A New Country and a New Life
It happened yesterday and my life has changed giving me a new direction.
I haven’t really had to do things I didn’t want. I chose them as the only way to realize my dreams. I came to Australia a few months ago with the intention of making money. Money, which on my return to Brazil, would prove I had been an achiever. But I found out that money doesn’t come easily, and the way of success isn’t the sort of highway where you can start at full speed to rise to the highest point of the social scale.
I’m living in one of the best and largest cities in the world. I landed here as an unknown young woman desiring many things. Today, a few months later, I’m still the same unknown stranger between too many other strangers enveloped in their own life. Nobody, in this environment, has time to be kind to someone like me, who needs a friendly soul to communicate and share their life and love.
Yesterday, the ring of silence had finally been broken. At mid-morning one of the agencies sent a message to my mobile phone, ‘Contact Luis urgently re your portfolio on 2347 6548.’
My heart began to beat faster with trepidation. Maybe I’ll get some modeling work and that could be the beginning of a new life, I thought.
Mentally, I rehearsed some possible answers to questions he could ask. In the meantime, I was trying to keep calm.
I called Luis and I agreed to meet him for dinner at the Bennelong Restaurant in Circular Quay.
He was a middle-aged gentleman, well dressed, with an aristocratic look and in the old European fashion, he kissed my hand. I thought he was a Frenchman, but I found he was Italian. He was from Milan, and for the past thirty years, he’d visited Sydney every year to buy fine wool for his textile industry, at the annual Merino Wool auction.
From the moment we sat at the restaurant table, he started to scrutinize me from every possible angle, and then he said, ‘You are a typical Brazilian woman and very beautiful. Even though the city is such a cosmopolitan place, there are only a few Brazilians living here.’
‘I came to Sydney with a South American ballet group, and I stayed behind trying to get a career as a model. That’s why I’ve accepted your invitation this evening, to hear your offer.’
“We’ll have time to talk after dinner, in a more relaxing place and with a glass of wine in front of us. I hope you are enjoying your food. This is the best seafood restaurant in the city. I have been coming to this same restaurant since my first visit to Sydney. The owner is an art lover, and he is a patron to talented young artists and lets them exhibit in the restaurant. Of course, it is a smart move on his part. The art exhibition attracts many people and brings extra business for him.’
‘I have to admit my ignorance of local artists, even if, in my spare time I have visited the Art Gallery.’
‘I hope you have heard of William Dobell. He is by far the best of the modern group of Australian painters. I had the occasion to meet him on my second visit to Sydney. Soon after, he won his first Archibald prize with the ‘The Man with the Strap’. On that day, he was exhibiting some of his paintings in this restaurant and I bought one of his minor works, which today is worth ten times more than I paid for it.’
‘It is something I will take into consideration in the future, and whenever I can afford it, I will invest money in this way. But today I need much more than paintings. I just live in a single rented room, without luxuries.’ I murmured back.
‘My dear Dolores, only a few are born rich. But if you use your intelligence and work hard you can become wealthy.’
“Speaking of painters, I remember a Brazilian boy, his name was Pedro. He was a few years older than me but we were in the same class at primary school. He used to go around with a scrapbook and a pencil in his hands. One day he made a portrait of me and then he gave it to me as a birthday present. Just before I left the States to come to Australia, I read in a Los Angeles newspaper that he had an exhibition at a local gallery, and I went over to see his work. It was just pure curiosity, and I met him again on that day. His work was very colorful and mainly he represented on his canvas the Brazilian life and the fiestas, in a way that is still traditional in the country towns. Life in the Brazilian hinterland hasn’t changed much in style in the past three hundred years. When I return to Brazil, I would like to meet him again. He is such a brilliant artist.’
‘It is quite a pleasure to find a young lady who is interested in art. My advice to you for the future is to invest your money in young painters’ works before they get famous. Believe me you will have a better return than money in the bank.’
