“Compared with São Paulo, New York is Sleepy Hollow.” A new book about Brazil´s biggest city.

Former Brazzil contributor John Fitzpatrick has just published a collection of short stories called “I´m Waiting for You: Tales of São Paulo”. 

There are 12 stories and sketches showing how people cope with life in a city that forces them to struggle for their daily bread and mental wellbeing.

“It´s a struggle that often comes at a high price,” said Fitzpatrick who has lived in the city since 1995. 

“I´ve known many foreigners and Brazilians who could not handle life here and gave up and went home. Living in São Paulo is like walking on a tightrope. You´re one step away from the abyss. This is a place where misery and opulence, love and hate, the comic and the tragic live side by side and you can switch from one to the other in a flash. Every day is a challenge. Compared with São Paulo, New York is Sleepy Hollow.”

Fitzpatrick, a Scotsman, first visited Brazil in 1987 and worked as a journalist for over 30 years. He was a regular columnist of Brazzil between 2001 and 2015.

“When I wrote about Brazilian politics, business and culture I felt I was writing fiction at times so switching to genuine fiction was the obvious step. The country is a fiction writer´s dream. Who could invent characters like Lula and Bolsonaro? It´s difficult to believe they´re real. Lula is now into his third term of office but believes time has stood still and his policies, which did not work 20 years ago, will somehow work now despite all the changes that have occurred in the world. Bolsonaro is an intellectual lightweight who has hoodwinked millions of Brazilians into thinking that he cares for them. This is a man who did not visit a single hospital during the pandemic which killed over 700,000 of his fellow citizens. Instead he went jet skiing. Despite these blatant faults the future of one of the largest countries in the world is in the hands of these two men,” he said. 

Fitzpatrick stressed that the stories have no social or political agenda.

“I´ve just written about people and how they get on with their lives. I´m not condemning Brazilian society for its failures but just presenting life as it is and the difficulties individuals face. The title story, for example, is about a foreigner who falls in love with a disfigured young girl from a favela and tries to restore her beauty but ends up paying an emotional and financial cost he had not foreseen.”

The story presented here “Why Did You Do This to Me Marco?” is about a woman who sprays a plaintive message on a wall for everyone to see after her lover has betrayed her. 

Fitzpatrick has also published another collection of short stories called “Love is Teasing” and contributed a chapter to the book “O Brasil dos Correspondentes” published by the São Paulo Foreign Correspondents Association. He has just completed a novel also set in São Paulo which is due to be published later this year.

“I´m Waiting for You: Tales of São Paulo” and “Love is Teasing” by John Brander Fitzpatrick can be ordered from Amazon.

An excerpt from “I´m Waiting for You: Tales of São Paulo”

Why Did You Do This to Me Marco?

by John Brander Fitzpatrick

Rosa was stuck in a traffic jam on a Wednesday evening in Avenida Sumaré, just as she was virtually every weekday at that time. She had just turned into Sumaré from Avenida Henrique Schaumann and was only a 10-minute walk from her home in Perdizes but she knew it would be at least another 20 minutes before she arrived home due to the slow traffic. Her little Honda Fit was on the right hand lane and she drummed her fingers impatiently on the steering wheel half listening to the news on the radio. Her car was stuck along with hundreds of others on a long overpass and there were no buildings on either side, just a pavement and low wall to stop people falling into another road below which was also packed with traffic. The wall was covered with graffiti, most of it unintelligible gibberish, signs and hieroglyphics which only made sense to whoever wrote them. There were faded posters advertising concerts, houses for sale and offers to make money. There was also one slogan she had noticed all over the city as though an invisible hand had been at work everywhere. It said arrozfeijaoeganja. As she pondered the meaning of this advocacy of a life style based on rice and beans and marijuana, a memory suddenly flashed into her mind that had lain dormant for years. She gasped at the recollection and passed a  hand over her face as if wiping away sweat and said aloud, “Did I really do that?” She tried to remember the exact spot and peered out at the wall but it was getting dark and she could make out little. 

