Street Talk 2
I was born in an apartment, on a busy road, but my favorite spot was the floor below us, where my grandmother lived. She had a balcony where I spent hours watching the electric buses going up and down towards the final stop at Rua Cásper Líbero, downtown São Paulo. I paid attention to the cables sliding dangerously on the power line above the ground. Sometimes they fell out of the power line and the bus stopped at once. The driver had to get out and fix it, pulling the heavy cable from an extension in the back of the car.
From the balcony I could also see Mr. Pompeo’s bakery on the corner, where I used to go every morning with my mom for fresh rolls and half gallon of milk. I was allowed to carry the empty glass bottle from home and I held it so tight that my fingers hurt. If I dropped it and the glass shattered on the pavement, my mother wouldn’t be amused. Once we were in the shop we waited on line. When we approached the counter, I had to stretch my arms all the way up to reach it, carefully placing the cask there, before Mr. Pompeo, a plump Italian man wearing white overalls, pushed a full heavier bottle right in my mother’s direction. Once or twice a week we also bought coffee and it was roasted right in front of us. The roaster was noisy like a vacuum cleaner, but the grinding took only a minute and the smell that filled the shop made any roar sound like a sweet whisper. On the way back home I carried the paper bag with the coffee with tender care. I didn’t need to squeeze it between my small fingers. The coffee was still warm and the smell was so comforting as childhood afternoons at home should be.
Before we reached our building, we passed by a jewelry shop, owned by two Portuguese brothers. Both were polite, wore gold oval rings in the little finger and had black bushy moustaches. My mom said they were reliable and wouldn’t steal.
“If you ask them to fix your jewelry, they won’t replace your diamond with a fake one”.
Mr. Lazarus, the pharmacist, was right next-door. I found the name very appropriate for a man working with potions, medicines and healing. If nothing helped, he would certainly have a word with Heavens and rescue us from death. My father, instead, used to say that Mr. Lazarus had the face of someone who ate lemons.
Back in my second floor apartment, I had caffelatte with fresh bread and melting butter before watching Bewitched and Dream of Jeannie. Later I would go downstairs to my grandmother’s apartment, get my share of candy from her and sit on the balcony, munching my dreams of travels and distant lands, while the electric bus went up the hill, headed to the big world out there.