After subscribing to a relationship site their lives changed. This is how it all started!
Christina & Butchie's Walk of Life (and all the perils, confusions and magic they went through...)
Butchie needed to go to the British Virgin Islands to buy parts for his boat in Tortola. She knew she hated boats and oceans and remembered how she had thrown up in that ship across the Red Sea nevertheless she begged him to take her with him. She would be OK. Still, she had this weird feeling about water and reefs and wind. Was it a premonition or what?
- Please, take me with you, Butchie.
- No. You hate boats.
- But you will be alone out there.
- I'm used to it. I'm a sea Captain.
- Please. I'd love to go.
- Well... It's just one or two nights.
- In the boat, day and night.
- My rules.
- You must do what I tell you.
- OK. (Jumping up and down)
- Oh I don't know....
- Please, please, please.
- Aye Aye, Captain! Aye Aye, my sweet Captain!!!
- Go away...!!! Christina laughed as she walked away.
They got everything ready to sail. They left Riley in the Vet again and went to the boat early next day. He bought things in the supermarket for the boat and the trip, told her to have a seasick pill in the morning or have a toast with a lot of peanut butter spread on it and also have some Sprite. She did. She wanted to show him that she could be a sailor; would help in all she could. She swore, she promised to be the best. He smiled. She didn't know what an open sea journey was...
He did what sea Captains had to do in the boat and she organized the food and the clothes, made the bed, it was all so tiny and clutched together in a boat, all the spaces taken and everything with locks and locks and locks, Why?, she thought to herself. It was a spectacular, sunny beautiful day and he started the boat and left the marina. She saw seagulls following them in the blue sky.
She sat by him and observed the ocean, the open seas, as he told her. He was behind a big wheel, naked, drinking non-alcoholic beer and as pleased as he could be; and in peace. His blond hair was blowing in the wind. He looked at her and smiled and pointed at the sea. She looked and smiled back, already feeling queasy, with lots of saliva in her mouth... yet the ocean was so smooth and calm and light, rainbow blue. Everything was so quiet, so calm, just the noise of the water against the boat, the soft noise of the wind against the sails, the clinging noises of metal once in a while, the water splashing on the boat and that rhythm... that movement, that up and down, of the boat in the water... She tried to remain upright by keeping her center of gravity and searched for a visual reference of surrounding objects like trees or cars but there were none. She felt better looking at the horizon but she couldn't look at it forever. She became afflicted. I am NOT seasick, she told herself, but terribly disturbed by the motion of the boat in that goddamn water! Why, oh why doesn't it stop?
The boat was rising and falling now and she could feel more saliva and water in her mouth. Oh why Oh why hadn't she had a Dramamine? She smiled at Butchie. He smiled back, lovingly. Why was he so happy? He pointed to the waves. She nodded. Smiled. Very nice. Then, she saw, below her, in the cabin's little round window, the ocean coming up and down, giving her the impression that the boat was sinking and her body, mind, guts, mouth, brain, skin and senses were all seasick by the visual confusion and she became pale, then green, she faced the ocean and suddenly threw up all the Sprite and peanut butter and anything else that was inside her stomach. Arrrrggggg, horrible! She felt dizzy, terrible and sick. It came out of her mouth like an arrow thrown by a Native Brazilian in the Amazon Jungle - zzzist - fast, forward and out it came! She held to the ropes and threw up some more. Hurrrlll! Butchie was staring at her, worried. She nodded, cleaned her mouth. Her eyes were wet. Her body was numb. She felt really, really seasick! She lay down on the side of the boat, closed her eyes while holding the ropes and immediately fell asleep not before looking at Butchie who was happily drinking his non-alcoholic beer, totally naked and steering the wheel with his foot as a real sea Captain that he was! The movement of the boat finally took her to other ports and to other destinies. She needed to escape from all that "mal de mer", the sea waltzing, the nausea and the discomfort. She wanted to cry... she wanted to die... and sleep.