When she arrived home she had dinner with her 13-year-old son Eduardo who then went into his room to do his homework. She washed up, had a shower and settled down on the sofa and switched on the television. The only programs she ever watched were the news and travel features. She caught a panel discussing how the Brazilian stock market, the Bovespa, had performed that day. One of the members was Marco Lima, a self-made man who was a well-known figure in business and media circles. She barely listened to what he was saying but stared at the face she had once known so well. They had been apart from 15 years now but he did not look much older although he must now be about 50, she thought. He had a full head of thick dark hair that was neatly groomed, dark eyes that could be warm and inviting or suspicious and threatening depending on his mood, smooth olive skin with only a few lines etched into it around the lips she had always found a bit too fleshy even when she was in love with him. His teeth were as artificially white as when she knew him although he had always claimed that was their natural color. The suit he was wearing had obviously cost a fortune and when he held his left hand up she noticed a gold wedding ring. She knew he had been married twice since their time together. In both cases he had married glamorous women who were 20 years younger than him. Rosa wondered if he had already cheated on wife number three and whether he already had his eye on number four.

Marco appeared regularly on television so it was no great surprise to see him but it seemed an amazing coincidence that he should be there that particular evening only a few hours after she had her recollection. Rosa felt there must be some supernatural force behind this and some reason for it. There was a message of some sort for her in it. She could not allow it to go unheeded. 

The following Saturday morning was warm and sunny and she put on her running shoes and workout outfit after breakfast and walked down to Avenida Sumaré. There were already quite a few people running, walking and cycling. Families were strolling along the long traffic island which was shaded by trees and bushes. Vendors were selling coconut and mineral water. Dogs were everywhere. It was a lively scene, the opposite of the nightly torture she had to endure to get home. She limbered up at the junction of Sumaré and Homem de Mello then started to jog in the direction of the metro station. It was a gentle uphill slope and within 10 minutes she was at the spot where her car had been trapped and she had had her memory. She stopped and looked across at the wall. She was not absolutely sure of the spot but knew it was close. Fifteen years had passed since she had written her message and there would surely be no trace of it now. Nevertheless, she crossed over to the pavement, hopped over a low safety barrier and walked slowly, frowning as she peered. The wall had been painted over in some parts but in others it still showed the original paint, flaking and exposing the concrete underneath. Then she thought she could detect the shadow of a letter and tried to trace it with a finger. There definitely was something there but the dirt and pollution made it impossible to see much. She then realized that she was not tracing a letter but a question mark. That made her task easier and she followed the pattern from right to left. There was nothing but dirt, rust and flakes of ancient debris but then she saw the outline of what looked like a word. She stared and stared at it and started to make out “Eu” and she realized it was her message. It was the message she had sprayed onto this wall 15 years ago after Marco had betrayed her so cynically and destroyed her life along with that of another young woman. She thought of it as her Wailing Wall.

She remembered clearly now how she had come to this very spot and in a mixture of anger and regret, tears and curses she had sprayed Porque você fez isso Marco? Eu te amava.  – “Why did you do this Marco? I loved you.”  – and added a crude heart with the letter “R” beside it. She had sprayed it on that spot because she knew he passed it every day as he had lived nearby in those days. She did not know if he ever saw it as they had never been in contact again. The months following the break up had been so bad that she had spent her time moping and weeping, uninterested in anything and only buoyed up at times with anti-depressants and the help of her mother and father.

Once she started to get over him she realized that there had never been any chance of them making a successful relationship. Over time she put him out of her mind and met someone else, a marketing manager at her company called Leonardo whom she later married. The marriage had not been a success and they had divorced after five years leaving her with Eduardo who was three years old at the time. Since then she had met no one who had appealed to her. She had become almost hostile to men after her experiences with Marco and Leonardo. When she played with Eduardo and watched him grow up into adolescence she wondered if he would become one of those men who would betray his girlfriends and wife as Marco had betrayed her.

