I wish I had learned more about Três, really I do. If there had been time to ask about her life, or family, or what she used to do or wanted to do in the future.
All I really knew was that she said she was a student a few times (but clearly was in-between terms, and I got the idea that she was definitely a good one, just one that couldn’t afford it full-time). And that she loved and looked after her mother. I told her I could understand, my mother’s beautiful too. She gave me an off glance, a narrowing of the eyes at that, but smiled it away.
Your name is Three Five? Graham asked. We were standing right out front of the blue and white peeling paint of the hotel. She nodded, talking around him and asking us all sorts of questions instead.
She was extra glad to see we were Canadian, and asked us about hockey and playing on ice and snow. She asked about if we were from an embassy or a university or what company we might be working for. I told her pretty simply what we were up to. Graham was tense, still waiting for an answer about her name (nickname, most likely).
I nudged the old man (carefully) and said I think she’s alright. Maybe don’t look this horse in the mouth.
He grumbled and asked to see some kind of ID or something with her name on it, a picture, anything. I caught him mumbling something to himself about a shitshow. I caught myself genuinely being amused, even with all the swelter and brisk pace of things and usual traveling distress. Of course, I hadn’t experienced the Amazonas just yet.
In about half the time it took Graham to get on board with the idea, Três was grabbing at our bags and yelling at a taxi.
You’re sure you can leave for a week or two, take us as far as you can into the jungle, I asked, wishing I had a better accent. She nodded and shrugged at the same time. I noticed her one shoulder was a bit lower than the other. It’s rare for me to suddenly like people so much, but this was turning out to be an unexpected time already.
The first thing she did was take us down to the rio itself. By which I mean we drove to the banks in sight of the brand new Rio Negro bridge. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was at once impressed and incredibly filled with that ineffable quality of ‘what-the-fuck-am-I-even-doing’.
The river at that point is over three and a half kilometres wide. Filled with boats and streams and waves, black and dark brown and lush. And we were headed who knows how far down it; tributaries and feeder streams and everything between here and the sea. Ava out there possibly far inland, stuck in some contested prime logging territory or wherever a tribe might be infringed on.
I swallowed hard and said that we’d need the rest of the day to plan. A map would be a good start.