Beside me, my wife asks me what I wrote. When she hears “STF” or “Alexandre de Moraes”, which has happened with an unusual frequency, she melancholically lowers her head, looks at me as if I had been given up by the doctors and goes out to pack a suitcase and prepare the police officers’ coffee.
Friends have also been warning me of the impending danger. Some say they will pray for me. Others ask me to delete our WhatsApp conversations. So far, I’ve understood these reactions as amusing exaggerations by people who somehow care about me. I laugh, shrug my shoulders or reply with some joke about the love life among prisoners.
It is not new that this fear resides in those around me and even in me, in the form of a nuisance whispered reminder that warns me not to rely on any legal guarantees. The law is no longer worth anything. So much so that, more than a year ago, I wrote that my wife had forbidden me to speak about the STF. And already at that time, and in that chronicle, I said that joining esse, te and efe, even if it was in a humorous text, had really become a risky activity.
Fool who I am, since then I have disobeyed my wife several times. Too many times. So much so that the other day a friend pointed the threatening finger at me and made the fatal mistake of saying that I was obsessed with the STF. Before throwing his body in the lake at Barigui Park, I explained to the corpse that I am obsessed only with my stamp collection. And I went back home and wrote something. Probably on the STF. Some reckless chronicle that, out of naivety and stupidity, I considered the most normal thing in the world.
But yesterday (22) no. Yesterday was different. Yesterday it took me a while to fall asleep. About fifteen minutes longer than usual, but it took me a while. Yesterday I was harboring nightmares that reminded me of the nights I read “Papillon” in a cheap edition, on newsprint. Henri Charrière’s autobiography deeply marked that pre-adolescent with thick hair and protruding ears. Since I read it more than three decades ago, I carry within me this imaginary trauma of injustice and all the suffering that it entails. And mainly an inexplicable yearning for a freedom that was never taken away from me.
Cotton 500 threads
I’m glad that fantasies about that prison on Devil’s Island didn’t last long. It’s just that the comical side, the pathetic side, the ridiculous side of my little provincial fear and of the political situation we live in has prevailed. He always imposes himself, reducing any and all imaginary fears to his due insignificance. “Are you sleeping?” I asked my wife. “I was, right?” she replied. I don’t know what kind of discussion took place after that, because when I realized we were both laughing at the many comical assumptions surrounding my arrest.
We laughed at the prison itself, Catota snuggling into a policeman’s lap while another handcuffed me. We laughed at my obvious vulnerability in the prison system. We laugh at the prisoner’s uniform – too loose or too tight in the belly. We laughed at the thought of the Paraná Journalists’ Union coming to my defense. We laughed at the opportunity for me to finally catch up on the readings. We laughed as a police car passed on the street. Then, when the laughter was running out, I laid my head on the delicious feather pillow and asked: “I wonder if the pillowcases in the penitentiary are made of Egyptian cotton 500 threads?”. We laughed some more.
Until we returned to the noble goal of falling asleep. She was already snoring the sweetest, most tuned snore in the world when I remembered a documentary about the great Robin Williams. Towards the end, the film shows a book in which the actor wrote something like “I just want to help people feel less afraid”. In the spirit of the beautiful and simple phrase, I wasn’t afraid to wake the woman, even though I knew she would wake up growling. To those eyes filled with a sleepy, feigned rage, I repeated the phrase. And I caressed her as if that gesture was really a farewell. She laughed at the fussiness of the scene, and to comfort me, she said that’s exactly what I was doing: helping people feel less afraid. I pretended to believe.