Marco was divorced for the first time when she first met him. She had only been 20 at the time and was working in the back office of a brokerage in the Faria Lima district which was the center of São Paulo’s financial world. Her job involved collating the daily buy and sell orders and seeing they added up after trading on the Bovespa stock exchange ended. It was a purely technical job and she could have been balancing the figures of anything – cars, cookies or cement – but she often wondered who these people were who were buying and selling shares in Petrobras, Pão de Açucar or Banco Itaú. She was banned from trading herself although she had no money to buy shares in order to prevent any conflict of interest and her office was on a different floor from the trading room and research area where the brokerage’s traders and equity analysts worked. Marco was head of trading at that time and everyone knew he was the up and coming guy with a great future ahead. Everyone was sure he would eventually become a partner in the firm. His father was head of the trade association the brokerages were obliged to be members of and he had eased the way for his son’s rise. Marco rarely came into the back office but appeared for a meeting one day shortly after Rosa had started there. The office manager, a nervous middle-aged man called Barbosa who was in awe of Marco, was escorting him when Marco stopped by Rosa’s desk and said, “Barbosa, are you not going to introduce me to your new colleague?”

“Of course, Marco, of course. Marco this is Rosa.”

Rosa looked up and nodded shyly, hoping Marco would not embrace her in the Brazilian way she considered overfamiliar even although she had been brought up to accept it as socially acceptable. Marco made no attempt to do so but held out his hand and shook hers. However, after asking her a few polite questions, as he was about to leave he turned to Barbosa and said, “Barbosa. If I had to make a recommendation for Rosa it would be a ‘strong buy’”. Barbosa guffawed obsequiously. Marco gave her a parting smile and walked away. She smiled back and was puzzled by what he had said and did not know whether it was a compliment or an insult. 

When they got to know each other he told her it had been a perfectly sincere compliment and apologized if she had been offended by being compared to a stock that was about to take off and would be a good investment. Even when they were together and she was happy this comment was always on her mind and when their relationship ended she felt it had shown his true feeling for her. She was an asset that had been worth pursuing and then ditching when another more attractive asset turned up. “Profit-taking” was what it was called in the trade and she had been traded like a commodity.

They had six wonderful months together. Some of the others in her office noticed that Marco started to appear far more often than he had in the past. He always made a point of stopping and chatting to Rosa, asking how she was progressing, what she was working on and asked if she would be interested in moving to the trading side. She was not keen but feigned an interest and visited the trading room which was frenetic and bustling as dozens of young people with phones to their ears shouted and made signs to each other mouthing orders and prices. There was no way she could fit into this mayhem she felt and politely declined Marco’s offer. He then suggested she have a look at the research department which was much quieter with serious looking young analysts staring at their computer screens, drawing up spreadsheets and studying financial statements. This time she was put off by the studiousness of the atmosphere which contrasted with the easy going atmosphere in the back office. She had also not liked the chief analyst, a Japanese woman who had looked at her as if she was a piece of dirt and made no attempt to mask her annoyance at the prospect of having Rosa imposed on her team. She was worried that Marco would be annoyed at receiving a second rejection but he took it in good spirit and invited her out for a drink one evening. When she looked back in anger later she came to the conclusion that he had not actually wanted her in his area but had just been showing his power. 

In any case, he pursued her more directly and she put up no opposition. They went out for a drink and were attracted to each other. He told her he was trying to rebuild his private life after being divorced from his first wife. He had immersed himself in his work as way of getting over it but now felt it was time to start living and enjoying himself again. Rosa had only had a few brief encounters and never a real boyfriend and she plunged enthusiastically into the relationship with Marco. The fact that he was about 15 years older than her had made no difference. She had actually liked it as he was more mature and wealthier than her previous flings and he gave her a good time. He was one of the brokerage´s top executives with a big salary and bonuses based on the firm´s results. He had a fancy apartment in Itaim Bibi, an imported BMW and thought nothing of taking her to the trendiest, most expensive restaurants and nightclubs, shows and concerts. He liked to buy her presents and she started wearing designer clothes and shoes to the envy of her workmates. 

She had one particular friend called Marcia who was always telling her how lucky she was to be going around with Marco whom she admitted she fantasized about. Marcia once said in a joke, “If he dumps you tell him I´m available and if you dump him you must be mad!”

“Agreed. He’s all yours,” she replied.

