This year in Brazil, I spent in Volta Redonda, a small town about two hours outside of Rio, the city where Flora grew up. We arrive the night before, but get in at such an hour that we spend most of the next day resting, or at least I do, with her going between wiping the sweat off my brow as I sleep and her talking with her father. I keep waking up, making motions that I'm ready to get up and do something before the sun passes, but she places her hand on my chest and pushes me back down onto the bed. Tells me that she knows I'm still too tired, and that's okay. We can go when I'm ready. I guess that's one thing I really love about Flora: she insists that I be who I am, as if it were enough.
I stand by the door, not exactly sure how we're going to do this tour, but my feet are equipped for any method she has planned. She comes by with a bicycle in hand.
"We're going by bike?" I ask.
"In Volta Redonda, we go everywhere by bike," she says.
We ride down streets that remind me of places I've been before. This corner reminds me of where my mother grew up in Taiwan, that one was where I used to catch the bus in Bogotá, the scent of some food vendors reminds me of where I used to eat every night in Tegucigalpa. It's all coming back to me in sensations and it is then I realized that these moments are happening faster than I can capture them with words. I guess the best I can do is live the moment, hope that maybe something will come back to me when I'm sitting in front of a computer screen one day.
Flora rides ahead of me and tells me stories of her childhood. The building where she played her first show, the apartment complex where an ex-boyfriend once lived, the street where a good friend used to frequent, until she passed away a few years back. It's a quaint town, takes maybe 30 mins to go around the entire place by car. Its origins trace back to the iron factory, and the workers' needs of alimentation and shelter spawned it into the city it is today. It isn't a big city, maybe 200,000 people, about the size of Anchorage at the time when I grew up. I tell her later that I base the number of my hometown completely off of a statistic I read when I was about 8 years old. I tell her I've never fact checked that since. She laughs and tells me I probably should.
"I think I'm going in," she tells me. I look around trying to figure out where she's talking about.
"Going where? The fountain?" I ask.
"Yeah. Are you coming?" she says.
I think about it for a minute and shrug my shoulders. "Sure," I say.
I'm thinking that there's going to be this uber dramatic kiss as we meet in the middle of the fountain, and if fate plays out like the movies, fireworks will set off early and we'll be surrounded by an orchestra of bursting green and yellow lights as our lips touch. But I forget to take off my glasses and the water pressure is extra strong, so I'm blinded the moment I step in and I spend most of the time worried that the water will blast off my testicles. All I'm seeing and feeling is white streams of water spraying into my nostrils and I'm wading my hands around looking for a body to hold. From the outset I probably look like a drenched zombie that read a lot when he was still human, and I stumble in that manner towards the middle looking for flesh. But Flora left a good twenty-seconds beforehand and when I finally give up and step out soaked, she's standing there, looking at me with one crooked eyebrow as if to say, "What the hell are you doing?"
I'm feeling a bit silly as we ride the bikes back home, but nobody knew what I was thinking so it's a little less embarrassing. We continue riding down the street and she stops, pulls her bike close to mine and looks at me, in that way. I kinda give this dopey look, like the one character in the horror film that still hasn't figured out the plot line. I feel like I'm frozen in time, staring into nothing. She plants a wet kiss onto my lips and smiles.
"You're crazy for going into that fountain," she says. I give her this look of surprise, half-way accusing her of hypocrisy.
"Me? It was your idea," I say. "Who's the crazier one? The one with the idea, or the one that follows?"
"Honestly," she says, "the one that follows."