I’ll set the scene.
Late 2008 and I’d recently arrived in Rio de Janeiro where I had begun working with a favela community project. It involved English, drama and arts classes amongst other things, and all said activities took place under a shelter just off the main road of the neighbourhood and made up of a board, chairs and tables.
The system wasn’t a traditional classroom one with timetables and registers. Basically there’d be a few of us there between 7pm and 9pm every day, ready to work with students who arrived at any time they could, group sizes varying. It was all very spontaneous and I keenly improvised depending on group sizes, levels and arrival times.
I’d happily been getting on with teaching English like this for a few weeks until one day, pushing 8.30pm, a portly, bespectacled, middle-aged man began to climb the few stairs leading to our classroom. A new student, I supposed. As he approached, I ushered him over, willing him to participate with the others who’d gathered. But he gestured with his palm to say that he’d wait. Perhaps he wished to have a chat with me about how the classes were run. Or maybe he just wanted to get to know me.
Anyway, I finished my class and the students began to file out, yet the new visitor remained. When he sensed that I was free of them, he made his move and introduced himself. I unfortunately don’t remember his name, so let’s just consider him for now as the daddy. We initiated a chat and he asked me a few questions.
Where are you from? How long have you been here? How long do you plan to stay? How old are you? Standard questions really, though in something of an interrogatory tone. He asked me as if completing a form and I noticed a slight glow in his eyes as he found out I was from that distant paradise known as Inglaterra.
He went on to tell me that he had a daughter who was very interested in English and I naively assumed where the conversation was going. He wanted his daughter to come and do a few classes with the project, but he’d wanted to check us out first and ask a few questions.
Not only was his daughter interested in English, he informed me, she was even keener on English men. I realised that it might not be just English classes that the daddy wanted from me. But who was I to complain about a man sounding out his daughter for me? Brazilians girls are rightly famed for their beauty and here I was possibly being set up with one. Clearly, there was a risk that she wasn’t that hot, but it could be worth pursuing.
Well, it’s her birthday in a couple of weeks, he said, and I was thinking you could maybe help me out with that. I urged him to continue and tell me how I could be of help.
Well, actually I wanted YOU to be her present.
I gulped. Sure, it was great to be offered as a present to a girl on her birthday, but obviously there was a little pressure on me. I was still at the tender age of 20, early into my Brazil adventure and admittedly hadn’t yet got going, if you get what I mean. Brazilian women have rather a reputation when it comes to nocturnal activities, and I didn’t want to let anybody down.
Clearly, with the daddy I was all smiles and already imagining how it all might turn out and he must have noticed me fall into something of a daydream. In order to not be rude, I casually asked how old she was.
She’ll be 15.
He must have noticed my eyes bulge and my nostrils flare, but regardless, he added, with a wry smile that still perturbs me:
And she’s still a virgin.
I managed to keep a straight face and calmly told him that we’d have to see and that we could talk about it another time as I was suddenly in a hurry and really had to go and that my friends were waiting for me to go to dinner. And there I was shaking his hand and bidding farewell.
At the time I was definitely shocked and afraid of being strung up and stoned for rape, but upon telling my Brazilian friends, they told me that there was no cultural problem in having relations with girls that young as they were considered women as soon as they physically appeared so. I also learned that basically all of them had slept with an underage at some point and they were surprised I considered it such a shock.
I don’t know what impression I caused on the daddy, because he never came looking for me again.
Needless to say, nobody has since requested my person as a birthday prize.