Marco was breaking a company rule in dating a colleague as the firm officially disapproved of such liaisons but as there was such a hierarchical gap between them and there was a “Chinese wall” between their operating areas it was overlooked. 

Marco was also a considerate lover and made none of the demands on her that some of her friends had told her their boyfriends and husbands wanted to indulge in. She was the one who was more provocative and sensual and livened up their sex lives. After they had been together about six months Marco made a vague reference to getting married again. Rosa had not been sure she had heard right and had not pursued the matter. It happened during dinner one evening in a smart restaurant in the Iguatemi shopping mall. He had reached across the table and taken her hand, saying.

“You know. My divorce took place exactly two years ago today.”

She had not known how to respond but waited for him to continue.

“One of the worse days of my life. It was insulting to have to sit in front of a fucking judge, a woman, and tell her that there was no way my wife and I felt we could continue to live as man and wife. She wasn’t even interested. She was just going through the motions. She asked my wife – my ex-wife – who said the same. The judge then signed some papers and that was it. We walked out. My ex-wife tried to say something to me but I felt so degraded and insulted at having my private life exposed in that dirty court building in Praça João Mendes that I just walked away.”

“Oh, Marco. It must have been awful for you,” Rosa said squeezing his hand in sympathy.

He nodded. “I thought I would never get married again after that. After being betrayed like that. Never again. I also wanted to have nothing to do with women as well. It was only about a year later I started dating again. Thank God you came along.”

“But Marco. I didn’t ‘come along’. We met. Maybe it was some kind of fate that brought us together.”

He smiled and looked pensive. “You’re a superstitious girl Rosa and I like that. I wonder if it’s time to start living a normal life again, finding a new wife.”

She waited for him to continue but he said nothing more about it. Instead he asked if she wanted an espresso. As they lay in bed later she tried to get him to speak further but was unable to and they fell asleep. 

Although she was having the best time of her life with Marco during this period there were several drawbacks. One was that she felt he did not take her seriously or regard her as his intellectual equal. He did not say anything offensive or  disdainful but it was obvious that he thought she was less educated and socially refined than he was. This was true as they came from different social backgrounds. He had a postgraduate degree and MBA from an American business school while she had only spent a year at a college that specialized in accounting and technical subjects. She did not mind this at first but it was a little grating presence like a tiny piece of grit in her eye. Another aspect of their life she noticed was that despite offering her a position in his department he never spoke about work or how the brokerage was going. Marcia was always asking her if she knew any secrets about trading so they could get insider tips and make money. Although she made out she was joking Rosa wondered if she was really trying to obtain insider information which was technically illegal. Nor did Marco provide any information about upcoming changes or events. This took her by surprise one day and led to one of their rare rows.

One morning when she arrived for work she noticed that the layout of the office had been changed and four work stations, including Marcia’s, were completely empty with no computer, phones, files and personal effects that were usually there. Her work station was untouched as were those of several of her colleagues. They looked at each other bewildered and asked what was going on. Then someone pointed out that Barbosa´s office was also empty. He was the only one who had a separate space and when they looked through the window they saw that all his belonging had gone although the computer and phones were still there. As they were wondering what to do a director from the trading area called Fernandes came in with a young smartly-dressed woman who gave them a patronizing smile. Fernandes clapped his hands and ushered them towards him. When they had formed a semi circle around him he said there had been a reorganization of the area in which Barbosa and four other staff members, including Marcia, had been “let go” as he put it. He then presented the new head of the area, Malu Prado, who had been hired from a rival brokerage. After mouthing some platitudes and wishing Malu and the team his best wishes, Fernandes left. Malu beamed at them all, said she hoped they would enjoy a “good collaboration”, told them to get on with their work, went into Barbosa´s former office, shut the door and started talking immediately on her cellphone. 

Rosa was astonished by this development and felt bad because of Barbosa whom she had liked and Marcia who was a friend. 

“Did you know any of this?” one of her remaining coworkers, an accounting clerk she did not like called Nunes, asked.

“No. Of course not. Why should I?”

Nunes looked skeptical and made no attempt to hide it.

“Well I thought your boyfriend may have mentioned it to you.”

