The favelas light up at night. She sits on walkways in chairs that once carried milk bottles, waiting for breezes that come as often as a way out of a hard situation. She’s the color of all things right, her hair the color of a Nina Simone song, her smile the reason I trip over a crack. She laughs and I speak English. “Excuse me,” came out before knowing she’d have no idea what I’m embarrassingly muttering.
The favelas light up at night. Some puddles are deeper than the other, some power lines lower than the others, some hills a little steeper. She’s gorgeous, brown, big-eyed, and mine for as long as I can keep her. The moon shines so bright, stars become insecure. I count three.
The favelas light up at night. We walk and play charades, filling in all the words we can’t speak. She tells me a story about a dog, a bicycle, and what I think is an old woman with a fish. I tell her about the Nancy Wilson, Etta James, Stan Getz, and she laughs at my attempt at “Girl From Ipanema” in Portuguese. I keep singing to keep her laughing. She keeps laughing to keep me smiling.
The favelas light up at night. I count the lights and she points to hers. “That one,” she says, more like a question, waiting for me to approve her English. I nod, pointing with her. She smells sweet like soap and fresh air and coconut water. She smells like that I was on the F train headed for 63rd St in New York with five friends all headed uptown. That night I never wanted the laughing to stop. She smells like that.
The favelas light up at night and I imagine how big our kids’ smiles would be and how much time we’d spend in Virginia for holidays. The favelas from a distance look like the Christmas trees I had as a child, some lights out, most lights on, still beautiful. This woman from a distance looks like everything I want to rest my hand, heart, and head on after climbing up to see her again and again. She’s far up and far out, man. She’s worth every short breath I take when finally reaching her kitchen table and tossing my shoes to the other end of the room. She’s it.
The favelas light up night to be beautiful until sunrise. She doesn’t want to be here forever.
She keeps the favelas outside my window lit. I know which light is hers, and I wait for them to flicker three times for goodnight, sad I didn’t have the heart to tell her I won’t be back for a while.