It began when I was on the plane leaving Brazil. My boobs kept shaking from the turbulence and a little girl was sitting next to me. I don’t deal well with turbulence so I decided to distract myself by talking to the girl. I asked her how old she was but she wouldn’t answer.
“You’re six, right Gabi?” Her mother took pity on me and intervened.
“No. I’m six and three quarters.”
“When’s your birthday?” I asked.
“Really? That was my dog’s birthday. She was a beagle. She died a few years ago, though.”
“So I was born on a dead dog’s birthday.”
I was born on a dead dog’s birthday. I was astonished by the cruel frankness of this brat of a six and three quarter year-old child. It made me sad to think of mean children. Mamãe used to say children were sadistic. I used to think she was cynical for saying it until I met Gabi.
On the plane, I closed my eyes to remember Daniel. I knew that my little cousin Daniel would become a fine young man. I thought of our times together and how I would sit with him coloring as he told stories about giant eggs and dinosaurs. He’d tell them animatedly, the wailing wind inhabiting him as he spoke. As I thought of Daniel I started to feel cold. I wished that I hadn’t left. I didn’t care about a so-called higher education. I had never asked for it. What made them think that I wanted it? I wanted home and its smells – my tias’ impossibly sweet perfumes, Daniel’s heated crayons, the burnt cheese and leftover milk from breakfast. I imagined what my room at home must have looked like just then. I wondered if anyone had gone inside it since I’d left. The closed thing I lived in had been opened, pealed back, and emptied. The walls were left looking too large and muscular, and the room smelled of dust and bitter plastic from the masking tape. My parents would fill in the spaces with other objects and a new life would take the place of my own. Gabi began to slap her pencil against her tray, probably to wake me because she thought I was sleeping. I couldn’t open my eyes anyway. My whole body was so cold that I had to keep it all shut up. But it didn’t matter because the cold had already started to grow inside me. The veins on my hands were planting purple trees and soon they would sprout ice.