She was furious and turned on him. “My boyfriend, as you call him, does not talk to me about work. I know as much as you do. Instead of speculating about what I know maybe you should do your work.”

Although she had come over as aggressive and tough she felt weak and lacking in self-confidence. Instead of going to her desk she went into the bathroom and locked herself in a closet and was close to tears. Her fury turned to Marco whom she felt should have at least given her some warning. She felt bad about Barbosa who had been helpful and friendly and had even confessed to her once that he was afraid of losing his job as it would be difficult to find another at his age although he was only in his late 40s. And what about Marcia? She would think Rosa had known all along. She was tempted to phone Marco but they had an unspoken agreement that they would not contact each other during working hours. However, this was an emergency and she decided to call him on his personal cellphone. She checked that the bathroom was empty and called but was transferred immediately to his voice mail. She left a brief message asking if he had known about the changes that were happening in her office and expressing her concern for Barbosa and Marcia. She asked him to call her as soon as possible. However, he did not call her that day and she sent him an e-mail asking him to call. He rang the following morning as he often did when she was having breakfast. She was surprised at how he was behaving as if nothing had happened and asked how she was as he did every time.

“Why didn’t you call me yesterday?” she asked.

“Sorry Rosa but I had a really busy day and didn’t get home until 10 o´clock last night and didn’t want to waken you.”

“Well you could have called. I was awake waiting for you.”

“Sorry babe,” he said. “So what’s happening. Shall we get together tonight?”

“Marco. I wanted to talk to you about what´s happening in the back office.”

“What about it?” he asked impatiently, his voice less affectionate.

“Well Marcia’s been fired and so has Barbosa, my boss, and three others – Carla, Lisa and Mariana.”


“Well did you know?”

There was a pause before he replied. “What do you mean did I know? Of course I knew.”

“But why didn’t you tell me?”. She realized she was moving into forbidden territory but could not conceal her hurt and frustration.

“Why should I have told you?” He emphasized ‘you’ in a way that made her feel inferior and hurt. She did not know what to say and her voice sounded pathetic when she said, “Marcia was my friend.”

She could almost feel his incredulity through the phone and sensed he was angry.

“Big deal. Marcia and Barbosa and the others had to go. They were not performing. Full stop.” His voice became a little softer and he added, “Rosa. This has nothing to do with you. It was a corporate decision. You know we never talk about work. Now how about getting together tonight?”

She gave in and agreed to meet him that night but when she went to work the following day she was aware of the others looking at her and wondering how much she had known. Malu Prado called her in at one point and asked her some questions about her working methods and told her some changes would be made shortly. She was polite but icy and Rosa wondered if she knew about her relationship with Marco. She had sent Marcia an e-mail the previous evening expressing her sadness over what had happened and suggested that they meet some time but Marcia had not replied. She had also sent Barbosa a similar e-mail which had also gone unanswered. Was this the “corporate world”, as Marco always called it or was it a personal slight by both of them she wondered.

The evening was little different from others. They met in a Japanese restaurant in Itaim Bibi about eight. He was waiting for her and gave her a long kiss as usual. He suggested what they should have to eat as Rosa knew little about Japanese food and ordered a cocktail for her as an aperitif while they waited for it. He made no reference to the phone call or the restructuring of the back office. Over dinner they spoke of various things and he mentioned that he would be going to New York shortly and suggested she meet him there and they could spend a long weekend together. She was thrilled at the idea and started to raise doubts over the cost and getting time off but he waved them away saying he would pay. She was so delighted she reached across the table, squeezed his hand and giggled like a girl. Later she was to wonder if this was a kind of token apology for his treatment of her. Maybe it was his way of saying sorry. She decided to say no more about the reorganization or how she was getting on with Prado. Her new boss remained cool and professional with her and Rosa felt she did not like her or her work but was probably too afraid to do anything in case she upset Marco.  

She managed to contact Marcia and they met for a coffee. Marcia had rebounded quickly and found a job she said she liked better and that being fired had been a blessing in disguise. Marcia persuaded her that she had known nothing in advance about the decision to fire her. Marcia was eventually mollified but said at one point, “You should be careful of that guy, Rosa. He might just do the same to you.”

