Neighbors by Ferréz

*

It took a while to get the money together. In the end, all I had left were my sneakers and two pairs of shorts. It wasn’t easy to get the new house–I had to buy shirts in bulk, only the whites, three reais and ninety cents each, ten at a time. That’s the only way to save money.

It didn’t matter, I had to move. The neighbors had gone too far.

Once, after spending a whole month trying to seduce this one girl, she finally agreed to spend the night with me. We had a good time, even though the room shook from the passing buses.

But getting back to the point, after we had finished up we had to get out of my room. We were barely outside when my neighbor with the beard saw us and said, “You worked up a good sweat, huh?”

After that she never wanted to see my face again.

But I managed to get another girl. The new girl was almost the same as the one before, except her belly button was slightly nicer.

Also, another thing I can’t stand any longer is that my bedroom window faces four other windows. Behind each of them are the four worst families in the whole neighborhood.

There used to be this woman with dried-out hair who would stand at the window all day. When her husband came back, she would go out for an hour, probably to prepare dinner, and then come back and stare at my bedroom for the rest of the evening.

One time I woke up in the middle of the night and took a piss in the stairway–I was too lazy to go downstairs. While I was relieving myself, I noticed someone opening a window. I felt like ignoring it but there she was, watching. I wasn’t about to stop, it just felt too good, and as soon as I’d finished I held my penis with my left hand and pointed it in her direction and started working my hand. Even though I was sleepy I could swear I saw her face contort, and in the next instant she was gone from the window.

Every night there was always some friend calling out to me, the kind of friend who wants to hang around in your house until the early morning drinking coffee. That’s the way it was. Even before I could open the window I heard the other windows opening and there they were, watching. They probably thought we were going to smoke a joint, or something. I was more concerned that they were going to think I was a queer. So I stopped opening my window and my friends gave up.

Dozens of times I slammed the door in my neighbors’ faces. Every time I brought home a bag, they would stare, trying to see what was inside. Whenever I rented porn I asked the kid at the video store if he’d give me two bags to hide the videos. But I knew that the neighbors could make them out since the video covers were always red and the bags were too thin.

The neighbor on the left had a dog that never stopped barking and I could never get any sleep with his bark always echoing inside my head. I decided to buy poison, but when I got home I saw the hole in my plan: the guys at the bar where I’d bought it were friends with my neighbor. If the dog died of poison, I’d be the first accused.

I was afraid, very afraid. These people were ruthless–I’d seen them start wars for much less. When they were angry they’d say anything. I used to wake up to their shouting: “You limp dick, it’s been a month since you fucked me,” or “Look, child, he came here to fuck, I didn’t go after him.”

So I tolerated the neighbor’s loud music–I even memorized all the songs of Zezé di Camargo e Luciano. And when I bought a bookcase at Marabrás, I also brought the new girl a clock. She had this really charming smile.

But two days later, I was sure I was losing my mind, because that same woman was gossiping about my family. And then, she told everyone I was a queer, which is really the last straw. According to her, no real man spends so much time holed up in his room studying.

Finally, I had the money, so I went to the real estate agencies. I didn’t want to move from the neighborhood, I liked it, I just hated all my neighbors. Bums and whores, all of them. And ever since I was a child, they always wanted to crucify me just because I was walking around with some comics.

I found a lot of nice houses, but they were all expensive; I kept looking for three more months. In the meantime I threatened to kill my neighbor. He was spying on me while I was out with my friends. I could tell he was trying to read my lips.

I was sure that he was eavesdropping, so I gave him the finger on that Wednesday afternoon. I even considered putting him in my novel, but then I thought twice: I didn’t want to immortalize the guy.

Eventually I found the house. It had a lot of plants in the yard and it was only two streets down from my mother’s place. The price was good: it had been undervalued because of the stream out front.

That detail didn’t bother me, I would clean the mud when the river overflowed. I would clean everything every day as long as no one was reading my lips or staring at my bags filled with porno–I was crazy about Cicciolina back then.

I went to see the house once more to be sure. It was Friday. I set foot in the yard for the first time. There were lots of birds.

From inside you couldn’t see the street, which was fantastic. The neighboring yard was empty. The owner lived far away. On the other side lived my mother’s cousin, she was divorced and had two daughters. Their music was never loud.

I had god to thank for the building behind my house: it was a warehouse that had been converted into an Evangelical church. Ceremonies every Saturday–I can stand that, nothing is perfect.

So I dried my mother’s tears, I gathered my books and moved.

Several months later, the empty yard became a sort of scrapyard. I got used to the noise of the machines crushing bottles, but the noise of the cans still scared me a little.

