I love my new place. It’s ridiculous how amazing it is. Perfect size, perfect amenities. There’s a balcony overlooking the city, a cool breeze blowing through the windows at night. I have a shelf for my books and time to read them. There are chess boards engraved into the concrete tables sprinkled throughout the park outside my window and an organic farmer’s market comes a few steps from my apartment. I bought a loaf of gluten-free brown rice bread last Saturday. What. The. Fuck.
The only thing that I lack is a decent kitchen. I have jenky-ass hot plate and the apartment isn’t fitted for gas. There’s maybe enough room to hold a roll of paper towels and the kitchen counter doubles as the top of my mini-bar refrigerator. But I’m reminded that I once lived with someone in a dirt floor shack, and we made due with a two-burner electric stove and no fridge. In fact, she did it for nearly all her life. It’s strange that I thought of her here in Brazil, even stranger when I think about the name of this neighborhood.
“Onde voce mora?”
“Where do you live?”
“Eu moro na Gloria.”
“I live in the Glory.”
This past weekend was actually the first time that I’ve spent alone since I’ve arrived in Brazil. The first week I had a roommate at the orientation in Sao Paulo. The second week I was Couchsurfing with whom I think is the Brazilian counterpart to my Spanish roommate, my spiritual guide for the last 6 years of my life. I can’t help but think that also wasn’t a coincidence.
I’m really enamored with this city. Everything about it speaks to my being. It’s like all the best parts of the best places I’ve been in my life mashed together into one city and I speak the language. But the novelty is beginning to wear off as I go deeper into my research.
Today I came back from the university to which I thought was early in the day, but my hours were quickly consumed by writing real estate blogs, fucking around on Facebook, and preparing for my entry into the favela of Maré, the primary site of my research. I’m already beginning to see that my time here is finite. If I really want to get things done, I’ll have to focus. I’ll have to be alone.
Many people will claim that they are lone wolves but few actually are. It’s a path that’s much more glamorous to proclaim than to actually live. You have to do the frightening task of trusting yourself, and ignore most things said by other people because most people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. But on that same note, I don’t really either.
I didn’t sleep well the first few nights here on my own. Strange scenes of self-doubt woke me up at 5AM on a Saturday morning. I went for a run alongside the marina and watched the sunrise on the Rio horizon. Something at that moment told me that things would be okay. And I remember the last words Gloria said to me before I left her house in Nicaragua: “If you ever feel lonely, remember that I love you, wherever you are.”
I remember once thinking that difference between loneliness and aloneness is whether or not we know we are loved, that in those dark moments when we want to stab ourselves with self-hatred, we need to remember there is always someone out there wishing we were kinder to ourselves.
So although I’m surrounded by what I find to be paradise, I also know that I'll spend a lot of this time locked inside a room forced to deal with myself. But the love is there. The love to keep fighting against the normal, mundane drudgery of safety. That enticing, poisonous safety of life.
And like Bukowski said, isolation is a gift. This is a chance, an opportunity to change, and I couldn’t be in a better place than living in "La Gloria."