“You mean fire me?”

“Not from your job. From his life. Mark my words.”

The trip to New York went ahead. Marco had gone to the United States on a road show and visited several cities before ending up in New York for the final presentations. They ended on Thursday and instead of going straight back to São Paulo, he stayed on and Rosa joined him on the Friday. Her flight got into JFK airport early and they were able to spend the whole day and the weekend until catching a flight back on the Sunday night. It was a non-stop hectic weekend of tourism, shopping, Broadway shows and eating and drinking. They were both so tired that it was not until the Saturday night that they reached for each other in bed. Afterwards Rosa asked him if he had ever taken anyone else to New York on a similar trip. 

“Well my ex-wife came along a couple of times but if you’re talking about old girlfriends, the answer’s no. Anyway I’ve only been here about four or five times. Why do you ask? Are you getting jealous?”

She cuddled closer to him and put an arm across his chest. “No. I just want to know I was the only one.”

“Why?” he asked sleepily.

“Because it would mean I was somebody special, wouldn’t?”

He muttered something she could not understand and fell asleep. It was certainly not the answer she wanted and she wondered if she had misunderstood his comments on getting remarried that night in the restaurant. The truth was that Rosa was starting to fall out of love with Marco and his lifestyle. He was handsome, clever, amusing and caring when he wanted to be but he showed no sign of wanting to form a closer relationship with her. He had never suggested that they live together or invited her to stay overnight in his apartment. She had only been in his flat a few times and then for a short period. He stayed in her modest place in Barra Funda a few times but she could tell he did not like it and was anxious to get away from it. He had never commented on how she had decorated it or asked about the photographs of her relatives. Apart from the sudden trip to New York, he had never suggested they take a holiday together. They rarely met other people socially although she knew he had lots of friends and acquaintances. He had never introduced her to his parents although she had met one of his sisters by accident in a restaurant. The sister had been condescending and unfriendly, barely concealing her disdain for Rosa. Nor did he show any interest in her family or any sign of wanting to meet any of her brothers or sisters. She had been particularly irked on Brazil´s version of St Valentine´s Day, Dia dos Namorados, when he had made no effort to see her or even send a bunch of flowers. This had been especially hurtful as she had bought a dress in anticipation of a romantic evening. Although she had dropped a number of hints about the Dia dos Namorados, he had said nothing and the day passed like any other and he had not even phoned her.  

He also shut off his professional life from her and she found this particularly frustrating. She felt that someone’s work was such an important part of their life that they needed someone to share it with yet she could never express how she felt about working under Malu Prado or ask him how the important meeting she knew he had attended had gone. It was as though a line had been drawn in the sand and she wanted to cross it but he did not. Deep down she knew there was no future for them but she did not want to jeopardize their relationship by pushing it beyond its present limits. So she ended up in a relationship that was imbalanced with whole sections of their lives closed to each other. She rarely saw Marco at work and they generally met twice a week as they both had other commitments. He worked longer hours than her and she was studying for a postgraduate qualification in accountancy that took up two nights. They usually met on a week night and occasionally on Saturday, sometimes in the late afternoon and spent the evening  together. Sometimes he would stay the night in her place. They would separate early on Sunday mornings and she would go to her parent’s place for lunch or see her sister or a friend. She never asked what he did on Sundays and he was not interested in her activities. He never asked her if she had had boyfriends in the past or any serious relationship.

She eventually learned what he did on Sundays in a way that was deadly, dramatic and final. She found out when she went to work one Monday morning. One of her colleagues, an accountant called Natalia, who looked worried came over and asked her how Marco was. Rosa was surprised and said she did not know.

“Is something wrong?” she asked.

Natalia put her hand to her mouth as if realizing she had made a mistake. 

“Oh, I’m sorry. Haven’t you heard?”

“Heard what?” Rosa asked impatiently.

“He was in an accident. A car accident.”

“What happened? Was he hurt?”

“Yes,” Natalia said. “He’s in hospital.”

By then another two colleagues had come over looking sympathetic. One put her arm round her. Rosa was shocked. She knew something serious had happened to him yet no-one had told her.

