who they allow us to be.
Brazil, where are your daughters?