São Paulo after midnight is dangerous. The center where we live is notorious for criminal activities. Usually, we avoid going out late at night if we can help it. However, last Tuesday, we were walking home at three a.m. in the morning. We did not plan for it. It just happened. We had just spent six hours in the emergency room and when we were done, we could not find any taxi in sight. We had no choice but to walk home.
Everything started on Monday evening. It was supposed to be a quiet evening with some friends. I was the cook for the night. One of friends arrived early and Mary was talking to him in the living room. Then our intercom rang and Igor was at the door. This was unexpected but I thought maybe he was in the neighborhood and wanted to drop by. As he was coming up the stairs, I was thinking of ways to convince him to stay for dinner. He is little shy and needs a little persuasion to interact with new people. I went out of our apartment and waited to greet him as he came up the stairs. As soon as he saw me, I could see that something was wrong. He did not look well. He said that he had a fight with his girlfriend, Ana Paula and they decided to call it quits. On top of this, he had been feeling ill all day and he wanted to go to the hospital. He asked if I would accompany him. At this point, Mary and our friend came to our doorway and heard the whole conversation.
There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to with him but I also had some guests coming over and they were expecting dinner. I was not quite done cooking. Our friend, Paulo, volunteered to go with Mary and Igor to the hospital so that I could finish cooking and wait for the other guests to arrive. As Paulo and Mary got their stuff together to leave, Igor and I were alone in the room for a few minutes. It was at this moment that Igor started crying. He was upset that his relationship with Ana Paula had ended. He said that he decided to leave the Project because he cannot live with her anymore. It was the first time that I have seen Igor so vulnerable and lost. He expressed that he felt as if he was losing everything and he did not want to go back to the streets. I told him that we will figure something out together but for now, we need to get him to the hospital. We were concerned as there is a dengue epidemic here. He had some of the symptoms. Before he left with Mary and Paulo, he gave me a big hug and thanked me for listening. I hardly did anything except to listen to him for a few minutes.
After they left for the hospital, I prayed that God would give us wisdom to deal with this crisis. I told myself that I needed to handle one thing at a time. My friends were due to arrive soon and I prepared something quick so that they would at least have something to eat. They arrived promptly and I explained what happened. It opened an opportunity for us to talk about our work with them. They talked about Igor and his life in the streets. They became interested in getting to know him and asked how they could help. It has been some time since I had the idea of introducing this group of friends to Igor. They were slightly older than him. Most of them come from lower middle class backgrounds. They have had their fair share of struggles and life is still hard for them. They are still trying to figure out how to live their lives to fulness. They don’t have the answer but they are hopeful in finding them. They will bring some positive light into Igor’s life and I believe that they will be blessed as we are by knowing him.
Paulo came home alone about eleven o’clock. He informed me that Igor had to get some blood test for dengue fever and the results would only be out in three hours. This meant he had to wait in the emergency room until then. Mary was with him and I was to join them. I packed some food for them and got there about midnight after a forty minutes walk. Igor looked better. He was given some medication and it was taking effect. All three of us sat there and waited. There were a quite a number of people waiting just like us. Some felt well enough to strike up a conversation and Igor started talking to an elderly woman who had fallen in a bus. She received treatment for injury and was waiting until sunrise to go home. She lived alone and did not want to go home alone in the night. It was interesting to see how Igor interacted with her. He gave her his full attention and engaged her for a good part of our wait. She asked Igor who we were to him and he said that we were his relatives.
Three hours came and went and there was no sign of any results. Finally, at about 3 a.m., Igor asked if he could to come back tomorrow to get the test result. Usually, this is not allowed under Brazilian Law. They cannot release any patient suspected of serious illness to leave the medical premises without permission from the doctor. Igor had a word with the medical staff and then he came out of the room smiling. He got the permission.
The three of us walked the dangerous streets of São Paulo at 3 a.m. There was hardly anyone around. We did not feel afraid and we were talking about Igor’s future. We encouraged him to return to the Project. We told him that it was not too late if he went back right away. It was less than twenty four hours. We found out later that the Project gave people a three day grace period. Igor went back to our place for coffee and some snacks and then we paid his taxi to return to the project. It was 4.30 am.
Thankfully, Igor did not lose his space. He has still a place to stay. As for his relationship with Ana Paula, we are not sure about its future. As a rule, we respect the privacy of our young people. We do not ask anything about their relationships unless they volunteer the information. Ana Paula and Igor have been together for five years. This is a long time for teenagers/young adults living in the streets.
Igor came back the next day to our house. He picked up the test results and they were negative. He was feeling a lot better. He thanked us for going with him to the hospital. Despite the stress, we were glad that Igor came to us. In a way we signed up for this kind of stress. When we opened our hearts to these young people, we agreed to be there for them when they needed us. I am glad that Igor knows that we can be trusted to help him in his most vulnerable moments.