MUTUM OPERATION – COMPANHIA DUARTE


(Episodes 22)
COMPANION DUARTE
I was still smiling, remembering what I had done in my eight years, when I left my grandparents’ house, in Benedito Valadares square, and went to Bar do Paulo, which, as they said, never closed, to make the first snack of the day. I took a look up. The darkness of the night was losing its strength. When dawn comes, the corners of the sky begin to clear. A new day was beginning.
I decided that I would not accompany the troops in the searches that would be made that morning. I would try to inform myself of everything that had happened in the mountains, later, talking to the military and the journalists who had gone to accompany them there. First, I wanted to hear from some residents what they thought about everything that was happening. The best moments of this story may be right here, in the city, and not where the bombs fell, I thought.
When I left Bar do Paulo I had not yet drawn up any action plan, nor had I chosen any one person in particular with whom I would start my conversations. That’s when I saw Alice coming towards me. “Well, well, well,” I thought. I haven’t seen Alice in a long time.
I realized that she recognized me too. “My God, I told you. How long. I can’t believe it. What are you doing here? Where did it come from? Nothing has changed!” She smiled in her face and told me that she was visiting some relatives, that she still lived in Belo Horizonte, that she had married and separated shortly afterwards and that she had a nursery school in the neighborhood where she lived. He asked what I was also doing in Mutum and I told him about the bombs and that, while on vacation, he had decided to go there and follow the events. Then she gave me a smile and told me that from time to time she heard from me, that whenever she had the opportunity, she asked someone about me. I knew I was a journalist and a teacher. She asked me why I never looked for her again. I was a little embarrassed, not knowing how to respond. Then she said to me, looking me in the eye “I think I know why. It must be because she thought I became a reactionary bourgeois ”and she gave a nice laugh as I tried to say that it was not true, that I would never think such a thing about her, and the truth is that I was embarrassed to look for her . She told me she was just kidding, but I realized that what I really wanted was to remind me of the last time we met. Before I said anything else, she made me promise to see her later, gave me a kiss on the cheek and left me there, in the square, wrapped in memories.
Alice was my friend for many years. We had grown up practically together, seeing each other every day and going to each other’s houses as freely as possible. At school, we sat next to each other and, whenever possible, we did the work together that was given by the teachers. We were like nail and flesh.
From being together so much, it was natural for some malicious people to imagine that we had, in addition to our friendship, some other type of involvement. A secret love relationship. What had never crossed my mind or Alice’s mind. We had never seen each other as a man and a woman. We were friends and just friends. We were, as it were, asexual in relation to our way of living.
Still a little stunned by the meeting, I went back to Bar do Paulo. How could Alice think that I had thought that she had become a reactionary bourgeois? I, in fact, had thought of her many times in Belo Horizonte. I had even asked some friends about her. He had heard that she had married. He even knew what neighborhood she lived in. I knew I had a children’s school. It was in Pirajá. I had even gone to Pirajá to play football for Ideal, in Bairro da Graça. I just hadn’t looked for Alice because I thought she wouldn’t want to find me. Especially after what we had done together. What the fuck, I would never have thought she was reactionary. Just because you had married and started a family? I was sure she wouldn’t have changed her way of thinking about politics, just because she got married. The Alice I had known for so long was not going to change the way of thinking about the military government for nothing in this world. Not even if I was arrested and tortured, I thought. Nor would I ever become a bourgeois. Even more reactionary. Deep down, deep down, I really liked Alice.
Now, she was there, again in Mutum, where I was too. And he expected me to look for it. Of course I will look for it, I decided at that moment. Of course I will, I thought as I let the memories wash over me. Without any effort I took a direct plunge into the past.
One night I was playing ping-pong in the college game room when I heard someone calling me. I turned and found Alice. I gave a wrong blow to the ball that died in the net.

