"Oi, are you home? I'm about to get there."
"Go ahead, I'm waiting for you to open the garage. Be quick."
"5 minutes and I'll be there."
The car turned for the last time and, as soon as she saw it, she rapidly unlocked the gate and opened it.
"Let's go!", she said waving at her husband, smiling nervously.
Having become an expert driver out of necessity, he swiftly drove the car and parked it in the garage: a small, airless room. She pushed the heavy gate as hard as she could to close it. Before she knew it, a man's foot appeared and blocked the metal door.
"Quiet", the man said.
He was a nice-looking man, a boy. Probably 18 or 19. He didn't have a beard. Skinny and burnt by the hot sun. He did look like a boy. His mom was probably making food for him or washing his clothes, patiently waiting for him. A boy. He had a pistol, a real pistol that weighed more than his arm. He pointed it at the woman and told her to get in the house.
"Come on, I'm not kidding here", said the kid.
Her husband got out of the car and silently followed his wife. They stopped in the living room. The boy ordered her to sit down and tied her to the chair with a long rope he had brought. After he was done with her, he pushed the husband into the bathroom and locked the door. But it wasn't over yet. The couple had two children, 11 and 7. The younger was at his grandma's and hadn't come back yet, but the 11-year-old was in his room. He hadn't made any noise but the housebreaker searched in every room and found him. He picked him up violently and threw him into the bathroom with his dad.
There wasn't anything they could do. The house wasn't theirs anymore.
"Clear! Come in", said the housebreaker as he let his friends in.
Five more men, five more boys, stormed into the living room. Their clothes were dirty, and so were their faces. Still no beards. They were all armed, all with a pistol except for one who had a knife. The one with the knife sat in front of the woman. His eyes were full of anger, blood. He stared at her for a few minutes. He wanted to hurt her. He wanted to rape her. Why? Because that is the only thing he knew how to do.
He stopped looking at the woman, who had closed her eyes and begun to pray for her life. He then put his knife on the table. His job was to watch her in case she tried to do something rebellious.
She was scared, almost breathless.
Her heartbeat had never been so fast. She felt like she couldn't move, she didn't want to move, she was paralyzed.
Her life could end, and so could the life of her beloved husband and child.
In the meantime, the five boys had taken anything that could fit in their backpacks and broken anything that could not. The house was not a house anymore.
Glass and potsherds covered the white floor, dust flew freely from a room to another aided by the absence of doors, which had also been taken down.
When they finished their job, one of them, the angriest, pointed his gun at the woman's head. She was dead inside. Motionless and frightened, her soul had already abandoned her body.
For some reason—a miracle as she described it—he decided to spare her life. They left the house and quickly ran away giggling triumphantly. Their laughter no different from that of children playing hide-and-seek innocently thinking nobody could see them.
What happened to these kids is rather sad and not exciting to write about. Long story short, the police caught them and they were sent to jail. The police also freed the woman, the father, and the son, but left the house as it was.
This is a story of my family. And this is, sadly, the reality of millions of Brazilians. Crime rates are very high, and, although larger cities are more likely to be dangerous, violence is everywhere. The level of stress this violence causes has lasting repercussions on Brazilian families; some of which isolate themselves from the world and conduct satisfying but unhappy lives within the limits of their city-like neighborhoods.
This was not the case of this woman, who after being assaulted in her home twice (the other story is just as sad), found the courage and strength to move on with her life and work hard for her children with a contagious, bright smile on her face. In spite of fear and mental and physical stress, she has kept walking with her head up and with a sheer positivity that brightens her life and the life of those around her.
Rage and anarchy had invaded the boys' minds. They had no reason for doing this, but they had no reason for not doing it either. They knew not what
love is. They knew not what it means to care for and respect a fellow human being. But who can blame them? Who can blame their families? Who can blame who? Aren't we all the problem? Aren't we all also the solution, if there is one? Are we able to free our minds and distance ourselves from the monster we have created? A system so cruel and corrupt, so heartless and extreme and seemingly ungovernable. Indeed, are we able to transcend the boundaries of human nature and become beings governed by profound peace and serenity as opposed to greed and selfish desires?
History as we know it, including the positive scientific, social, and moral advancements that have significantly improved the condition of the human race, leads me to pure pessimism. But there is something I see in people like this woman, an inexplicable and indestructible love; and that gives me hope, that convinces me that one day no man or woman will have to suffer from preventable causes. I don't want to see a utopia. After all, we are primates, mammals, animals whose most basic mission is survival. A perfect society where everything works just fine wouldn't leave room for struggle and growth, exposure to failures and differences. Life would be boring and we would lose any sense of purpose, which is what drives and motivates us in life. What I am hoping for is not a world where top and bottom are the same, for they cannot be. I am hoping for a world in which top and bottom are closer to each other; where the pendulum doesn't swing so hard but maintains a healthy balance. That is all.