One Hundred Years of Forgiveness

Someone who has never stolen is not going to under-stand me. And someone who has never stolen roses will never be able to understand me. When I was little, I stole roses.

In Recife there were innumerable streets. The streets of the rich were lined with little palaces that stood in the middle of large gardens. My girl friend and I loved to play at guessing whom these little palaces belonged to. “That white one is mine.” “No, I already told you the white ones are mine.” “But this one isn’t completely white. It has green windows.” Some days we spent a long time with our faces pressed against the fence, looking.

That’s how it began. One day, during a game of “this house is mine,” we stopped in front of a house that looked like a small castle. In the back, we could see an immense orchard, and in the front, well-tended beds, planted with flowers.

Anyway, off in its own bed was a half-opened rose of a deep pink hue. I was amazed, gazing with admiration at this haughty rose, which had not yet become a woman. And then it happened: from the depths of my heart I wanted this rose for myself. I wanted it, ah, how I wanted it. And there was no way to get it. If the gardener had been there, I would have asked for the rose, knowing all the while that he would drive us away as one drives away naughty children. There was no gardener in sight, there was no one. And because of the sun the windows were shuttered. It was a street where the trams didn’t go and cars rarely appeared. Between my silence and the silence of the rose, there was my desire to possess it—a thing that belonged only to me. I wanted to be able to grasp it. I wanted to smell it until I felt faint, my sight dimmed by such a dizziness of perfume.

Then I could stand it no longer. The plan came to me in an instant, in a wave of passion. But, great director that I was, I reasoned coolly with my friend, explaining to her what her role would be: to keep an eye on the -windows of the house or to watch for the possible approach of the -gardener, to keep an eye on the few passersby in the street. Meanwhile, I slowly pushed open a gate in the rusty fence, knowing it would make a slight creak. I opened it only enough to allow my slender child’s body to pass through. And, tiptoeing, but quickly, I crossed the pebbles surrounding the beds. By the time I reached the rose, a century of heartbeats had passed.