October 25th, 2019.
“Mr. Alexander. What do you think about the way VW do Brasil’s shut down the factory at Via Anchieta?”
“What is your personal response to the failure of the New Beetle?”
Mark stepped back, assaulted by a blinding flash of awesome white light. The cluster of reporters surrounded him, forcing their cameras, microphones, smartphones and digital recorders into his face.
As they shuffled closer, their questions continued.
“Are here to help Brazilians inspire Volkswagen to start building the original Fusca again?”
“Since there’s been no classic, air-cooled Volksvagen Beetle in the United States for more than twenty years, no classic Beetle in Mexico and Brazil, are your paintings Mark Alexander designed to evoke an emotional response in the new generations? Or are you creating nostalgia to promote the electric car.”
Mark shifted his glance from the swarms of reporters greeting other passengers to the cameras pointed directly at him. The reporters were a ragtag bunch, all wearing shorts and t-shirts, except the one wearing a white shirt with a black tie and long black pants.
Mark blinked, brought his right hand to his nose, shook his head, crossed his arms and looked down at his brown blazer, his new blue jeans and his black, Adidas sneakers, thinking, This guys for real.
He said, “Wait. Do I really. Have to answer. Any questions?”
Mark noticed a light-skinned black woman with a mane of ring-permed black hair hanging over her right shoulder, smiling at him, a video camera pasted to her right eye.
Then he whispered What the actual fuck? and tried to remember if Lucio had in any way warned him.
“A guy from California. A California dude. That has to be the closest thing a Carioca can have to a soul brother,” Lucio had said pointing at himself.
Carioca meaning from Rio de Janeiro. Lucio, a thirty-five year-old ex-Rio cop. Mark’s friend and co-worker. Lucio worked with Mark as a waiter at Buteco, a restaurant that served Brazilian food and pizza near Boston University. On the side, Lucio helped newly arrived Brazilians find jobs and apartments, and ran a cleaning business. He also had a reputation for asking favors – little favors, medium favors, and huge, crazy, no-one-except-the-crazy-Brazilian ex-cop-would-dare-ask favors that were inevitably granted to him. Lucio bragged to Mark that he could convince anyone to do anything. He proved this by asking a waiter to marry a Brazilian girl so she could get her Green Card. A week after being asked, the waiter did.
Most of the Buteco staff steered clear of Lucio because of that favor-asking. Behind his back, they called him “Mr. Slick.” Every hostess and waiter had a different origin story for the ex-cop. They said he left Brazil because of a drug deal gone south. They said he had accidentally killed someone and had a price on his head. No one could understand how Lucio and Mark were friends.
When asked, Mark couldn’t remember how they became friends.
The two of them had been thrown together. They had been at Buteco for three years, training college students in the intricacies of waiting tables, dating waitresses, watching the staff graduate and disappear into the adult world. Always, it seemed, they were both trying to figure out what they’d do next.
Lucio worked hard at their friendship. He introduced Mark to other Brazilians outside the restaurant. Set him up with Brazilian women, but that never seemed to work out. He even gave Mark playlists of Brazilian music, taught him Portuguese and made him practice with the cooks behind the line. Lucio was Mark’s biggest fan, showed up at every group show, and praised his paintings to everyone.
Mark learned the language, got into the music and found it ironic that he had left sunny Southern California and picked up a tropical friend and soundtrack in the frigid Northeast. He enjoyed hanging with Lucio, listening to his stories of favor, women and life in Rio.
So, when Lucio asked Mark to send his slides to his cousin, gallery owner Rita Valadares, Mark was certain a huge favor was on its way.
Instead, Lucio said, “I’d hate to see you leave. I’m hating to lose you. But you need to leave Boston and stop this waiter bool-shit. Go someplace new. Someplace where no one knows you. Someplace where you can reinvent yourself. Someplace where you can become what you really are. A painter. An artist.”
Lucio wiped a tear. “If not, you may not like what life serves you, my friend. Send your slides to my cousin. For me. That’s the only favor, I’ll ever ask you ever.”
- Karl Schmieder
Continued within Issue No. 7 - Autumn 2019, launch reading at Housing Works, 126 Crosby Street - October 30th, 2019.