ugly


This is the stairwell to my apartment. It's been rotting away since I arrived.

Today has been full of ugly things; of miserable poverty, sodden cardboard and plastic bags, dirt-covered buses, caca. Today I saw a woman bent over with age and need, screaming at the lucky ones catching a bus somewhere else. I saw posters for iPhones along a street where no-one had work, and not all had food.

But hidden behind the ugliness, there is sometimes kindness, friendship, hope.

A man with a terrible tattoo, as if his drunk mate had scribbled on his arm with a blue biro, pushed back the window of the colectivo and called out encouragement to a cartonero, pushing his cart of cardboard and plastic through the hot streets. Both away from their barrios doing what they needed to get by.

On the cold, miserable bridge, as trucks screeching through the gap and the stench of smoke grew worse, a hand touched my shoulder and I saw the bright face of Marga, resplendent in an aqua turtleneck.

A raggedy boy in dirty clothes, his one eye twisted, walked past the bus-stop begging. A young man offered him his Coke bottle. The boy took a swig, handed the bottle back, and moved on down the line.

And the wall? I came back home to the wall and seeing it made me smile. Because as I left, Rocky, my favourite builder and the only one I am glad to see, had been scraping away at the plaster, ready to repaint the wall. A sign that finally, the floods of the past three years are coming to an end.

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