She woke up 2 hours later. Her face was red and sun burned, her body ached all over and she felt like she had no stomach, no blood, no bones. She looked at Butchie. He was just...fine. One of the most irritating things about seasickness is how everyone else around you just goes on with their merry own way, perfectly comfortable and happy, in the same conditions that had reduced you to utter misery. He smiled. He said hello. She smiled back a green, queasy smile and remained silent for the next 6 hours!!! Mute. Silent. Not a word. Nada. Six hours in silence. She couldn't open her mouth. She was afraid of throwing up again...
Butchie was really concerned when she threw up but knew that it was better to do that and get some sleep. She slept well enough and she didn't look so pale now but what he liked the best was that she was quiet and silent allowing him to listen to the sea and to the waves in a total, perfect coordination of his boat and the deep and blue open waters.
She thought of the long hours ahead. Not a problem. She could do it, handle it. She would survive. She was with Butchie. She was Ok. She had seen, done and gone through many different and strange things in her life. She could handle this boat trip to Tortola, of course she could...or couldn't she???? She thought about this... What could be worse than this?
She thought of the 3 worst moments of her life:
1) While living in São Paulo, she had to have an abortion because her 37 year-old ex-husband, had caught measles from her 9 year-old step-son Dennis. Enio had never had measles as a kid and she she 2 weeks pregnant (in between Claudia and Sylvia); she was sure it was a boy. The boy she wanted so much. Pregnant women and measles: bad, very bad. Risky babies. Her doctor recommended an abortion. She cried for over a month and never again talked about this. She would always feel a deep hurt inside her heart after that;
2) When she stupidly got lost downtown Miami, at 7 pm, without policemen or cabs nearby, no one to help her and all alone. She was walking back to the hotel from a mall. There were no cabs to be found and she was becoming afraid. It was dark. All of a sudden, a noisy, green convertible car with big, fat wheels and flashy neon lights followed her closely with 6 Chiqueños in it, staring, laughing and swearing at her while she was on foot, desperately trying to find the Holiday Inn hotel's entrance!
They were shouting nasty things at her in Spanish:
- Mamacita linda, we are going to fuck you so good now, get ready for us!
They only stopped harassing her after she shouted back at them with every big, nasty bad swear word she knew in Spanish:
- !Puta mierda, hermanos! !Andale y mete con la puta de tu madre, culo! !Déjame, carajo! !Anda a joderte com tu madre y la puta de tu hermana y déjame, no más, hijodeputas! !Cojones! !Que mierda, caramba!
They were so shocked by her straightforwardness and with such delicate, polite and eloquent words that, surprisingly, they went away not before swearing back and leaving her with her heart beating heavily in her chest... full of concern and scare;
3) When, in 2001, her father Henry had a stroke, (with 96 years old) in West Chester, PA, in the retirement home he was living at (The Hickman) due to the 9/11 terrorist attack and because of United Flight 93. It changed her life radically as well as the World's. She would never be the same person again nor would the United States that she loved so much. It would be completely impossible to overcome the psychological effects and emotional impacts for many years to come and maybe forever as these lingering existential traumas could never be measured and were invisible. She always wondered: how long would the trauma of 9/11 last? She knew it would be forever. It could never be forgotten.
After the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, after the shocking terrorist attacks shown on TV Globo in Brasilia with all the debris and the white smoke taking over the city and after the news of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, Christina only thought of her brother and of her father, Henry. He was in West Chester, PA and, her brother, in Des Moines, Iowa. She went home quickly because she knew that her father was certainly going to call her. People in the streets were crying all over Brasilia and in the world. Anger, hatred and mixed feelings took over millions and millions of people around the world; but when she saw in her TV young Muslim children in the Far East firing their rifles and cheering for the American tragedy, she collapsed on the floor crying and swearing. That was her country, too. She was born there. She loved it and its people. What the fuck was going on? The phone rang and the management from the retirement home where he lived told her that he had been taken to the hospital! He had had a stroke, was ok but in the hospital. She cried like a baby and by God, if there were at that moment, an Arab or Muslim near her she would have jumped on top of him and punched the hell out of him. She went to the airport to buy her airline ticket the next day but George Bush had closed all airports in the country and all flights were canceled. She could not travel until further notice. She still didn't know what was happening, but she sensed its impact. Suffering... She was suffering together with her country and her father, forever damaged.
