It’s been two months since I arrived in Sydney, but regretfully I found that things were different from what Mr. Brusco had described to me in Los Angeles.
When I complained about my wages, accommodations, and lifestyle I was told that everything was in accordance with the contract I signed. I should have read the fine print properly; where it clearly said the costs were to be deducted from my earnings.
I realized that I would hardly be able to save enough money to buy a return ticket home when the contract ended.
I share my living quarters with several other young South American women and many of them hardly speak a few words of English. Our lodging is in Surry Hills, not far from Sydney Central Station where a mixed community lives.
The landlady is somehow related to Mr. Brusco. She keeps an eagle eye on us arranging our communal life and work, and she reports back everything to Mr. Brusco. Since my arrival, we have spent many exhausting hours rehearsing in an old theatre, not far from Central Station and in the vicinity of Chinatown.
That is the only city area I know. I have been told that Sydney is large, beautiful, and modern. We girls are kept under strict discipline. The others, whom I share this life with, whisper that Mr. Brusco is worried that we may desert his dancing group and find a better-paid job in the local entertainment business.
* * *
I went for dinner in Chinatown, the only affordable place I know nearby. At the restaurant, at the next table to mine, was a handsome young man. We chat for a short time and soon we became friends and we sack hands exchanging our names. He was one of the many overseas students enrolled at the University of NSW.
I believe it was our loneliness that drew us together. He missed his family and country as much as I did. Yes, I miss Mum and the twins, even if Mum, in the last year we were together, hardly had any words of love and understanding for me. And what was really my country? Was it the States, where I grew up, or Brazil where my ancestors come from? Since I came to Australia, I have had stronger feelings for Brazil and I dream of returning to settle there one day. Brazil has a brighter life. Brazil is brio. Brazil offers a full intense life with its fabulous cities and beaches. Nowhere else in the world exists another Copacabana, with crowded beaches full of sun and bikini girls. I know I belong to Rio and that’s where I will return one day, and by then, I will be rich.
* * *
I met him again at the same restaurant in Chinatown. He has one of those impossible Asian names which I will never learn to pronounce, so I asked him for his western name.
‘You are not the only one with the problem. Call me Lee.’
‘Did I tell you before that I’m a Brazilian?’
‘I thought you were a Brazilian. You have an exuberant look and such a complexion. Are you a model?’
‘That has always been my dream. I came to Australia as a dancer. We are rehearsing. Soon we will be ready to present to the public the new season of Latin-American Dances.’
‘If I’m still in Australia when the season opens, I’ll come and see you. My thesis is due in a month’s time. I’ll then return to Indonesia soon after to work with my father who owns a chain of supermarkets.’
‘At least you don’t need to worry about your future. I don’t know what tomorrow has in store for me. My employer made me sign a contract that bonded me to his company as a slave. He pays me only a quarter of the money we stipulated. The rest he says are part of the costs which I have to pay back.’
‘I can give you some advice. He arbitrarily does it. The laws of this country show it clearly. Tell him that you have consulted your lawyer. He has broken his contractual obligations to you as an employer and he would be bound to pay any legal costs involved and the back money owed since the first day he met you.’
‘Thank you so much, Lee. You are a real friend. You are giving me hope for the future’
‘Fine, Dolores. What are you doing next weekend? You have told me that you haven’t visited the city yet. I can take you around and show you the most characteristic spots of this city. There is so much to see and enjoy.’
‘It sounds like an offer I can’t refuse. Thank you, Lee. I am grateful to you for your kindness.’
‘Fine, we will meet in Chinatown for breakfast next Saturday. Then we will have the rest of the weekend available to explore the city. I’ll promise that by the time you go back home, you will have seen the lot. You have talked of the fever Brazil gives to the visitors, but I’m sure you will love Sydney as well. This city is one of the most beautiful around the globe and takes life from its enchanting harbor. When you come to understand the life of the city, it will start to pulse in your veins, and then you will be addicted to it as many that have been here before you or the others who come after.’
* * *
His promises were true. I was astonished to find out how beautiful this city was from the very moment we arrived at Circular Quay. The harbor was majestic with the many different vessels rippling the bay waters, cruising from bank to bank. I admired the elegant span of the bridge crossing the harbor to the North Shore, and the shells of the Opera House were breathtaking in the way they rose from the old Aboriginal site. In the background, I saw a slender arrowed tower rising into the sky, which appeared like a pointed lance. It was magnificent where the sky and water met with their matching tones of blues.
I was impressed and emotional. Finally, I came to realize the magnitude of creation and man’s work completing those last touches on the palette of beauty; or was all that magnitude of humanity’s work, presented in front of me as a pure presumption to equal God’s creation?
* * *
The time I spent with Lee was good and relaxing. We climbed over the Harbour Bridge and went to the revolving restaurant, which was raised high into the clouds and we admired the panorama. Our Sunday was a relaxing day at the Taronga Zoo, where we had so much fun. I had a chance to see many animals and those characteristically Australian, the many kangaroos, and the cuddly koalas. In the evening we crossed the harbor on the ferry. We returned at twilight with mixed tones of darker blue over the sky surrounding us, and the contrasting multicolored lights of the city reflected in the waters. The tall illuminated buildings facing the harbor gave me a sense of emotion, but it was mostly the Opera House, standing regally like a sparkling jewel, in the vision of glorious splendor, raised uncontested in its elegance that took my breath away.
In the magnitude of what was surrounding us, we kissed. It wasn’t for love. It was only for a sense of gratitude to Lee, for his kindness. If I had known him better, I could have loved him for the man he was. But I was a lonely young woman in need of someone like him. I felt a warm sensation and was tense, desiring the physical contact with Lee. I went to his flat where we explored our bodies and made love. It was the natural conclusion to a wonderful weekend.
Since the night my stepfather raped me, this was the first time that I could abandon myself completely to a man, in a natural and intimate way. I kissed and made love to Lee because he had restored in me that happiness and joy to live again. That was my way to thank him for that great gift. During the weekend together he had been able to open my eyes and my soul to so many beautiful things. I was grateful to him for taking me around to see so much of this city where I’m now living. I thanked him with my body, as a symbol of my gratitude for the wonderful time we had spent together.
* * *
End Part 4