Chapter 6 - The Other World
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Several months go by, and, when he is eighteen, in 1953, he finally makes up his mind.
“I think I’m going, I mean, to move to Belo Horizonte,” he tells his parents.
“You stay at your uncle Cândido ’s place,” das Dores says, referring to her brother.
But Manoel says immediately, “No!” His voice is sharp and hard, something rare for him. “Until you can have your own house, you stay in a hotel, in some rooming house. I’ll send you money.”
Joman cannot understand why he cannot stay at his uncle’s, although he vaguely recalls hearing as a child that there was a problem between his uncle and his father. But this was something no one ever talked about, and he feels now is not the time to bring it up.
He visits his uncle Cândido, who is somewhat under the weather, and gets to know his family. After that, he’s soon looking for a job.
The opportunity arises for Joman to work, on a trial basis, as a helper to a diamond craftsman, who has his machines in a room in his own house. Despite not knowing this trade, Joman is attracted by the fact that there are only two people, the owner Timóteo and one employee named Aristides. The owner seems fortyish and the employee appears to be under thirty. Discretion is their hallmark and neither of them speak much. This plays heavily in his decision, since he himself finds it hard to communicate. Another positive factor is that the place is close to the rooming house he is lodged in.
Joman’s timidity, often taken for humility, is regarded positively from the start. Timóteo and Aristides like him at once and patiently teach him the cutting-and-polishing trade. They help him to avoid military service, and he is encouraged to learn. When he masters working with diamonds, he receives a substantial pay raise. He is now able to support himself and writes his father saying that he need not send any more money.
Four years later, his boss, Timóteo, suddenly decides to move to Rio de Janeiro . Joman, who has bought the modest shack he lives in, who has finished high school and is about to conclude junior college, who dreams of being a lawyer to fight injustice, now has to review all his plans. I have to find another job. Survival comes first, he says to himself. His is a bitter experience of unemployment. He is undecided and does not know whether to look for a job in the diamond industry or in some other one. Afraid of the future, he begins to have digestive problems. I may be having liver problems, he imagines, snowballing his own indecision.
Aristides comes to him a couple of weeks after they are both unemployed and proposes that the two of them go into diamond crafting.
“You mean set up a business like that?!” He had never thought about having his own business, and thus he is amazed.
“That’s right. The equipment is not expensive and we can pay in installments.” Joman remains pensive and Aristides insists, “I’m telling you, it’s not expensive.”
“But, but, I mean, what if we don’t get much business?”
“Of course we will. There’s a lot of business in this field.”
He remains thoughtful for a while and then argues, “There’s the rent and other expenses... diamond dust is expensive.” He is referring to a dust used with castor oil to cut and polish diamonds. “Maybe we’ll lack money for these things. Have you thought of that? Unless... perhaps here in my shack...I mean, we wouldn’t have to pay rent.”
The two of them start looking at the prices of everything. Joman is very afraid, and to his digestive problems are added erratic pains in the legs and back. He asks for one week to think things over before giving his answer.
When they meet again, he argues, “But what about business, Aristides? I mean what if we don’t get any orders? I think we would have to be sure.”
“ Nonsense . But, if you want, we can take a look around.”
“I think we’d have to be sure,” he insists.
They start visiting potential customers and one of them, Jessé Primo, just ten years older than Joman, has a business in the Western part of town, buying and selling all sorts of raw precious gems in addition to polishing and finishing them for sale. He decides to give the two young men a break.
“I’ll send you guys the same business I used to give to Timóteo.”
That cheers Joman up. The businessman knows that they are good and trustworthy craftsmen. Jessé will guarantee them a regular flow of business and that should cover all expenses. Business from other sources will mean profits.
They rent a room in a very old building—downtown, as Aristides wanted—and set up a shop with a sawing machine common to both of them and separate equipment to assemble and polish stones. They will work as freelancers and expenses will be split in half. They may be able to receive orders separately or jointly.
He and Aristides decide that he will be their contact with Jessé, while the outgoing Aristides will handle other clients.
When he takes or picks up some diamonds, he usually has to wait a while, as Jessé is busy with someone or overseeing his workers. On these occasions, Joman pays close attention to him and feels an overwhelming desire to get rich, not only to have a better material life but, even more so, to be recognized and respected and to fulfill his old dream of finding himself a girlfriend.
One day something unexpected pops up. Jessé is talking to a prospector, who is bent on selling him a small lot of tiny diamonds, weighing no more than half a karat each.
“Your price is high and I have a lot of diamonds in inventory,” Jessé argues.
“How much do you pay?” the prospector asks. He clearly wants to sell.
Jessé makes an offer, but it is turned down.