The Rehab Center
She arrived 15 days after in the USA. She stayed one day in NYC and tried to go to Ground Zero but in the middle of the way she became so sad and depressed for what she had already seen that she gave up. Too soon to go there. Not yet.
She went to West Chester, and went into her dad's room. She got what he had asked her to get in a drawer, when she had finally reached him on the phone at the hospital that day. He couldn't speak properly and wasn't able to move his right hand side. He was miserable and missed her dearly. He didn't understand why she hadn't arrived yet.
When he saw Christina entering the hospital's room he sobbed softly and shyly and reached out for her with his left hand. She ran to his bed and lay down next to him, hugging him, smelling him, feeling him. What a feeling of togetherness and peace it is when you touch a loved one, your father, your own family. She stayed for a long time in his arms and he fell asleep peacefully while Christina listened to his calm breathing and reassuring fatherly contact. It had been a long time since she last prayed. It must have been a little before Souer Christine in La Chassotte. She hated nuns, didn't believe in the Catholic Institution and didn't go to mass anymore but on that day, in his arms, she prayed to Jesus. She prayed to that impressive and powerful man she had once, in Jerusalem, traced his invisible steps in the streets (with her heavy backpack and the Greek Orthodox Priest's candle inside), and had fallen in love with him. She begged Jesus to protect her father and let him live, give him to her even if for a bit more, she needed to know him better, be with him, take care of him. She could feel her father's heart beating in his weak body and inside his chest and held him close to her as if the wind would carry him away. She slept, right there, in his bed and right next to him, still dressed in her traveling clothes and with her big suitcase by the side of his bed. Some nurses went by and stopped to look and smile in real understanding.
The next day, she took him by ambulance to another hospital, a bigger and better one, a Rehab Center, near West Chester, for post stroke recovery patients. It was the wisest decision she took and it was one of the best places for him. She stayed 2 full weeks with him. She would arrive before lunchtime and leave after supper. He told her what to do in the bank, what to bring from the retirement home, to call Bruce again. She got used to the Rehab's hours and schedules, participated of his speech therapy lessons. She had to learn how to deal with a post stroke patient and know every little detail; one of them was water. He could not drink water without adding a water thickening or he would choke and/or it would go into his lungs. He didn't have control over his body anymore and she had to learn how to help him live healthier and longer. They had talked to him about all this and they were going to Brazil, which he loved. She was taking him to Brasilia, to live with him, had already mailed his passport to the Brazilian Consulate in Chicago for his visa. She had to learn everything about his condition now and was checking prices for wheelchairs and a walker. She wanted her daddy in Brazil with her.
One afternoon, when he was about to be taken by a nurse for his hygiene bath, she volunteered. He looked at her and said yes, please. She put on her shorts and a t-shirt, took his clothes off, put him on a special wheelchair that had a hole under his butt, covered him with a big towel and took him to a big, funny-looking shower room.
She started washing him and spreading soap all over his fragile, sweet body while he happily giggled at her and while she played with the water and with the shampoo bubbles. She gently washed his butt and felt him move in surprise when she did it but right after, he laughed as loud and as happily as he could. She fell on the bathroom's floor and laughed so much she peed. He looked at her giggling and smiling, touched by her love and devotion. When she finished with him he was spotless clean and red from the shower; she was sweaty and wet but satisfied with her great Mission Shower Day! When she came out with him, all wrapped up in a fresh, clean towel only with his eyes and nose showing (as if she was carrying E.T. on her bike far away up in the skies), all the nurses were in a long line with other patients, waiting and observing father and daughter giggling in the entrance. The nurses were upset with the delay but the patients that had heard the giggling and laughing and stared and smiled and asked her if they could schedule a shower day with her, too! It was an unforgettable moment that she cherished forever.
