THETDWS: Waking Rio

This Has Everything To Do With Surfing

Illustration by Noa Emberson.

I wake up days later. Sun high in the sky. The contest I’ve come here to cover is surely over by now. I have no idea who won.

I remember entering a club, led by three beautiful strangers I’d met upon arrival. Long black hair. Bubbles beneath tight fabric. Neon lights behind their eyes. I’d only just arrived, and celebrations felt unavoidable. The waiting period could wait some more.

Days and nights stumbled past me in blurs and glimpses. Handfuls of flesh and booze. Flash bulbs and strobe lights illuminating animal eyes in dark, sweaty clubs. Manic pantomimes and ridiculous dance moves. Neon-dappled speedboats blazing across tangled bodies of water. Rio by sunrise. Rio by moonlight. Dipped in déjà vu. Drowned in misplaced expectations. I’ve been here before in a film that I once dreamt. Gulping down caipirinhas with both mouths, such poison-sugar delights forever thrust into my hands. Have another. Have another. And blame the moon for this diabetic coma, memory loss and a misplaced heat sheet.

The bed is drenched in sweat. Unfamiliar perfume. Shower running in the bathroom. No idea who’s in there. I don’t recognize this room. The ache in my feet and my head. Scattered visions and drunken ghosts.
I remember it was raining at the beach that first morning. Small waves. Bright jerseys. I’d scribbled down some heat scores then scampered into a beachfront bar for shelter. The bar wasn’t crowded, but people were dancing. I don’t know how to dance. It was morning to me, but to them it was still last night. How little I knew. How young I was last week.

While the contest served eggs, I ordered a Brava and used my heat sheet as a coaster. The dance floor moved like sex. That much I will never forget. All curves and sweat. All animal passion and cooing seduction. I remember thinking the surfers on the beach should be taking notes from the people in this room, then a woman sat beside me and spoke like a strange bird. I blinked my eyes and rubbed my palms on my thighs. I finished my drink and she took my hand. That’s where it began. The best surf trip of my life, and I never unpacked my board. House parties. After-parties. Pre-parties. A $500 afternoon in Ipanema with gazelle-necked models and a blue-eyed jazz singer blended seamlessly into an underground bomb shelter party where a man with braided hair showed me a handgun then offered me cocaine. The people here are good like that. Friendly like a handgun. Don’t trip and you’ll have the time of your life. One wrong turn and you’ll never go home. “Why are you here?” the man with the gun asked.

“I don’t think I know yet,” I answered. “I’m trying to figure that out.”

I don’t think he heard me. There was a bull tied up in the bathroom. A man in a red shirt taking a leak. He was one of the surfers from the contest. He spoke to me in Portuguese and I think I understood. That’s the last thing I remember.

Hopefully it’s enough for a Web post. No one really came for the contest anyway. Surfing is fine, but so is life.
The shower just stopped. A woman’s voice is singing in the steam mist behind that door. Some song I’ve never heard. Hypnotic. Mysterious. Beautiful. In a moment the door will swing open and her face will be unveiled. Rio once again. The contest is over. But Brazil is just getting started. —Sam Green