“Why don’t you buy it?” Jessé suggests to Joman. “Buy, craft, polish and bring them here. I’ll buy them from you.”
The suggestion scares Joman. He does not know what to say and swings both arms. He wants to get rich, but he has never thought about purchasing diamonds.
“The diamonds are all good,” argues the prospector, talking to Joman now. “You can check them.”
Joman quietly examines them and feels the stirring of ambition inside him.
“Make an offer,” Jessé encourages him.
Joman does just that, and it is a little higher than the one Jessé had made. The prospector complains, tries to bargain, but misinterprets Joman’s shy silence as firmness. They close the deal.
“Give him your address,” Jessé advises. “Next time he can look for you directly.”
When the prospector leaves, Jessé takes advantage of the opportunity to give him a piece of advice. “If you hadn’t bought them, I’d have bought a small stone so that he wouldn’t go away empty-handed. In this business, you have to please people, even if with little things. If he comes to you and you buy some little thing from him, he will come to you again and again—and on one of these occasions you may strike pay dirt.”
Back in the office, he tells Aristides what he has done.
“Messing around with prospecting is very dangerous,” his friend warns him. “There’s a lot of funny stuff going on.”
“I didn’t consult you because I had to decide right then and there, on the spot . I thought of running the risk all by myself, in case you didn’t want in. But if you want to be a partner, fine. If you don’t want to, that’s fine too.”
“Joman, I’d rather be on the safer side, working only with the crafting.”
Through this prospector, others come to him, offering small diamonds. He always buys a bit, following Jessé’s advice, so that he will hold on to these prospectors. He becomes so well known that some of these prospectors—usually simple folks with little purchasing power—know that coming to him is always worthwhile. They will sell something, even if it is only tiny, less-than-a-fourth-karat diamonds, which will be enough to cover their expenses in the state capital . Slowly, Joman is opening a new business front. Aristides, sensing a good safety margin and encouraged by Joman, starts doing the same.
When he returns from work one afternoon, he notices a young woman sitting at the porch in a house beside his own. He had noticed that a family had moved there a few days before.
“Good afternoon,” he says off-the-cuff, as is the habit in small towns.
“Good afternoon,” she replies.
This neighborly exchange takes place several other times, always in a natural fashion. He does not even notice that she is always handling some small objects. One time, she says good-afternoon to him and then startles him by asking, “You never stop, do you?” Joman re covers from being startled, but not from being speechless. He just swings his arms. She smiles slightly and adds, “Why don’t we talk a bit ? You’re Joman, right?” He nods. “Nice name...different...” Somewhat embarrassed, he shuffles his feet, puts his hands in his pockets, takes them out, and repeats the motion, in and out, in and out again. The girl says, “I understand that you work with diamonds, isn’t that right?”
“That’s right,” he answers, still restless.
“It must be interesting. A lot skill is needed, isn’t it?”
“It is, yes.”
“Do you work at some company?”
“No...I mean, on my own,” he stammers back.
“No kidding!?” Her tone is one of admiration. “I work as a hospital attendant. My name is Cleide.”
“Very pleased, I mean, to meet you.”
“Would you like to come in?”
“No, thanks. I’m, I mean, kind of in a hurry,” he lies, swinging his arms and stuttering. Then he just says good-bye.
At home, he feels something he cannot quite put his finger on. To say that she is very nice is the understatement of the year...and she wanted to go on! She invited me in! He cannot believe what he is thinking. She sort of reminds me of Vera, he thins, recalling his pre-teenage flame. Some girls have attracted his interest in the six years that he has been in Belo Horizonte, and he thinks about them now. Yet his shyness always precluded any further contact. I should have gone into her house, should have talked to her some more. He kicks himself for his typical shy behavior.
Two afternoons later, Cleide is sitting on the same spot .
“Howdy, Joman, how was your work today?” she asks warmly, interrupting whatever she was doing with a couple of small objects.
“Well, well, very well indeed,” he answers, stopping in his tracks. He is not stammering now.
“Do you know what I am doing?” He shakes his head. “I’m making a few toys. I like these little trinkets and gadgets. Come in here to see.”
He hesitates, then opens the gate and goes to the porch, a couple of yards away.
“Sit down over here,” she invites him, pointing to a chair next to hers. Joman plops down into it. “What do you think of these little earrings?” She shows a pair in her hand, placing in her lap two tools similar to small pliers and pieces of a very thin wire.
“They’re very pretty...” He strives to be polite when, in fact, he has not seen them well.
“Here, hold them.” She hands them to him, and, while he examines them, she adds, “They’re almost ready. You must understand this, since you work with diamonds.”
“No, I don’t.” He is more at ease now. “They are, I mean, two different things. I don’t recognize these stones.”
