quinta-feira, 1 de agosto de 2013

The little witnesses* (Nilto Maciel)

She would never arrive late and would always leave after us. I at one point thought she lived there. Or that she was the owner of the building. We could not leave the classroom without her permission.  And much less so go for a stroll around the school’s vicinity. During lunchtime, we would stay close to the classrooms, walking through the narrow hallway or looking at the wilderness. Just a tree here or there. Wherever we were, we would see the meadow in all its magnitude. It seemed like there wasn’t another building, other than ours. As such, we were anxious to explore it all. Even though we had no hope of finding anything beautiful or interesting. We wanted to know, however, where those men that day by day passed through school, towards the meadow, were taken. They treaded sad and with their heads bowed, handcuffed, surrounded by armed soldiers. In the early days we would ask the teacher who those men were and where they went. She would remain silent for a couple of minutes, as if she knew nothing. She would then answer: “They are enemies of the State and are under arrest”. The answer didn’t seem clear to us. We then wanted to know the meaning of “enemies of the State”. Finally, she got angry. She didn’t want to hear a single question about those men. Faced with this, we went on to finding within ourselves the answers to our own questions. “They’re thieves”, some would say. “They killed little children”, said others. We even insulted each other, in our desire to appear wiser, each of us claiming we know the truth. We then decided to once again turn to the teacher. Yet again she got angry. We insisted, insisted. Finally, she answered: “They wanted to overthrow our government”. We became even more unsatisfied. After all, we didn’t know what government was, or where it was located, for it to be able to be overthrown.

During lunchtime, we were back to arguing: “The government is that tall building in Marechal Deodoro street, where the soldiers live”, one would say. “They are the streets, the factories, the back cars and tall buildings”, said another. “But how is it that the enemies would overthrow the streets?” We would waste our lunchtime in this endless discussion. When those sad men passed by us, we too would get sad, and asked ourselves where they went. Minutes later we would hear loud popping sounds and get startled. “What was that?” The teacher would get irritated: “You are here to study and not to concern yourselves with the soldiers’ trainings.” 

One day, some of us arrived before her. If we acted in a hurry, we could unveil everything. All we had to do was follow the same path the soldiers and prisoners would travel daily. Blissful, we ran, dodging the thorns and rocks. Already far, we looked behind us and no longer saw the school building. The most fainthearted ones wanted to go back. The great majority, though, insisted in our stroll. We had to discover where those “enemies of the State” were taken. When we least expected, we heard gunshots. We wanted to run, scared like birds. We would shake in fear. Some began crying: “They’re going to kill us”.  We decided – the more daring ones – to walk a few steps toward the place where the gunshots must have been fired. We then saw some soldiers with guns in their hands, looking at two men. Certainly, “enemies of the State”. They looked like those that would pass by daily in front of our school, sad, with their heads bowed, drenched in blood. Frightened, we came back running. Tired, short of breath, we told of our adventure to the other girls. The teacher, furious and afflicted, like an insane woman, began yelling: “It’s all a lie; you saw nothing; here, nobody kills anyone.” 

A few days later, our school was surrounded by a very high wall. Even then, we continued hearing the loud popping sounds.

(*Traduzido por Vinicius Gomes)