I was confident in the progress of our meeting. It was at this point that naively I asked my host, ‘When can we discuss the fashion parade and where will it be held? Isn’t this the reason why I’m here?’
He looked back at me in the unmistakable way a man uses to captivate a young woman in those circumstances. Suddenly it became evident to me that the fashion parade had been an excuse to get me here. Quite obviously there was a second reason. I was no longer the simple girl of the past who easily believed in fairy tales. It was apparent he was playing with me the game a cat plays with a mouse. I could read now the unspoken message that he was sending me with his look. He was ravenous with a morbid desire in his eyes.
Finally, he explained the real reason for his invitation. ‘You are a pretty woman, Dolores. I will give you five hundred dollars if you come to my room. We will share a bottle of champagne.’
That had been the reason he had invited me. Was this his usual tactic to capture young women when he traveled around the world on his business trips?
Many things passed rapidly through my mind. Was the modeling agency using its respectable façade to procure a beautiful woman for sex for the wealthy? Would that be possible? I could find out easily with a phone call the next morning. But at that time in the evening, I felt misled and betrayed. Never before have I been so embarrassed by my naivety.
I was sad about the way things were going. Suddenly, in my depression, I felt deprived of everything, my country, my mother, and mainly some good protective friends.
In the doubt of the moment, I asked myself why I didn’t take the opportunity to fly back home as soon as I had received that money from Mr. Brusco. Now I was stuck in this country without proper work and where nobody knew me and where I didn’t have the advice of someone I trusted. The money in my bank account was drying up quickly. How would I cope in the near future without resources? What would I do?
I felt miserable and for this reason, I started to cry silently. My host was evidently embarrassed to have invited me for dinner. He couldn’t understand the reason for my sadness. He had thought I most likely belonged to a circle of call girls, and he could buy that kind of service from me. Was that the reason why he had such an apologetic look? Seeing his mistake, he tried to call the waiter, pay the bill, and get away.
I stopped him, ‘Please give me some more wine and let me cry. I will be fine soon.’
I stopped sobbing, dried my eyes, ‘You said five hundred dollars and a bottle of champagne in your room?’
Unconsciously I heard myself say that. It was like somebody else had spoken those words for me. I saw a sorry expression on his face to have proposed that, but still I noticed his eagerness to have me.
‘Yes, the offer is still valid.’
We went back to his hotel. I drank the first glass of wine in a gulp. Then I let him undress me. I didn’t have a bra, and immediately he started to caress my breast and get aroused. It took only a few minutes, and then it was all over for him as he erupted into a noisy orgasm. I didn’t pretend to have enjoyed this encounter. When it was over, I went to the bathroom, had a hot shower, returned to the bedroom, and took the money that he had left for me next to my purse.
I said goodnight without giving him the ritual final kiss. The elevator took me down to the main entrance of the Hilton. The porter dutifully called a taxi and I return to my room in Surry Hills. I dropped onto the bed without undressing and soon I fell into a lethargic sleep.
Destiny had changed the course of my life, taking me up the road of sins. I knew I had acted in that way because of desperation, necessity, and loneliness.
But surprisingly, I found that in the morning I wasn’t ashamed of myself. My ego told me that it was part of survival. It was a human instinct and dictated by the fact I was living alone in a large city without protection, love, a house, or a husband. I had nobody who could look after me, and at the same time, I had nobody to give an account of my actions. I had to protect and look after myself in the best possible way, and not only to survive for the day but also to think about my future.
More than ever, I was resolute to return to Brazil at the end of my visa and be wealthy by then. I also knew that once I returned to Brazil, I would try to find Pedro, my old friend, the painter. Why hadn’t I thought of that possibility before? I remembered how I was infatuated with him at the age of eight when he drew my portrait. I remembered that the tender spot existed in both of us till the time I met him in the States. Who knows? Maybe one day he would ask me to marry him.
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End Part 1