Thursday, December 24, 2009


Today, December 24th, is the day we celebrate Christmas here. And sadly, the day has started off with a tragedy.

One of our neighbors, who everyone called Ciro even though that wasn't his real name, who we called Deu because he used to walk around yelling 'Celebredeu!' and Lucas could only say "Deu," has died. He was 34. Medics have been trying to resuscitate him for... too long... and have finally just given up.

Deu was one of our best friends here in our neighborhood. We invited him to our parties and we used to keep a bottle of ginger brandy in the house just for him. He was actually the very first person we had contact with here on the street, as he saw us looking at the for sale sign on the house we eventually bought and ran to get the son of the owner to show us the house. He worked in the little store a couple doors down and always brought us our bottled water, which is why we kept the brandy for him. He worked constantly, wheeling cases of beer all over the largo, and he was friends with everyone. He was a devoted Chicleteiro, a fan of the Axé band Chiclete com Banana.

He was loud and boisterous, and kind of a bobo, apparently content to work every day of the week and hardly ever going anywhere. We used to kid him that he was king of the street and he should run for mayor. He used to brag about how tough he was, but he never acted on it as far as we could tell. He loved Pagode, Bahian style, and we'd often hear him playing pandeiro (tambourine) in front of the house. Recently he started a relationship with an older woman who lives down the street who has a young son, who he's been taking around to swimming lessons and such.

His boss, the owner of the mercearia (a store that sells beverages and some food items) worked him ragged. Deu worked seven days a week and would even give up his month's vacation in exchange for an extra month's pay. He would open the store at 7:30 in the morning, close it at 8 PM, and sometimes he'd even open it after hours if someone needed a pack of cigarettes or a couple beers. It was clear that his boss took advantage of him, and he'll never be able to find someone to take his place. Apparently they've worked together for fifteen years. Evani doesn't agree with me that he was content to work this hard, and said that he resented missing out on events and so forth because he had to work, but he felt trapped and didn't know how to leave.

A siren woke Evani up this morning, and she went to the window to see what was happening. A crowd of about one hundred people were standing around, very quiet, and a rapid response vehicle was on the scene. They were trying to defibrillate him. I could see Deu's feet sticking out of the store where he spent all his time- apparently he opened the store, gave a yell, and fell to the ground, never to rise again.

At first we didn't know who it was, and Evani told me to go down and see what was happening. When we found out it was Deu, thanks to a neighbor who called up to us, I decided I didn't want to see him like that, didn't want to remember him like that. Ruan went down to look. Evani went down to look. Lucas wanted to go see too, but I wouldn't let him, something my wife dismissed as silly. She's been looking at dead bodies in the street since she was a little girl, but I don't want Lucas to have the same experience.

Apparently Deu hadn't been feeling well lately, and had been to the doctor and to have some tests run. They apparently didn't turn up anything. He ate an extremely heavy, fatty diet and drank quite a bit, but he wasn't a smoker and he'd given up hard liquor, for what it's worth. His mother also died young of heart failure, so he may have had inherited a bad heart from her. I doubt they'll do an autopsy so we will probably never know exactly what killed him.

There's an attitude here, I'm not sure if I could call it prevailing, that when your time is up you're gone. It's fate, it's the Lord calling you back. I've heard a couple people say that about Deu this morning. I don't agree. They all said the same thing about another friend of Evani's who backed off of a scaffolding: his time has come. My feeling was, if he'd been more careful, if he had used some additional precautions, his time wouldn't have come just then. Similarly if Deu had had access to better health care, if he'd been better informed, and if he'd paid more attention to his potentially genetic health problems, this might not have happened.

Not to mention it took the emergency crew most of an hour to arrive.

Tradition here is to bury the dead as soon as possible, none of this planning a funeral for a convenient weekend a couple weeks down the road. Apparently the funeral will be tomorrow, and we will go. I don't go to many funerals here, there are just too many of them, but I want to go to this one. Deu was a true friend.

Goodbye, Ciro. I'm sorry you left us so soon. We're going to miss you.


Pedra said...

Sorry to hear about your neighbor. It's always hard to lose someone at Christmastime. I hope you are doing ok...


markuza said...

Thanks Cheryl, it did take a lot of the fun out of the holiday, but the kids didn't seem too affected, and that's what's important.

michelle said...

Mark, So sorry to hear about this. I'm glad to hear the kids are OK. I hope you are too.

markuza said...

Thanks Michelle, we're doing okay but I've discovered that the all-purpose exclamations 'Beleu' and 'Celebredeu,' which he created, have become staples in my vocabulary. Every time I say one of these I am reminded of him.