“How bad is he?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you should talk to Malu. She knows everything. It was her who told us.”

Despite her shock and sudden fear Rosa was furious that other had known before her and Malu Prado had told her workmates before telling her. She walked across to the office where she could see Prado on the phone talking. She did not knock but pushed the door open and walked in. Prado looked up and seeing it was her muttered a hasty goodbye and switched her phone off.

What’s happening? What happened to Marco?” Rosa asked in a loud voice, staring angrily at her boss. Prado rose and walked over to her and put a solacing hand on her shoulder.

“Rosa, I’m so sorry. Come and sit down.”

“Just tell me now,” Rosa said. She started to shake and her voice cracked.

“OK. There was an accident last night and Marco was badly hurt. He’s in the intensive care unit at the Oswaldo Cruz hospital but as far as I know he’s not in danger.”

Rosa was too highly strung to feel any relief and shook her head in disbelief.

“A road accident?” was all she could say.

Prado nodded staring at her anxiously. Before saying any more she went over to a counter and filled a paper cup with water and gave it to Rosa who drank it unthinkingly.

“Yes. It seems he was driving along the Marginal Pinheiros when his car ran off the road and hit a concrete wall or post. He received chest injuries and has broken some ribs and a leg.”

“Oh my God,” Rosa said and sat down. Prado ushered Natalia and the other two women to come in and help her. Natalia sat next to Rosa who was crying and stroked her shoulders. 

“Can I see him?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Prado said. “I’ll talk to his brother and ask.”

Natalia interrupted and said, “Of course you´ll be able to see him. You’re his girlfriend.” Prado gave her a look of disapproval, her mouth tight and thin.

The next few hours passed in a haze. Prado made some calls and then said Natalia would take Rosa to the hospital. When they were in a taxi and Rosa was starting to become more self-controlled she asked aloud if anyone else had been hurt.

“I don’t know any details,” Natalia said. Rosa looked out at the traffic, the people passing, the noise and color of a big city on the move. Life was passing in front of her yet it could come to a stop all of a sudden.

Once they were in the hospital they went to the intensive care unit where a small group of worried looking people stood around in a small room next to the room where Marco was. She recognized Marco´s sister from their brief encounter and one of the brokerage directors called Rabinowitsch who greeted her and Natalia. He introduced Rosa to Marco´s mother and father, merely saying her name. However, they were too lost in their emotions to do more than acknowledge her presence with a quick nod. Rabinowitsch, dark and broad with a sympathetic Jewish face like a rabbi, took her aside.

“How are you?” he asked with a paternal concern, putting an arm around her shoulder.

I’m fine,” she lied. “Can I see Marco?”

He looked doubtful and shook his head. “Better not. It’s a bit difficult.”

“But why? Is he mutilated or so bad that I can’t even see him?”

Rabinowitsch shook his head, averting his eyes from hers for a moment as though weighing up his next words.

“There’s something I have to tell you. I know you were a friend of Marco.”

“Yes?” she said stunned and stared at him. “I was. I am his girlfriend.”

Rabinowitsch stepped back slightly and pressed his hands together as if about to present the solution to a problem.

“Yes. I know that but Marco had another girlfriend. In fact she was his fiancée.”

“What?” She shouted so loudly that the people in the corridor where Rabinowitsch had taken her turned round.

“Listen Rosa, I know this is tough for you but it’s tougher for other people. His fiancée was in the car with him.”

Rosa put her hand to her mouth and shook her head. She did not want to believe it but in her heart she knew Rabinowitsch was telling the truth. His next words unleashed a nightmare.

“She was killed in the accident. Marco doesn’t know yet.”

She felt herself crumble and faint. Rabinowitsch and a passing nurse helped her to her feet and she sat on a chair in the corridor distant from Marco´s family. Natalia sat beside her stroking her arms and muttering soothing words.