I left the racket on the table for the next player, who would have the right to take my place, going to meet him.
He told me that he had gone there, in college, to meet Elias and some other friends and that, from there, they would do some graffiti and put up posters there in Santa Tereza and in the Forest. As I knew that I should be in college, I had thought to ask myself if I didn’t want to go with them too. I said yes and we left college together with Elias, Márcio, Vera and Margarida. We agreed that, if by any chance we were stopped by a police patrol or barrier, we would have to be careful not to show that we were in a group. Each one would have to manage on his own so as not to complicate the others.
When we were starting to cross the Viaduto de Santa Tereza the trolleybus we were on, which made the Santo Antônio / Floresta line, was stopped at a police barrier reinforced by a Radio Patrol. Before the cops got on the trolleybus, I pulled Alice onto my seat and we hugged like we were boyfriends. The police began to ask all passengers for documents, bringing down some who did not bring them with them. When asked what we were doing there, I replied that I was returning from college and going home with my girlfriend, who was going to sleep there. They examined our documents, one of them made a joke about boyfriends who slept together and left us alone. When the trolleybus started walking again, following its path, down there, inside the Arrudas River, a package of material containing propagating against the government floated. Alice had barely managed to throw everything out the window, which would have left her in very serious trouble.
That night the PM arrested a person who was on the trolleybus and had his face exposed in one of those famous “Wanted” posters. When he was recognized, he diverted the police’s attention to himself, making the police pay less attention to us, which helped us a lot that night, at the Viaduto de Santa Tereza.
On another occasion, I was in the apartment on a Sunday morning, when the doorbell rang, and when I opened the door, there was Alice, all smiling. He told me he needed a little favor. He needed me to pick up an order with Elias, in college, and call as soon as he had it with me, so he could come and get it. “I can’t go there, personally, because they are watching me, you know,” he said.
The other day I took a package with Elias and took it home with me, where I called the number Alice had given me. She told me that she would pick him up the next day.
It was only later that I learned that the package I had received from Elias, kept for one night with me at my house and delivered, the other day, to Alice, contained money. A lot of money. That had been obtained in a bank robbery, in Sabará, in the Metropolitan Region, by a group of which Alice was part. Until then, I knew that Alice participated in student actions against the Government, but I had never imagined her taking up arms.
When I learned that Alice was known by the code name of Duarte’s war, she was already married and had stopped participating in the operations of her group. Now I found her again in Mutum. Ironically, he was now walking quietly through the narrow streets of our small town, without the military that crossed with him even imagining that he had before him Duarte, one of the “men” most wanted as a terrorist and dangerous bank robber, as it was described in the official repression bulletins.
The last time I saw Alice, before meeting her in Mutum, she was driving a beetle and had offered me a ride from the chacrinha, to take me home, in the Forest.
The chacrinha was in front of the Hotel Normandy building, on the corner of Avenida Afonso Pena and Rua dos Tamoios, and was a meeting point for Mutum’s staff and some friends who lived in Belo Horizonte, to make conversation while watching people. who passed by and gossiped. But the chacrinha also discussed, and a lot, politics. That is why, from time to time, there were some people who were part of subversive groups.
That night I took Alice’s ride. On the way, while we were talking, I told her that I didn’t know she had a car and she answered me smiling “And I really don’t”. And he added, “We borrowed this one today, so we can take a trip tomorrow, to raise a little money in a bank nearby”. So this beetle is stolen? I asked. She laughed and said, “We borrowed it there in Nova Lima, but we are going to leave it later, entirely. It was in the garage and the owner is traveling ”.

For the rest of the way, until I stopped on my street, I kept telling Alice everything that came to my mind to let her know that it had been a highly irresponsible act to give me a ride. That she was putting me at risk without knowing I was in a stolen car. That if we were stopped by the police we would be lost, etc and such. She heard everything quietly, with a serious face. When I came down she told me only that she had no intention of complicating me and that it would not be repeated. She just wanted to give me a ride and she did.
After that day I had neither seen nor spoken to Alice in Belo Horizonte.

(To be continued next week)

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