Back at home, he feels satisfied. He was able to feel more at ease and has only one complaint: I should have held her arm.
The two of them meet regularly and are soon dating. This is his first steady dating experience ever. What could she possibly have seen in me ? he thinks frequently. Six months after meeting, they are engaged. Joman uses his savings to fix his shack. Cleide offers important suggestions, which he usually accepts, provides construction materials, and watches the work on her time off from the hospital . The place looks like quite a nice house, considering that it was basically adapted. They get married in 1960, a little over a year after their initial contact, and Joman is now twenty-five.
At this same time, there is another change in his life. Encouraged by him, Cleide leaves her job and now makes gadgets and trinkets for sale.
“I think you have a natural knack for this and there’s the upside of staying at home,” he tells her. Revealing that he has a dream, he says, “Who knows, maybe someday we could set up our own business.”
“Do you think we could handle it, honey?”
They decide and vow that, in time, they will search for ways and means to make this dream come true.
Prospecting for Diamonds
Business is good and his life with Cleide is even better, but now he has a new problem. Some people ask him to loan them money; he finds it hard to refuse, and they do not pay him back. These are small amounts of money, which the borrowers pretend to forget. Unwilling to collect, he becomes resentful but cannot manage to refuse the next request.
One day, a cousin of Cleide’s comes to his office, pretending to encourage him. “Joman,” he says, “big buddy, I’m buying a car but don’t have all the money. Could you lend me some?”
He hesitates, swings his arms back and forth, and hesitates some more. The friendly approach, although patently false, pleases him; nonetheless, he reflects, He hasn’t paid what he owes me and is coming back for more.
“It’s a very good deal,” the man keeps at it, “so good that I can’t wait for some money I’m about to receive. As soon as I get it, I’ll pay you.”
Joman continues to hesitate, swinging his arms. And to think that I ride a bus, he wonders in amusement. Finally he speaks but what comes out of his mouth is different from what he would like to say, “Fine, I’ll see what, I can do, I mean, I’ll see if I can. How much is it, anyway?”
“Joman, this guy is taking advantage of you,” his friend warns him.
“I reckon he’s gonna pay me back and you know how these things are, relatives, family, if you know what I mean.”
Joman holds on to false hopes to rationalize his inability to refuse a request. In his imagination, a refusal is tantamount to a confrontation with unpredictable consequences—at best, he will lose a friendship he believes exists, and, at worst, he will lose control or perhaps even go crazy. These false hopes also make the wear and tear more manageable. It is not that these hopes make him less worried about the money he may never get back, but that they enable him to avoid anger for having given in. Anger breeds resentment towards those who treat him like a fool. When he feels such resentment, the emotion brings with it a varied array of aches and pains—erratic discomforts (especially in the spine), digestive troubles, and lack of sleep. He thinks he is ill and starts seeing doctors, private physicians initially. Then he goes to the teaching hospital of the main Medical School in the state, which is free of charge because it is part of a public federal teaching institution.
One day in 1964, a prospector named Epaminondas, from the Dores do Indaiá region, is sent to him by Jessé, and he has a rather curious way of starting to talk.
“If I don’t tell you nothin’, let me tell you this right off the bat.” The easy-going voice always halts for a brief pause in the middle of the sentence. “I have two small diamonds here, first class stuff really.” He removes from a small bamboo vial two roughly-one-karat stones. “Now, you just take a look at this white!”
Joman examines the two extra white stones, something relatively rare indeed. He buys them, paying more than a common run-of-the-mill diamond would cost.
Epaminondas switches to another topic. “If I don’t tell you nothin’, let me tell you this right off the bat. My work front is gonna yield lots of stones, but it so happens that I got a problem. The thing is that I need to change the engine and the pump,” he says, meaning the mining equipment. “The engine has little compression, which uses the oil a lot, and, even if it were good, I’d have to change to a bigger one because the workin’ load is gettin’ to be too heavy. The pump is too small and already no good.”
None of this impresses Joman. He knows that every prospector thinks he is about to make a fortune. But, as usual, he listens attentively and tries to show interest in the topic at hand.
“Have you found, I mean, another engine and another pump?”
“I can exchange it for a rebuilt engine, but the pump has to be new.”
“Then it should be easy, a piece of cake.”
“If I don’t tell you nothin’, let me tell you this right off the bat. You can make lots of money with me from all them stones, yes sir.”
“What do you mean?”
“I ain’t got no money for the engine and the pump, and nobody knows me here, so I get no credit to buy stuff.” Here it comes again, a request for a loan, Joman was thinking. It was, indeed, but in a slightly different form. “You change the engine for me, buy the pump, and I’ll give you a commission on the stones.”