After the ordeal was over Rosa never remembered how she had got home that day. She never went back to the office. She never went back to the hospital. She never spoke to Marco again. The horror of what had happened never left her. There was so much to take in. Marco was seriously injured. He would probably not die but what state was he in? Would he be able to resume a normal life? Would he want to see her again? How would he react to the death of his “fiancée”? Had he caused her death?  Where did she fit into all this? She was obviously not wanted and someone of no importance. She had been shamed and humiliated. Everyone at work must have known what was going on and that Marco had a fiancée yet they let her continue to live in her fantasy world. She was so swept away by all these emotions that she fell into a deep depression that lasted for months. She gave up her flat and moved back to live with her parents. 

It was during that period that one crazy evening she sprayed the message on the wall in Avenida Sumaré “Porque você fez isso Marco? Eu te amava R”.

She gradually pulled herself together in the following months and resumed her old life. From Natalia she learned that Marco had been in hospital for four months but recovered and went back to his old job. She wanted to ask her whether his experience had changed him and whether he had ever mentioned her name but did not want to appear desperate to have him back. Natalia told her that the family of his fiancée had been so enraged by what happened to their daughter that they sued Marco for reckless behavior leading to her loss and he was embroiled in a bitter legal dispute. Rosa did not know whether to feel good or bad about this but the fact that Marco had made no attempt to contact her showed in her mind what a heartless person he was. She resolved never to have anything to do with him.

This was not to be the case because although she had no personal contact she could not avoid seeing him on the media. He had been successful before the crash but his ordeal and comeback turned him into a kind of celebrity in the São Paulo financial and media world. He had always been good at giving presentations and making speeches and through various contacts he ended up making regular appearances on business programs. He started first as a guest or being interviewed but after some time was offered his own late night show on Globo News where he interviewed influential figures from business and politics. He was not averse to publicity for himself and his firm of which he was now a partner and was featured in the social as well as the business pages. Pictures of him at charity and arts events appeared in the glossy magazines and social media, usually accompanied by his latest much younger wife. Much was made of the “tragedy” in his life when his young fiancée had died in a car crash which left him critically ill and in hospital for months afterwards. There was never any mention of the family law suit or the other women he had deceived. Another unpleasant leftover was the discovery that Marco had been having affairs with several other girls at the same time he was dating Rosa. He had tens of thousands of followers on his Facebook and Instagram pages. For a year he hosted a program based on Donald Trump´s “The Apprentice”. Every episode ended with Marco turning and pointing a finger at the unlucky loser and shouting, “you’re fired!” much to the audience’s delight. Rosa could not stop herself watching the program and she did so with a horrified fascination. The on-screen Marco´s twinkling eyes and broad smile melded into an insane sadistic laugh as he thrust a finger in the loser´s face and shouted “you’re fired!”. Rosa saw herself as the loser at the end of every episode.

Just as Marco had gradually faded from her life after the trauma of the car accident so he gradually re-entered it through his media exposure. He started to become a presence in her life again and she could look at his picture or watch his television show without disgust or outrage. This constant presence sparked a flame or remembrance and she started recalling the good times they had had together. She followed him on Instagram and even posted a heart to show she liked a particular picture or comment. She even told Eduardo one evening that she used to know Marco well although she did not say she had been his girlfriend. Eduardo had never heard of Marco but was impressed that his mother had once worked alongside a social media star. However, this mellowing of Rosa’s feelings for Marco started to curdle somewhat and the nostalgia became melancholy and she started to feel sad and hurt again. She was surprised at how memories of certain occasions returned and she relived them as she lay in bed or sat at work. When driving home she always looked at the spot where the ghosts of her graffiti were. 

Something cracked inside her and one Sunday evening when there was little traffic around and it was getting dark she jogged back along the cycle path in the traffic island in Avenida Sumaré to the wall. She crossed the road, jumped over the traffic barrier and squatting down sprayed Porque você fez isso Marco? Eu te amava R on the wall in dark red. She sprayed over it again and when she was satisfied, jumped over the low barrier again and returned to the traffic island. Looking back she could see every word just as every passer-by or driver would see it. She nodded as if agreeing with herself, turned and jogged back home.

She was among the tens of thousands of drivers who saw it the following day as she returned from work. Marco now lived on the other side of the city in Vila Olimpia and never saw it.

© John Brander Fitzpatrick 2023




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