Tia Nastácia walked me to school that Wednesday. It was a gloomy morning but she didn’t seem to think so. Once I was dressed for school, I dragged myself to the kitchen. Tia Nastácia was drinking her tea, leaning against the sink.
“Good morning, tired one!” Her voice was especially warm and energetic. It was the first time she reminded me of mamãe. They were sisters, after all, but they never had been very close or similar. Greeting mamãe in the morning had always been important to me. It gave me a sense of hope, or reassurance, that that day would be a good one. Perhaps it was because of the loud, bouncy scope in her voice. Or maybe it was because it was the one moment in the day when both of us insisted on putting on a merry demeanor, even if that wasn’t quite how we felt.
“Look at those beautiful, big clouds!” There was a pause. “Would it be alright if I walked you to school today?” Tia Nastácia asked. I was already eating my cereal.
“Yeah, that’s fine. Any reason in particular?”
“Well, I don’t know, I thought it would be nice. It’s always been a kind of dream of mine to walk a kid to school. You’re not a kid, but you know what I mean. I’ve never had kids of my own.” Tia Nastácia had this uncanny ability to be at once awkward and entirely at ease with her words.
The sky that day was a sagging gray, full with rain. It was sprinkling and we had forgotten to grab an umbrella. The rain was cold and sharp.
“Autumn rain doesn’t smell like summer rain,” I told my tia as we walked. I hadn’t known autumn rain, really, since Brasília doesn’t have seasons other than a wet and dry one. In Brasília, when it rained, it smelled tart. It slit one’s surroundings open or melted them a little so that everything smelled stronger and riper. The rain was hot and sometimes Sara, my best friend, and I would go to the quadra playground and sit on the swings.
“The summer here is pretty fantastic. You’ll see, next year. It doesn’t stay cold forever.” Tia Nastácia said softly. She never spoke loudly and she moved slowly, carrying her body calmly, in long audible breaths.
The leaves had already started to fall off the trees and they had left imprints on the sidewalks from the dirt mixed in with the rainwater.
“Smell that?” She asked me excitedly.
“The chocolate! Take a good inhale like this,” She breathed in deeply. “There’s a chocolate factory and if you get close enough to the lake you can smell it. Do you smell it?”
I stuck my nose up and took a breath. “Yeah, yeah I can. Faintly. That’s neat.”
As we walked, tia Nastácia continued to point things out about Chicago that I wouldn’t have otherwise known or cared to notice. There was one building in particular that I remember her telling me about. The Monadnock, a Burnham building. We stopped in front of it for a bit with our necks strained backwards.
“It’s the tallest all brick structure in the world, you know.” From the outside I didn’t particularly like it. It was bulky and tall and thick like lots of other big buildings. But the way tia Nastácia described things made me like them more.
“Just look at those windows and how they curve beautifully. And the light bouncing off them, it’s breathtaking really. It’s such a contrast to the delicious brick.” Most things to my tia were either delicious or beautiful. “One day we’ll go inside together. There’s this staircase that I imagine myself descending sometimes in a long, glowy dress.” We never did go there together but I still think about my tia descending that staircase sometimes.
When we got to the school gates tia Nastácia stood to the side of them, I think because she thought I’d be embarrassed. But I wasn’t.
“See you later?” I kissed her cheek. A real kiss that touched and sounded off the skin.
“Yes, yes! Of course. Have a good day.” She walked backwards, airily moving her arms about as I walked in past the gates.