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We were out in Rio on one of the nights after we had qualified for the Cup, Sócrates, Rodolfo, Ribieiro, and me, and we were drinking together in a friendly way, free of our usual concerns and restrictions. There would be no games for the next month or month and a half, and the coaches gave us time off from practice since they were aware of the need to carouse. So we could drink to our hearts’ content. Beer mostly for us, and Sócrates chain-smoked with abandon, one of the only times he could do so. We were in a small bar near the beach. The things they were saying, my God. I knew I still had a lot to learn, but the discussion made me feel as if I were the country mouse receiving a lesson in whoring from the city mouse. 

It started when Rodolfo said, “Do you think there is a woman who is so tall that you could suffocate inside her?” He sat back in his chair and took another drink from his beer bottle. “The Amazons. That was where I got it. We learned those myths in school, those Greek myths. But we have the Amazon here! And I thought that was what the teacher meant, that the giantesses used to live along the river in the forest.” 

We laughed. 

“But it made sense,” Rodolfo said, “I mean, you hear stories of those fucking snakes and bugs that grow to tenfold their normal size due to the heat and moisture of the forest, right? It’s the air, or God, or something. And that was at the age when I first heard the older boys talking about sex. I remember, who was it, Jibriel, who was in the grade ahead of me, telling two of us about his first trip to the beach. He said during a vacation, over break, his family went to the Rio beaches to stay with relatives and get a break from the village where the air was still and hot. So they came to the beaches. And he was walking, somewhere" — Rodolfo acted as if he were drawing a map for us on the table — “in a back neighborhood, away from the main streets, and he came across a woman lying naked in a deck chair on her front lawn. He didn’t know what he was looking at, he said! Like she had been split between her legs. It reminded him of a little mountain range, he said, with a patch of scrub brush. The woman noticed him staring and told him to come over. She said, Hey boy, come here and I’ll tell you something you’ve never heard. He didn’t know what to do. He thought it was a trap, and that he would get into trouble either way, if he spoke to the naked woman or disobeyed her and ran back to his relatives’ house. But he was curious, of course, Jibriel’s curiosity overcame him. He thought maybe the woman would ask him to put lotion on her back or shoulders, or to fetch her a drink from one of the carts down the street. She kept gesturing for him to come close to her, and so he did, with small steps. The naked woman, Jibriel said, had beautiful skin, so tan but unlike other tanned woman she had no wrinkles or sunspots, he said it looked as if she had been painted brown once and for all, or simply born tan, like one of the Indians from the back country. Her face looked calm, he told us, as if she had studied the statues of the Madonna and taken her expression as her own, one of patience and kindness, Jibriel said. The naked woman put her left hand on Jibriel’s neck and told him to relax. She told him to kneel down, so he did, and she kept her hand on his neck the whole time. Jibriel didn’t know what to expect, he guessed maybe that she wanted to pray with him, perhaps some people prayed better naked, he thought, after all he had seen his grandmother pray always with her eyes closed and with her rosary in her fist, which was not how he prayed, and so maybe the naked woman felt closer to God without her clothes on, he thought. But she whispered to him, here’s what your future will be like, and bent his head down into her lap, so that his face lay sideways upon the strip of her pubic hair, which was cut short and felt sharp, he said. Jibriel closed his eyes when he realized where she was bending him, and he only opened them when he felt the pressure on his neck and head increase, and the naked woman said, I’m doing you a favor and you won’t accept it, look at where you are, carioca. Jibriel said he saw her legs stretching away like the roots of a great tree, and he felt, beside the abrasiveness of her hair, the smoothness of her private skin, and from his right eye he saw her body straight ahead as if he were a microscopic man gazing out from a mountaintop where the world dropped away beyond or transformed into a different world altogether. Ten minutes she held him there, Jibriel said, and he never said a word! He said he started to sweat and fear that his face would be permanently bonded to this woman’s vagina, and he imagined himself sticking out of her pants, his face kept in the darkness of her underwear forever, the two of them fused into a four-legged beast. What would his parents say? His mother and father would drop dead; his grandmother would burst into flames from the shock, he thought. But he enjoyed it, he realized, he had never known anything like it before, the touch of her skin, the way it looked — so alien — and the scent of her body, so deep and intense, it stayed in his nostrils for days afterwards, he said. The naked woman released his head and pronounced him a good one, then told him to go. She told him to remember her! Jibriel thought there was no danger of him ever forgetting her, and ran straight home to tell his younger brother, who was frightened when he heard the story. Jibriel had to wait for two more weeks until he could tell us the story, and when he did we didn’t believe him of course. It seemed ridiculous, absurd. A boy and a naked woman! Exotic pornography! We thought he was a good storyteller, but we didn’t believe that a woman had roughly manhandled him into practical adulthood. We would have believed that he had saved up his money and bought himself a seaside prostitute, maybe in cooperation with a few other boys, but that story of the benevolent naked woman, nice as it was, asked too much of our belief. Though I think other boys in our class thought it was true, and asked Jibriel to retell it again and again, and he said It’s all true! He swore on his soul, and he never changed any details of what had happened, so who knows now, he may have been right and that woman did do as he claimed. I didn’t believe it, but that’s when I started imagining the possibilities of the future, do you know what I mean? About what can happen out of the blue, against reality. I daydreamed about my female schoolteachers and realized, as if I had learned it as a fact in science class, that their bodies were naked under their clothes, and that there were hours of the day when they exposed themselves to the air just as I did before and after a shower, or when I slept in bed on hot nights. They were like me, only taller and older! And I remembered the stories of the Amazons and how they were giant women of pure beauty, unconquerable warrior women. What if I wandered deep into the forest and found them? What if, like the other things in the forest, they grew to unbelievable size, even bigger than in the myths? I pictured before bed my journey through the jungle and my sharp machete cutting through the leaves and branches. How hot it was, in the jungle, and how tired I would be from walking for so long, tracing the river’s course. Hooting animals in the day and their wild sinister cries and chirps at night, all of which I would hear as I made my way or as I slept next to my nightly fire. And a clearing — that was how it went — a space untaken by the jungle trees, a clearing of just tall grass, and as I made my way through a tunnel of thick leaves and moist vines, I saw a pussy as tall and big as a house — legs stretched out on either side, but extending into the forest too far for me to see in their entirety — but dominating my view, so that all I see is sky, then body, then grass, blue sky, then brown body, then green grass, a gigantic thing that takes my breath away, the origin of the world. Every time I imagined this wonder, I got so far as seeing myself trembling as I approach it and, putting aside my machete, placing a hand upon the soft curve of the massive lips, and leaning forward, the air around me seeming to vibrate as though alive with heat, to kiss the mouth of this sleeping thing, gently, once, like I was kissing the bare head of a baby.”

We were all quiet for a few seconds, drinking our beers.

“What about Jibriel?” Ribieiro asked. “Did he pull the best ass in high school?”

Rodolfo rubbed his chin. “No. No, man. That kid fucking joined the CV and got stabbed in tenth grade. Over by one of the cornerstores my mother went to to get groceries—she saw the body before the cops came and covered it up. She said Jibriel looked surprised.” 

Rodolfo laughed. “I can imagine he was.” 

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