When does the season change in the young people's dispositions? I have found sunny kids as you can find, almost wherever you go. Yet sitting under shaded thatch at a beach side restaurant in Ponta da Areia na Itaparica I have met several kids in part because we are foreigners, Michelle is drawing and they are sucked into the act of making art, making images. And, for all at one point they were looking for money.
They proclaimed their ages to be between 8-15, though in ways the youngest seemed older than 8 and the oldest younger than 15 in biological, not street years. I would have guessed they topped out at 12 years on the planet at most. Over several hours we shared simple pleasures and elemental conversations in our nascent Portuguese. As I watched the next generation, full of bravado flounting their capoeira machismo on the beach I thought of how much innocence is broken down in adolescence. Wanting to be cool. To be able to fuck. Not wanting to be suckered or jumped. And coming to grips with the an intitial weltanschauung. Those teenagers on parade in front of us, looked tough and old beyond their years. Naivete discarded or suppressed. They are lauded for their manliness, especially in a more overtly gender defined culture than the one that I know; but to what end?
Hot tears well up in my eyes, a few graze my shoulder as a young boy standing over me just in my peripheral vision as I rest on the sand, shivers and babbles not very coherently, "Meu irmao, chorando. Leite, leite." Que me disse?"-I ask; what are you saying, did you say; your brother crying? Milk? Still sniffling, his large white towel obscures most of his face. "Que esta passando com seu irmao? What's going on with your brother?
"Nao e leite na casa. Nossa casa nao temos leite e ele chora, chora. Ele esta chorando sempre. Meu irmao tem so um mez." There is no milk in the house. We have no milk in the house and my baby brother is crys, he crys. He is always crying. He is only one month old. Pragmatically, I attempt to ask if his mother is carrying milk. What is the real essence of the problem. An itinerant jewelry maker who uses sea and coco shells, beads, thread and wire to create her designs appears and senses some urgency in this scene. I ask her if she knows this boy. No, she replies. I then explain his tale. She interrogates him, and he maintains his story. Branca comes back, she was one of the first girls I had met that day. She as a lovely chocolatey skin, bright eyes, good cognitive skills and says she is 12. She is Junho's younger sister. She walks with the cocadas that she and Junho help make with their mother. White, Caramel, Amendoine, Goiaba and Abacaxi all jewel like quite sweet and wonderfully tasty. She pulls out an Amendoine for this crying boy, whose tears suddenly subside. He grabs it and chews the sugary treat happily.
He sees some other boys, his peers and rushes to catch up to them. Immediately they want to know how and where he got this treat. Jealousy, envy and desire. He points to Branca, Michele and me. They eye us wistfully. Hours later, as we finish some more drawing, Branca turns to Michele and asks her when will she pay up for the cocada. She says, "hmmm, I didn't buy one from you." Yes, you did. For that boy." Sharp as nails. At least as subversive as that act was it was surgical unlike Camila, model gorgeous, with a close cropped afro, large almondy eyes, who copped to being 9. Camila came up to me thrice asking when I would be paying her? I asked why? For what?--usually we need to make some trade or exchange to receive money. She stared back at me blankly, as if searching for another tactic or retort that wasn't available.
Maybe, I had seen the exotic and perverse film, Vers le Sud, with Charlotte Rampling annually sewing her post menapausal oats during her summer vacations from teaching with teenage colts at a Haitian beachside compound. Often other women would come and seduce the same boys who seemed only to happy to receive the free sex, petty allowances and attention. At least until disaster struck. That was a clever film, what am I seeing?