When the Samba and hip hop the DJ was mixing together cut out, I managed to retract my face away from the eager girl I had seen eyeing me earlier to discover that the crowd that enveloped us earlier had vanished. Like most Brazilians, she considered kissing to involve forceful tongue wrestling for drawn-out periods of time, allowing other events to pass around her without notice.
“Do you want to go get a drink?” I asked in Portuguese.
“No. I have to wake up at 5 for class,” she replied.
I looked at my phone. It was 2 in the morning on a Tuesday.
After exchanging numbers, we parted ways. I walked away down the 400-year-old cobblestone streets of Pelourinho, stepping to the side of the road as the Afro-Brazilian Olodum drum line and the crowd that followed it danced by in full swing.
Down the road I could see a crowd of people drinking and dancing in front of a packed bar that put far too much emphasis on the accordion. I spotted my American friend talking with a girl wearing a small, tight dress with eyes having years of experience etched into them. I had been to the old city of Pelourinho many times before that night and I felt confident that I could identify some of the more colorful characters that inhabited the streets on crowded nights. After greeting my friend and after he introduced me to Patricia, I leaned over and spoke to my friend in English.
“Dude, you know she’s a hooker, right?” I asked.
“Yeah, I know, but she likes me and she’s not going to charge me,” he replied matter-of-factly.
“Oh… cool. I’m going to get a taxi home. I can drop you guys off at a motel.”
We stared at each other for a short moment and then started laughing. Not because the situation was strange but because, conversely, we were no longer unaccustomed to it.
The three of us walked up the hill to the main square packed with taxis waiting for drunken tourists. After telling one driver where we were going, he responded “20 reais” (pronounced “hey-eyes”).
As I explained to him why I wasn’t stupid enough to get ripped off, I could hear Patricia exchanging heated words with another driver behind me. I was only able to pick out “go take it up the ass” from the rapid-fire Portuguese. After I talked our driver down to 10, I got in the front seat of the cab and the lovebirds got in the back. Before we could leave, the other driver ripped open the back door, apparently unwilling to take it up the ass. He leaned in and slapped Patricia across the face. She retorted by throwing a beer in his face so hard it exploded. Our driver hit the gas and we sped away into the night, letting the warm air of Brazil dry the beer off our clothes.