After 3 weeks and sensational progress of her little daddy, she returned to Brazil with the promise of returning in some weeks, with his passport and visa, with a wheelchair and a walker in order to take him to Brazil. He just needed two more weeks in the Rehab Center.
While she was away, her brother took him to the Iowa. He couldn't be alone. He couldn't stay at the retirement home anymore after he left the Rehab. He had spent most of his Medicare and they had declined his residency in his own room in the retirement home even if he paid extra for an assistant nurse. She would be there soon. He would be ok. She would take him home with her, to Brazil.
One night, Bruce called her and said he had demanded him to call her at 3:00 am. He was upset and irritable, wanted to speak to me right now and there:
- Tina, I don't like it here. Take me away.
- But Dad, I can't now!
- Take me away. Bruce doesn't know how to take care of me!
- Dad, I am not there. I am here, in Brazil.
- I don't care. I miss you. Come and get me.
- OK. Wait for me.
- Only you know what I like...
- I know, daddy.
- Only you know how to care for me the way I like it...
- I know, daddy.
- When are you coming?
- Soon. Ok?
- I miss your condensed milk custard pudding.
- I know.
- I miss you chicken with vegetables and white rice.
- Hum, good, huh?
- Yes. Come now!
- I will. I love you, Daddy.
- I love you, Christina.
He was in a retirement home next to Bruce's home. He spent the weekends with him. He was waiting for me. A week after the phone call and while she was about to travel to the USA, he died, her daddy died, all alone, in his room, sitting on a wheelchair, looking outside of the window to the nothing out there. His heart stopped...softly...quietly... Henry and Christina, father and daughter that were never able to share a life together and were never able to see each other again...
When Bruce called her he listened to his sister's sad voice, her silence and her long, deep hurtful cry full of sadness and pain...
During many, many months after that, whenever the phone rang at night she immediately thought it was her father... remembered the empty space in her heart and the constant absence in her life and she would silently cry.
After a month she traveled again to the USA and met Bruce in Iowa. She stayed in a hotel close by - and they knew exactly why... They got things ready. They had the mass, the funeral services and a luncheon for the family and relatives in a local restaurant where she met relatives she had never seen or met before... uncles, aunts and more relatives. And, in a strange way, she saw herself in many of those unfamiliar faces...her green eyes, her nose, her cheeks, a chin here, a hand there, the hair color over there...but maybe just a little bit too late for her to care... There was nothing in common, anymore.
She remembered the mass and the moments she spent alone with him before they closed the casket. She looked at him, touched his cold hand and put a folded letter she wrote to him the day before, on the plane coming from Brazil, in the inside pocket of his jacket. She also put his reading glasses in one of his hands (he might need them) and a CD with his favorite songs in the outside pocket of his jacket: all the things said and all the things heard that only she knew about him, that belonged to them and would stay with them, forever. She kissed his lips and they closed his casket. Gone, forever.
All of a sudden, she woke up from her daydreaming and saw her - Bruce's wife, on the other side of the buffet room. She was beautiful but fat and envious, maybe with many personal issues to solve in her life and hadn't. Christina tried but she didn't like her. Once, when she stayed in her brother's house, his wife showed her real personality... Christina was very affectionate, kissed everybody, loved hugging, embracing and caressing people... and obviously, with her brother, she was twice as spontaneous and affectionate. They held hands all the time, embraced and enjoyed being together... as if they were trying to make up for the time and the years they hadn't been able to be together, to be brother and sister. When they were having a glass of wine his wife walked into the kitchen and abruptly asked:
- When both of you are together in the streets or somewhere else that I am not aware of... are you like brother and sister... or... are you like man and woman...?