Surprised at such a proposal, he goes into his usual reaction of being quiet and swinging his arms. Curious, he then asks how much money they are talking about.
“Three hundred and twenty dollars,” the prospector says. He uses a dollar figure because diamonds are quoted worldwide in U.S. currency. Diamond dealers and more enlightened prospectors use this currency even for other business. Furthermore, high inflation makes it difficult for Brazilians to use their own currency, known as the cruzeiro .
“Three hundred and twenty?!” This is far too much money for Joman.
“I’ll give you twenty percent of the stones we find,” the prospector proposes.
Joman is tempted to refuse, but, deep inside, he wants to run this risk. It is something new to be partner to a prospector, even though he does not know a lot about this activity. He thinks, wishes to agree, scratches his head, and consults Aristides, who is witnessing the conversation.
“What do you think?”
“My business is to cut and polish,” his friend answers, which is a roundabout way of discouraging him.
The prospector keeps insisting and says to Joman, “You don’t need to put all the money up front. The remainder can be in three installments, the pump and the other stuff in two.”
“What kind of stuff?”
“Muzzle, hose, fittings and connections, the kind of stuff a larger pump needs.”
Aristides, realizing that his friend is in a bind and that he will end up agreeing against his better judgment, decides to help out. “If you go into this business, it has to be thirty percent.”
“Thirty percent is way too much,” replies the prospector .
“But three hundred and twenty dollars is also way too much,” remarks Aristides. “And, let’s face it, it’s a shot in the dark.”
“Not so dark, it ain’t,” the prospector argues. To Joman he insists, “You just bought this merchandise, which shows how promising this site is. I’ll take you there to see for yourself. It’s a one-day bus trip.”
“Whereabouts is this site ?” Joman asks him.
“By the Rio Indaiá ( Indaiá River ).”
There follows a brief silence and Joman is strongly tempted to go into the business. He says, “ Look, I figure I could go there with you and, I mean, if I like what I see, it’s a deal between us, but it has to be for thirty percent, I mean, as Aristides said.”
Conditioning his proposal on first seeing the place has nothing to do with his knowledge of the subject—indeed, he knows next to nothing about it. He just wants to make sure that the prospecting site actually exists.
“How about twenty five percent?” argues the prospector, in the typical Brazilian fashion of splitting the difference.
“Nah, stick to the thirty percent,” Aristides jumps into the bargaining. “ Look, it could well be that there ain’t gonna be no money.”
Epaminondas gives up, and the next day he and Joman are on their way in Joman’s old car. The site is near a district known as Cedro do Abaeté. At a dirt-poor ranch, by the river side, three idle men are waiting for the equipment.
“There’s the dragging equipment over there,” the prospector points to a barge tied to a riverbank tree, reminding Joman of the barge that used to cross the Rio Doce, except that this one here is smaller and the equipment floats on two steel-plate beds. “Let’s go down there, so that you can see.”
They go down to the river bank and then climb into the dragging barge.
No way this thing could possibly be operational, Joman thinks, as he sees parts scattered everywhere, rust all over the place, and just plain emptiness where the engine ought to be.
“ Look ! There’s really good diamond here, don’t you agree?” says the prospector, as enthusiastic as any dreamer, pointing towards the small river and its banks.
“I guess so,” replies Joman. He is being sincere, although he has never seen a prospecting site . His judgment is based on the presence of other similar equipment operating in the area. “Let’s see if we can get this thing to work,” he states almost in defiance, and Epaminondas smiles broadly.
The two of them go back to Belo Horizonte .
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The book has 11 chapters.
Chapter 1 - The End at Hand
The victim of an incurable disease, Joman prepares to die.
Chapter 2 - Prior Events
How did Jomanís father, an immigrant, meet his mother? What was the wedding like? What was Jomaní fatherís nickname?
Chapter 3 - Tormented Passion
Jomanís birth, his fatherís extra-marital affair, and the other dramas that take place within a family.
Chapter 4 - Struggle
Thus begins the struggle between active Joman and his afflictive mother. The dynamic of the nuclear family.
Chapter 5 - Life's Defeats
Joman begins to get along with other boys, attend school, and experience his first disappointments outside the home. The suffering he passes through during his early years, a secret pre-teen crush, the difficulties he had fitting in, the anxieties and humiliations, the desperate efforts to have close relations with others and be respected, as well as the hazards, are the themes of this chapter, which extends up to the age of eighteen.
Chapter 7 - The Hand Tremors
Before the age of thirty, he is stricken with a life-threatening illness. He and his wife struggle desperately to find a cure. The loss of hope. His return to his hometown to relive past experiences in a different way and fulfill his ultimate desire: to be free!
The last four chapters Ė more than half the book Ė are pure adrenalin.
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