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After the Flood

After the Flood
  Adriana Simon
varianta print

Adriana Simon



Publicat Duminică, 11 Decembrie 2011, ora 10:05

      

      Rio de Janeiro, April 19, 2013

     

      Dear Father,

      I write longing to tell you that I am fine. Tell Mom not to worry, and that I miss her food very much. I wrote several letters, but only now I could send one.

      The elevation in the water level changed so suddenly that the people here remembered when Rio de Janeiro, the “Wonderful City” was constantly flooded. For this reason all of people here call this world catastrophe “the great flood.” Maybe we deserved it. We polluted our planet very much, and now we are being punished.

      The first three months after the event were very complicated. My apartment on the fifth floor was totally flooded during the first moments of the flood. Then, it reached the tenth floor of my building. I am living with Amanda, my fiancée. By the way, I owe my life to her since, at the moment of the catastrophe, I was in her apartment watching a movie. Since that day I have been living here. Her apartment, which is on the eleventh floor, is on a higher point than mine is and now it is equivalent to a fourth floor. That is the best thing about living in a high-rise.

      In the beginning it was hard to leave, but with the cooperation of all, we succeeded in improving things here. When people are really in need, you know how it is, either they kill each other or they help each other. For the time being they are helping...

      Nobody knows what will happen in the future. Since the level of the water stabilized between the sixth and the seventh floor, we transformed it into the ground floor, we knocked down an access wall to the corridor, and now we can easily make use of the stairways. People who had relatives moved to drier places. Many left. We enjoy a certain safety since it is easier for thieves today to pick up abandoned belongings than to remove what little the remaining people still have. Besides, they make a reasonable profit selling food and bartering things with us. We have another favorable aspect, we are considered by some as God’s chosen people. They usually call the flooded neighborhoods “Mar de Janeiro” and the inhabitants “reborn”. Actually, with everything sunken “Cristo Redentor” is closer to sea level, and it really seems we are closer to God.

      A short time after the day of the flood, a building beside ours collapsed, flinging debris against ours. A big piece of what was probably a beam passed through the window, crossing our room, and falling on us while we were sleeping. I just have a little ache. Some scratches, some bruises, but nothing else.

      Amanda didn't have as much luck and her leg got broken in the accident. For this reason we are still here. I managed to get a doctor to put a cast on her leg, but now it is difficult for her to move around. In a month the cast will be removed, and then we leave. I have never been so homesick for Itatiaia. There in those heights probably nothing has changed, right?

      I have come to terms with things. And I can’t complain. I thank God for having saved my life. For Dadá (that’s what she likes to be called), every-thing was worse. Her parents had gone to a supermarket, and they died on the way back. Amanda heard them shouting over the cell-phone when her mother called from the jam. Her brother, Arthur, just barely survived. He was able to get here by swimming that day, and he was hoisted up to the fourth floor. The following day the water was already up to the sixth floor. Now, we three live here. Many people didn't return anymore, so the people that lived on the lower floors and lost their homes are now occupying the upper floors. The people from the fourth floor are now on the twelfth, that is, the fifth of our building that used to have sixteen floors.

     

      The catastrophe was considered (of course!) to be a natural calamity and the insurance didn’t cover it. Once in a while the Army orders provisions for us. They are only now sending in boats to pick up the people. Since all coastal cities are flooded, it is all a mess. There are a lot of things that need repairs: the light company, communication systems... A lot of people died, disappeared...

      I have been unemployed since the Santos Dumont Airport was destroyed again. First it was the fire, and now the water. It is literally submerged.

      But I have found another job. With Arthur’s equipment and his help I learned how to dive. Both of us spent the day diving looking for jewels, precious metals, canned food, and anything that is useful. The other day I found a set of silver tableware with gold details, and we had a blast. I bartered them for neoprene clothes, food, bandages and medicines, besides some things for Amanda.

      You know how women are: even she who could not walk wants to dress up nicely. Those traders make a lot of money. Some people who live on the hill were able to close in an area, fill it in with sand and make a new beach. Now they charge entrance fees and there are a lot of tourists who come to visit. Any Brazilian has a "way" to do anything.

      The transport here is done by whatever means each person has. People use boats, jet-skis, inflatable rafts, kayaks, surfboards, pieces of wood and Styrofoam, and anything else that floats. The trolley, running on solar energy, still works, and now it is a means of transportation for bringing dry wood from the top of the mountain or even just trying to remember the old times. Actually, we do not leave a lot except when we go fish (this is what we call the dives in which we search for objects).

      We miss a lot of things, our friends, our parents, our things, lights, computers, our life...

      I have already searched my entire apartment, but I only managed to save a few things. Tell mom that I got the gold pendant that she gave me. Before all of this I didn’t wear it, fearing I would be robbed, but now I don't take it off my neck. I always kept it somewhere safe, as I did with so many things fearing I would be robbed, or I would spend, or lose, or destroy them. Now, everything is suddenly gone.

      So I was thinking... Why do we keep so much if sooner or later we lose it? I should have given Grandpa’s pocket watch to Ricardo, since he wanted it so much. I never used it nor have I ever let him use it, and now it is gone. Send my apologies and a big hug to him. Well, it doesn’t help to lament. I thank God every day that you are fine, far away, safe and sound.

      Lots of love,

      Rodrigo.

     


     

      Amanda folds the letter and puts it aside. She looks at herself a little and feels her leg aching. “It is better than to not feel anything,” she thinks, realizing that it would just be a short while. Where the fracture is exposed, flies hover. Discouraged she waves her hand around to move them away.

      “Thank you once again, Dadá,” says Rodrigo, lying on an old curtain being used as a mattress. His hands had suffered serious burns and ever since were bound; for this reason, he needs his fiancée to write his letters.

      Amanda doesn’t answer. She just places the paper into a used envelope and writes the address on it under Rodrigo’s close watch.

      “When will you send it?”

      “This afternoon,” answers Amanda. Her throat hurt and it was with strain that she spoke.

      Rodrigo observes until the fatigue and the fever overcome him again and he finally sleeps. Amanda looks affectionately at him. She crawls through the room up to a cardboard box from which she takes a piece of old bread that was already being eaten by a cockroach. Her stomach hurts, and the bread gives her a little relief.

      She approaches a hole in the wall, and throws the letter through it. And through the same space she can see, a few meters below, the paper floating in the dirty water and disappearing in the current. Rodrigo moves in his bed, and she looks in his direction verifying that he continues to sleep.

      She had already tried to coax him to stop writing, explaining that there was no mail service or any other way to contact his parents. All the times that she had insisted on that matter, he lost his temper to the point that he even set fire to the room they reside in, injuring himself seriously. Just a moment after he would forget, that is, he stopped thinking about it. It was his way to believe that there is hope, to trick himself to continue to live. It was better this way, because she did not have any hope any more.

     

© Copyright Adriana Simon
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