Christina was so surprised, stunned and speechless that she started to laugh and her brother, shocked was very quiet. Nevertheless, she was still looking at both of them and really waiting for an answer...! She was not joking. It was for real! Christina asked Bruce to take her back to the hotel and Bruce, embarrassed, took her. He spent the night in the hotel with her; she was leaving the next day for Brazil. They talked all night long about brother and sister stuff, holding hands. She never stayed in his house again... but missed him with all her heart and wondered if Bruce really understood her as a person - that was never right or wrong - just trying to work her way out in our exhaustive search for happiness in this complicated world so full of the strangest people and things...
- Hey Christina? I need your help. Are you alright? You're so quiet!
- Yes, Butchie, I was daydreaming... I'm ok. Well, I think I am...
- Sure? You look sad. Listen, I need you to hold this hook, please. I am going to get closer to some buoys and you must quickly insert this hook into the holes of those buoys over there that have international written on them and catch one... so that I can anchor the boat! OK?
- Do you trust me to do this?
- Of course. Come on, it's getting dark and windy. We need to sleep here. Tomorrow morning, we arrive in Tortola. Here, take this.
- I'll try... Oh, this hook is so long. I'll fall into the ocean and disappear forever...
- No, you won't. Come on. I need your help.
- Are you ready?
- There they are!
- Where? Oh...OK.
- Come on...
- I'm trying...to reach...it... It's so long, the fucking hole is so fucking tiny...Oh why do they make these fucking tiny fucking holes on these fucking buoys for you to catch with these motherfucking long hooks. Oh no, no, no... it is escaping... hum from... my... hands... hum and it's disappearing into the water...
- What's escaping? The buoy?
- No, the hook!
- The hook???
- Yes... Butchie! Or I held it or I would be fucking dragged with it into the ocean...So, I let it go...See? There it is...It's over there...Oh... now it's gone!
- Christina...that hook cost me a hundred dollars! It's was a fine damn hook!
- Really? Oh What are we going to do, now??? Oh my, Oh my... Oh my... we're fucked! We're really fucked...
- We're not fucked, Christina! Stop swearing... I'm going to find a smaller, older, rusty hook downstairs... Here, take control of the fucking boat... Hold the wheel and keep it next to that other fucking buoy over there so when I come back we'll catch it! Here! Take control of the boat!
- Oh no, no, no...
- Come on! Move the boat slowly over there. Here! I'll be right back!
- OK... OK... Okay... Butchie? Hurry back! Don't leave me all alone with this big boat!
- Good. Get closer... I'm going over there!
- Get closer...
- Yeah! Ok. Good. You're doing OK... I've got it! We're good, now. Good work!
- Yes, you did ok, fair sailor! We did well!
- But...I lost your hook...
- It's OK.
- Oh Are we done now? I'm cold, wet, hungry, pale and dizzy.
- Let's go down, eat and go to bed. We have canned hot dogs, bread, chips and coke. Come on. You need to rest. You look tired! I got your favorite wine, you know...
- Don't make fun of me! You did???
- Yes... Come here. I'm proud of you.
- You are?
- Oh yes I am, sweet pea. You helped me. The sea was rough and it was dark, we got that buoy just in time. Let's go.
- Ok, my bebê, but couldn't we please go to a hotel, instead?
- No, Christina...
The next day, while watching the most incredible views of the BVI and sweet little Tortola, they had breakfast in a small restaurant and then Butchie went to check on the boat's diesel engine parts in a local store.
Christina stayed there and went swimming and snorkeling around the boat in that crystal clear, warm water. It was replenishing and good after that long, crazy day in the so called open waters. Then she wondered whether she would make it on the way back... She wished she had stayed with Riley, calmly reading a good book by the pool and no hooks, buoys, canned hot dogs and that disgusting, uneasy motion...but then, she wouldn't have Butchie... OK, all was ok. She would manage the way back fine and dandy, right? Ah If only she had taken the seaplane to Tortola that he had suggested in the first place...