I had a quarrel with the next-door neighbor, my mother’s cousin. She built a wood-burning stove right in between our two yards that filled my house with smoke. I tried to reason with her, at which point she threatened to call the police. She told everyone on the block that I was a thief, that the whole writing thing was a cover, that she couldn’t have a gas tank and so she needed the stove.

The church out back doubled the number of ceremonies, and then I knew who Moses was, what Paul used to say, and why the Psalms were so important.

One day, I went to buy bread and when I opened the front door I noticed for the first time the heap of trash dumped in the river. I tried not to think about it. I walked slowly to the bakery and midway I came across a limping dog. I stopped to pet him on the head and he tried to bite me. Stupid son of a bitch.

I went back home thinking about making some coffee, but the gas had run out. I thought I could do it with a wood-burning stove as well, but that was probably too much work, so I went for a walk instead. I went to the nearest park (the only park) and I jogged for forty minutes. Then I just sat on a bench for thirty minutes, trying to forget the image of a grilled chicken that had been in my head since I’d started jogging.

I went back home and noticed a blue Uno parked in front of my gate–some asshole, that was for sure. At least the scrapyard had stopped breaking down bottles (the next day they’d be breaking glass bottles, they’d smash them against the wall; one day a piece of glass had almost hit me in the head. Every day my yard was full of glass, but that wasn’t important, I wouldn’t let it bother me).

The church started the ceremony right when I was about to masturbate. Never mind, forget it.

They increased the services and then, besides rehearsing, they also had a ceremony every day. By then I knew all their hymns. I chose to take a nap.

The following day I woke up early and the car was still there, only the windows were broken. It occurred to me that the car was probably stolen. I called the police several times. The day ended and nobody had shown up.

At night the only thing that bothered me were the rats scratching in the ceiling, the sound of their nails gave me the creeps, but I managed to fall asleep around four in the morning. At seven sharp the scrapyard started breaking bottles.

I went out to buy bread and when I opened the gate I saw that a white Variante had been abandoned on the other side of the wall. Right, that was it, the front of my house had become an auto cemetery. I left the bread at home and decided to visit my old house. As I walked the streets I saw my old neighbors. I felt like saying Hi, they didn’t seem so bad now. The street had a slight decline and tears came to my eyes when I realized that my old house wasn’t next to a scrapyard, nor a church and there had never been any rats.

But there was no turning back: I’d bought the house and it was my destiny. So, when I got back to my gate, I took a look at the blue Uno and I noticed that it had these beautiful black seats and a sporty steering wheel. I’d never been into cars but decided in that instant I wanted that steering wheel for the car I would one day own. I got into the Uno and started to inspect it, I realized it wasn’t going to be easy. So I fetched a screwdriver and a hammer.

A few minutes later I had removed the steering wheel. I looked at the stick shift next. The top had this nice crab design. As soon as I touched it, I heard the siren. I tried to explain, but the steering wheel was in my lap. The police had finally shown up.

In court some neighbors testified. All of them said I was new to the street and that before I moved in they’d never seen any abandoned cars around. The owner of the scrapyard was watching the hearing, some people from the church as well. I’m still not really sure when I received the conviction.

Now I find myself in a quiet place. The only problem is dividing the bathroom and sometimes having to sleep on the floor when I lose a bet and have to give my bed to a cellmate.

Bios

Ferréz

Ferréz (b. 1975, São Paulo) began writing at the age of 12, accumulating poetry, short stories, and chronicles. Ferréz also takes part in the hip-hop movement and is the founder of a clothing brand manufactured in his neighborhood, as well as a composer with a number of CDs on the market. In his books, Ferréz lends his voice to the residents of the suburbs of the Brazilian megalopolis, drawing from his own experiences of living in one of the biggest favelas of São Paulo.

Nicolas Allen and Carolina Correia dos Santos

Nicolas Allen was born in the Bay Area and now lives in Buenos Aires, where he's working as a translator and pursuing his Ph.D. in literature at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. He is the translator of Alberto Laiseca's Los aventuras de un novelista atonal and is currently looking for any interested parties to publish a Spanish translation of David Berman's poetry collection Actual Air. He can be reached at nma2133@gmail.com. ****************************************************************************** Carolina Correia dos Santos earned a PhD in comparative literature and literary theory from the University of São Paulo. She spent a year at Columbia University studying postcolonial theory and African-American literature. Her research dealt with literature and literary criticism in relation to power and subalternism in Brazil and the United States as well as alternative ways of reading, and part of her work was dedicated to Ferréz's 2000 book Capão Pecado. She now teaches literature at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

Ninguém é Inocente em São Paulo. Copyright (c) Ferréz, 2006. English translation copyright (c) Nicolas Allen and Carolina Correia dos Santos, 2014.