“How long do we have to wait?”
“WHAT? I can’t do that!”
“Well, I hope you can because we don’t really have the choice. First, it’s a bit of an old tradition that the new year starts at midnight, second, we’re kind of stuck in a crowd of 1.7 million people.”
“My tummy hurts. I really need food right now.”
“How is that possible? You had one of these Tokyo bowls with rice and beef just two hours ago! Look, Mark, the other kids are waiting quie—”
Never mind, I’ve just realized the four or five kids around are all glued to their parents’ phones, playing video games. That doesn’t count as waiting quietly, although we also use this parenting technique—we just don’t have a phone when we travel.
“How many minutes now?”
“Eighty. Eh, I had to wait for nine months for you!”
Mark shrugs as if apologizing for the human gestation period.
Sixty minutes to go.
We got a good spot on Paulista, São Paulo’s main avenue. The atmosphere is friendly. Brazilians know how to party—they’re great at crowd control, they drink a lot but handle it well, and they’re generally happy and easy-going. Never mind the booze, pot, sexy outfits and all, everyone’s welcome, it’s an inclusive event.
Fifty-five minutes to go.
Police officers are munching on sandwiches bought at Carrefour.
Paulistas have been preparing for the réveillon (funny, same word as in French) for a few days now. Rows and rows of portable toilets in the side streets perpendicular to Avenida Paulista, barriers dividing the avenue into two main sectors, food stalls, the main stage… Pedestrians have been taking over the avenue, closed to traffic.
We walked from Libertade (Little Tokyo) to Centro in the afternoon. It was already dead other there, so we hurried back to our neighbourhood to shop for food and drinks. Everything will be closed until January 2, we know the drill now. It’s okay, we have a nice hotel room with a fridge and a microwave. We won’t starve.
“I’m so hungry.”
“I have yogurt, everything to make sandwiches and a vanilla cake at the hotel.”
“How many minutes until I can have a yogurt?”
“Mark! You’re not that hungry! Fifty minutes.”
I’m wearing a white New Year top I bought in Rio for 6 reais ($1.55). Chileans buy yellow underwear for New Year’s Eve, and Brazilians apparently dress in white.
“Let me see your watch…”
“That’s better. Wait, forty, four zero or fourteen?”
I don’t like to sit around and wait. When was the last time I sat and did nothing? Idling drives me crazy. I’m always doing something but right now, there’s nothing I can do but wait. I can’t even play around with my camera because it’s crowded and too dark to take good pictures. All I can see are feet.
I’m going to take a picture of people’s feet.
Mark is being extra cute. He plays with my hair, calls me a queen, massages my leg (yes, just one) and tells me I’m cuter than a baby elephant (I’ll let him know it’s probably not the best thing to tell his date when the time comes).
“Wanna bet which colour the first firework will be?”
I’m actually pretty relaxed now. I’m not attempting to “go for a walk” (can’t move), I don’t feel like smoking, I have no phone to play with and it’s loud so we can’t really chat. I suspect I like to keep busy because otherwise, I get anxious. One day, a friend of mine noted that I’m always moving, always active—not fidgeting, but doing things or going places. “Typical fear of dying,” she laughed. “It’s your way of coping with it.”
Maybe she’s right. If I’m moving, I’m existing.
Maybe it’s not the right place and time to conduct a self-analysis.
“Mark, only ten minutes to go!”
We stand up and I keep my eyes on the big clock at the top of the building in front of us.
The crowd gets louder.
At 00:00, we all do the predictable things—kiss, cheer and hold our cellphones and camera high above the crowd to tape the fireworks or take pictures of them.
I’m holding Mark and I’m actually watching the fireworks for the first ten minutes. I don’t feel like taking pictures, they won’t look great anyway.
“How is your tummy?”
“Well… the fireworks did make it much better.”
Whoever you are, wherever you are, I wish you love, success, happiness and luck for 2019.
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