A Trip To Heaven

Solange Moreira

© Copyright 2019 by Solange Moreira


Photo of a street in Bahia.

I enjoy reading about other's experiences when trying new things, and have only recently started writing about mine.

Bahia is located in the northeast of Brazil. Its sun shines bright in the afternoons when women are hanging clothes outside, but always retreats in the nights when it's time to enjoy warm stories told in the dark. It was a hot day of July when I arrived in the state to celebrate its day of independence.

I had never been in Bahia. Had never tasted its food and never felt its weather, but it didn't come off as a surprise when I felt the burning soil under my feet or when I tasted the spicy flavor of fried acarajé.

"Acarajé needs pepper," Maria, a friend of mine, would tell me as I sat down on a bench in front of her to wait for my treat, "and shrimp. I've seen foreigners flinch at thought of this in their stomachs; but all of them melt at the delicious taste of shrimps the second they eat it."

I laughed at the way she scrunched her nose and awed at the way she confidently handled the hot oil and dry shrimp, and quickly decided that was the type if confidence one could only acquire with years of experience.

She didn't ask me why I had gone to the northeast. No one did, and I didn't feel the need to tell because, by the time I hit my sixth day there, the typical samba played in bars and the smiley faces that walked through those colourful streets had become my new routine.

I thought I was in paradise. About one week after the start of my trip, I had already taken buses and more buses to an infinity of different places in Bahia. Everywhere I went, I found walls coloured with the smiles of people whose stress and preoccupations had vanished to welcome the many celebrations that came with independence. Women would put their hairs high in buns, with red and blue flowers on top of their heads as well as beautiful long dresses that caressed the streets as they walked, in daytime and nighttime, every minute and second spent with happiness and contentment.

I thought I was in paradise, but soon a serpent twirled at my ankles. Maria's father, José, an old man whose eyes could no longer see and whose lips could barely speak, had passed away. To the whole family, it felt as if their star had become dull. Maria cried in my arms as soon as the news arrived. My heart couldn't help but shatter with a pain almost as intense as hers, where my lips would tremble and my ears would hurt with the growing beep that filled the room we were in.

Two days after that, Maria and her aunt, Teresa, decided to throw a party in the name of José. Many people went. It seemed like José was a public figure in the region, because more and more smiley faces started filling the rooms of their small house, the music making the walls vibrate and everyone's stomachs grumble. Maria, as always, had made Acarajés with plenty of pepper and shrimp, only calling it a day when everyone's throats were too tired to swallow more food or liquor, and when her aunt got so drunk she started dancing on the small kitchen table, only to almost slip on the crochet centerpiece. Her brother Mario had got her before she could hit the floor, but even after avoiding a real disaster, nobody in that house could help but laugh at her. A few hours after the end of the party, Maria and I went to sleep in the bunk bed of her room.

"Do you think he would've liked it?" She asked with a whisper not too long after we had settled down, her voice low and her breath high as we waited for sleep to catch us. I didn't know if she was talking about the party or something else, but replied just the same.

"I do."

"I still can't believe he's gone," She took her time before speaking again, her words hanging in the air before getting lost in the darkness, as if anything said at that moment would be forgotten by morning. "I don't like any of this."

"It'll be okay," I swallowed. "He's watching you from above."

I didn't believe that. I was never the religious type and had never been particularly invested in religion matters, but that night, I decided it was okay to not tell her that and instead make sure she felt okay.

Not too long after my trip hit day 30, I decided it was time to go back to Săo Paulo. Opposite to when I first arrived; with little variety in my set of clothes and one or two sandals, I left Bahia with yellows and blues colouring the insides of my cases, as well as beautiful necklaces adorning my neck, a poorly made pair or earrings - I had made them myself - and a bracelet around my right wrist. At the airport, my hair was down because Maria had made me promise I'd keep my curls down frequently instead of tying them in buns in the middle of my head. I left with two cases in my hands and one bag on my back, but there was much more inside my head.

Staying in the house of warm people caused my heart to eternally sink into contentment, but also taught me that no lands are perfect, and that people can feel sad even when surrounded by an army of people. I won't ever forget that state and the beautiful people that live there, with their smiley faces and calloused hands, as well as big hearts and an incomparable taste for food.

To this day, I bring the unmistakable taste of delicious Acarajé and happiness at the tip of my tongue, always cherishing the memories of a trip to a land where people are not perfect, but that still manage to live their lives beautifully; their hopes capable of making fresh plants grow from the dry, cracked soil, at the same time that their smiles colour their beautiful streets.

I enjoy reading about other's experiences when trying new things. I find every new story extremely exciting, and after years of only reading, I'm slowly writing more and more. I live in Săo Paulo, Brazil.

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