17. Ear pain and night-blindness

ear pain...

Translated by Angela Telles-Vaz

    How many times did the nice figure of a doctor with charitable hands come to the orphanage? I don't remember one. Did a nurse? Not one. Did a pharmacist? One never came.
    Our medicine consisted of purges. That thing was so bad that it should expel all the viruses that would be lodged in our malnourished and starving bodies. Even the devil itself couldn't cope.
    Sanitary conditions offered excellent research material. Guinea pigs at will, cold, hunger, lack of vitamin, all barefoot, unpleasant sleep, unfiltered water, sometimes even from the toilet bowl. We all had swollen and cracked lips. I know because I remember that my sisters, for a long time, mentioned many times after our departure, that they were horrified at the appearance of our lips. Our skin was dry resembling a peach with white spots. From all the noses ran forever the green and watery phlegm. We cleaned our noses on the straps of our overall, at the end of the week they were starched and filthy.
    Sometimes, one of us couldn't keep food in our stomachs. It was like a quick tide, going and coming, going and coming that ended up by causing the beans and rice to spread around the room, lying there until dry.
    Besides all this there was thinness.
    Regarding our health, I remember one episode that happened with Geraldo and two with me. Besides the beneficial tuberculosis of Little Marcos, that earned him envied holidays at the priest's home.
    One night, Geraldo let no one sleep. He had a toothache. I remember that many children had toothache, swollen cheeks that were tied with a cloth nobody knew where it had come from. His pain either hurt more or was used as a pretext for a violent rebellion. He screamed, howled, the supervisor didn't know what to do. Knowing that everyone was aware, he took the opportunity to begin to curse the priest. To curse the priest represented more than a sacrilege. Sacrileges may or may not attract the bolt of lightning, the bolt of lightning is expected but never comes. But in that place, to curse the priest posed a scale of growing physical pain and decreasing humiliation. Correction paddle, shoves, kicks, culminating in clumsy flights and falls like packages.
    The pain gave him strength. I was horrified because to curse someone looked terrible to me and I was like a little puppy filled with fear. Meanwhile, I was proud that it was my brother the one that faced the power, throwing upwards that inverted rain of destruction.
    That son of a bitch, bastard, fag, it's because of that priest son of a bitch.
    Then silence came, everybody looked at the supervisor.
    Geraldo, come with me.   
    Shit, I'm not going! I'm in pain because of these sons of a bitch, that bastard of a priest!
    The night didn't end badly. Against the odds, Geraldo was taken to de principal-priest who gave him medicine and took care of him. He returned triumphant.

    One morning, I woke up not feeling well. The world had lost its meaning. The porridge seemed to me disgusting and I didn't want to eat it. I lied down on the small cement bench and let myself forgotten. Lunch time came. They called me, it was Sunday. It wasn't reasonable to miss the Sunday lunch: the rice was not sticky and they gave us a piece of lamb. I had no courage and stayed. I had the impression that the universe was still. I slept. The sun was hot, it was confusing because I was feeling very cold, the cement bench was icy but one side of my head which was under the sun was burning. A distant rumor began to trouble me like an endless water fall. The sun was unbearable, harsh and hoarse. The noise grew louder and I realized that the ear that was close to the cement hurt too much.
    Someone talked to me, tried to lift me. I looked and didn't understand a thing. The figures shined in front of me like angels in the twilight of paradise. Someone spoke about Geraldo, I heard my brother's name in the middle of a thunder. He soon arrived, worried and held me. Among the huge sparkles and pops I realized that he had warned me about having missed lunch and for being in the sun. In the shade, the brightness decreased but the crazy noises of the infernal factory continued for a long time. 

    There's a point related to my health worthy of mentioning. I couldn't see at night. When I was attending the Pedro II School, much later, I found out in a Science book that the lack of vitamin A causes night blindness. Therefore, that strange disturbance was explained. Until then, the fact filled me with astonishment, I didn't know if I was different from the others, if I was going blind, I didn't understand anything at all…
    One painful memory is when it was time to go to the dorms upstairs. I believe that as soon as darkness fell we were lined up to go up. The darkness killed me. I was incapable to see a faint glow, a light spot. I could hear everyone, know what was going on around me nevertheless I felt isolated from the rest. Once, I left the line unintentionally. They started calling me, I lost track of the voices, many at the same time, I tried to go back and hit the walls. I could hear the anguished voices of Valdemar, Hermes, Bucket, Zé da Silva but couldn't find out where they were coming from and kept doing goofy turns with my arms stretched out to protect my face. Suddenly, I felt that one hand held my shoulder and that I was being taken, I was guided to the bed.
    Thereafter, when the line started to move, I grasped the clothes of the one in front of me and kept walking...
    One other time, I woke up wanting to go to the bathroom. There was one bathroom next to the dorms. I started to grope carefully my way through the wood bunk beds. With some difficulty, I figured out the cold tile, urinated somewhere and looked for my bed. I started to grope my way, felt bodies, curly hairs full of sand, muddy feet, struck my head on the grids, coming and going and again found myself back at the bathroom door without finding my bed. In desperation, I lost myself in the middle of that forest of bunk beds extremely dark and my body began to hit everything. Someone called my name,
    I can't find my bed,
    and took me like magic straight to the empty and cold bed.
    What would have become of me in a night like that, if I weren't skinny and had fearful eyes and shy and loved by all?


      to be continued on next sunday.

Atualizado em ( 25 - 10 - 2011 22:59 )