Saturday, August 8, 2009

Arrastão

Editor's note: I wrote this post on Saturday, today is Wednesday. I talked to my mother this evening and she mentioned she hadn't seen any posts from me in a while, so I decided I'd better publish this before it's too dated and I decide not to bother. Enjoy!

Today I went out to make some street art- tomorrow is the Brazilian father's day and I doubt I'll have a chance. I had my eye on a wall that is perfect for a drawing in permanent marker, but when I got there it didn't feel right. There were too many people around. So I decided not to bother.

I was debating whether to look for another spot to paint so I sat down on a bench in a small park near my house. The street in front of where I was sitting has a traffic light at the corner, and a young girl about five years old was asking for change from the cars stopped at the light. She came over and started talking to me. Before long she asked if I was going to the mall nearby. I told her I wasn't. She said that was good because there had just been a big robbery there. She said that two security people had been shot and killed, along with a couple of the robbers, a girl, and an old man. This seemed like a lot, so I asked her a bunch of questions to nail down the details but she couldn't answer them. She said there was a shootout going on so I better not go down there. I agreed that that was probably a good idea.

Next she asked me for some change and I gave her some- I figured she'd earned it. She then pulled out a handful of change and impressed me by counting it all accurately- she had two reis and thirty cents. She told me she was going to give the money to her mother and she'd be right back, and she ran over to where three homeless women were sitting on a bench similar to my own in the park.

I decided I'd skip the street art and go home. Shootouts or no, this didn't seem like a good omen. Before I left, my curiosity got the best of me so I went over to the three women to find out if they had a more realistic version of what had happened in the mall. As I walked over, one of them stuck out her hand for some change. I didn't give her any, I just asked if she was the mother of the girl. She indicated one of the other women, who I then asked what had happened. She said it was an arrastão, that both of the nearby malls had been robbed, and two robbers had been shot to death. I said thank you and turned to go.

Suddenly the first woman says very loudly "Vai tomar no seu chicote, seu viado."

When I got home, I had to ask Evani for the exact translation of arrastão, as it's one of those words you won't find in the dictionary, at least not in the context I'd just heard it. My dictionary tells me that arrastar means 'to drag,' so an arrastão should be 'a really big drag.' What it really means in this case is 'an armed robbery involving multiple robbers where they grab everything they can.' I did not have to ask Evani to translate what this woman had said to me, even though the literal translation is "Go take it in the whip, you deer." What she really said, and I'm sorry that I know this, was "Go take it up the ass, you faggot," or more concisely: "Fuck you."

I guess she was pissed that I hadn't given her any money. She confirmed this by saying não dar nada, or doesn't give anything, and then she said some other stuff that wasn't very nice. I told her to shove it up her ass as well as I didn't owe her anything, at which point the other two women joined in the abuse and I started walking away. Middle fingers were displayed on both sides. The mother of the little girl made a loud announcement to anyone who was listening that I was one of the robbers involved in the arrastão, apparently so any police who might be standing around could arrest me.

As I walked back to the house, my mood thoroughly ruined by this encounter, I thought about various ways I could have exacted my revenge on these women. Not that I would ever do any of them, but I guess it made me feel a little better to thing about it.

It bums me out that I can't have an encounter with a homeless person where they don't act like I have a huge neon dollar sign flashing over my head, but I guess I shouldn't expect anything different. I know that I bring my own preconceptions about them to any superficial encounter like this. But I think the next time I have a question I'll save it for someone who isn't likely to want money from me.

When I got back into my neighborhood, I asked a cabdriver I know if he'd heard what had happened at the mall. He said there had been a robbery, and at least one of the robbers had been shot and killed. I told him each time I heard the story it got less dramatic, and we agreed we wouldn't know the truth until it was on the news.

A couple hours ago Evani told me the news was coming on, so I went to check it out. What had happened? A security guard saw someone suspicious approaching the mall and shooting ensued: two people, including at least one innocent bystander, were injured. Lots of people ran away. Nobody was killed. The suspicious character? An off duty cop.