Diogo, pt. 1
“Back in my day, we knew how to dress.” Diogo said as he flipped through old photos of the family during one of their visits.
“We know, avô!” His grandchildren exclaimed. “You tell us every Sunday! But that was 40 years ago!”
It was a different time back then when war had ended. Diogo immigrated as a child with his family from Brazil then later served in the Army.
Now, in 1985, the fashion and the culture were different.
Diogo lived a full life, he was happy and content. His six children were successful and his grandchildren were smart, strong, and witty.
Every Sunday, they get together to have dinner and celebrate one another. However, today is his youngest daughter, Flora’s, 22nd birthday celebration.
Despite his love and adoration for his other children, his relationship with Flora was closer to his heart. She was a surprise to her 38-year-old parents, being 13 years younger than her closest sibling. At that time, having children when the mother was older than 30 was considered a risk. So, they considered her somewhat of a miracle. Most of her life, she was the only one at home so she grew up somewhat of an only child.
After the eating and partying, she opened a few presents. Clothing and jewelry were at the forefront along with a few books and a bottle of perfume.
She sprayed the perfume on her wrist and stuck the fragrance in everyone’s face to share the adoring scent of tuberose, rosewood, and geranium. “Give it a smell pai!” Diogo consented and inhaled.
Diogo froze in his seat. His heart dropped into the pit of his stomach. “Where did you get that?” He asked.
“It’s Dolce Tuberose. Marco gave it to me. Do you like it?”
“I, yes, it’s very nice.”
Diogo stood up and walked to the backyard. He looked out to the city landscape from his house atop the hills of San Diego, California.
“Saudade…” he whispered as the fragrance lingered in his nostrils. His mind drifted and he clutched his chest.
A single tear streamed down his cheek.
Flora followed him outside and watched him. He was so consumed; he didn’t hear her.
“Pai! Are you okay?!”
He snapped up and looked at her.
“Yes, yes, amor…”
“What’s wrong?” She asked as she wiped away the tear.
“Nothing is wrong, amor. It is your perfume.”
The pacific breeze blew, the noise from the party was dull and steady.
“What’s wrong with my perfume?”
“It has given me saudade.”
“What has it made you long for?”
“A woman? What woman?! What about mom?! Who is Iara, pai?”
“Amor, your heart is capable of loving others. Your heart is very powerful and big. Love is important. How you love needs distinction but THAT you love, should not be questioned. Iara was pure love. She was a force of love. I could not deny her.”
I met Diogo in Balboa Park in 1940. The San Diego area was perfect for the large migration of Brasileiros that had entered the United States. We had sunshine, sand, and beaches. We ran around the city the way we did back in Costa da Lagoa.
We were both 15 years old at the time and experiencing a new world.
That day, there was a festival in the park and there was plenty of dancing, food, and art. I saw him from across the gardens and immediately knew he was the one.
He was wearing a white shirt with pants that hugged his waist and glided as he danced. He was dancing samba with a girl that I knew would be no competition for me.
I grabbed the hand of a random homem that was sitting and watching; I walked him across the plaza and danced circles around him. He had no idea what he was doing.
Diogo saw me and looked more intently at his partner. I could tell he would be a challenge.
I twirled and moved with precision. I hoped to enchant him but he continued to ignore me. At this point, I became fed up and just inserted myself in between him and his partner. She cursed at me and walked away because Diogo said nothing.
The band began playing a slower song, bossa nova.
He tried to move away, but I would not let him go. His face held a look of surprise.
“What is your name?” He asked.
“Iara.” I said, staring down his machismo.
“I am Diogo.”
He never looked away from my eyes. The strong wall of machismo he tried to show had crumbled when I put my head on his chest.
We looked into each other’s eyes for the rest of the day. We said everything without saying anything. By the end of the day, he told me he would marry me.
We went to different schools but saw each other almost every day. We did everything together; dancing, eating, watching the motion pictures, more dancing, talking all night on the beach, and kissing on my parent’s porch swing.
Our friends were leaving to go fight in the war. He made plans to go and fight as well. He said that he “wanted to give something back to the country that blessed me with this life and with you.”
As much as I did not want to be apart, I understood. Everyone wanted to help in any way.
After high school, he left for basic training and I began working in the Consolidated Aircraft factory making planes for the war. The days in the factory were long and tiring but both the men and the women kept up with production.
He would be coming back before being sent to Europe, something not everyone did. We heard that it was horrible and so many soldiers were dying. I hoped to see him if only for a few minutes.
My aunt knew he would be coming back and gave me a bottle of her favorite perfume, Dolce Tuberose. She knew this short time would be special for us.
I loved how it smelled.
We were walking on the beach on Coronado Island the night he returned. He looked so handsome. He held my hand and I had never felt so safe and happy.
Then he got down on one knee.
He said, “Iara, I have prayed every night since we’ve met, thanking God for you. I have received blessing from my family. Your father has given me permission. I have loved you since the first time I looked into your beautiful eyes. I told you that day I would marry you. I do not intend to lie. Marry me, mi doce. Eu te amo.”
I said “Yes!” of course.
Two days later, we were married.
One week later, he was gone.
He wrote to me every month; he was so busy. His words were the sweet taste of wine in the time we were apart. I wrote back even more.
He spent so much time away, but we heard he would be coming back in April of 1946.
Diogo, pt. 2
I was so excited on the trip back home, that I could not wait. Going from the best days of your life to the worst, and seeing the worst things was very difficult for me. For all of us.
It had been about two years since I had last seen my bride. The boat ride back lasted eight days. They were the longed eight days of my life.
I still had the picture from our wedding which I looked at everyday since I left. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen; and the way she loved me carried me through the war. The letters she wrote were weeks before I read them but still had so much meaning.
She sprayed every letter with the perfume she wore when I proposed and on our wedding day. Despite the long journey, each letter still had fragrance on them.
Her kisses, her words, her touch, and our most meaningful moment together are connected to that scent.
When we were younger, something about her love overcame me. It covered me like a warm blanket. There was absolutely no doubt of the love I had for her and her me.
We were comfortable with each other from the very beginning. We knew each other’s spirit and after some time away, we would be together again...
When I returned, I walked into my home. My parents were not there. I went to her home, no one was there.
I walked down the street to our mercado, passing the church. I looked inside and saw a crowd. There was a service going on.
Something told me to walk inside.
As I got closer, I saw a casket... I knew.
I saw her parents faces when they looked over at me… I did not believe.
I quickly moved to the casket... I saw her and grabbed her stiff hand.
She was beautiful and peaceful; so beautiful and peaceful that I tried to wake her up… She did not wake up.
I fell to my knees.
I wept like a child. My hand did not let go of hers.
So many tears came.
I felt hands on my shoulders. The comfort of her family. They loved me almost as much as she did.
I stayed there with her for hours. When nighttime came, the priests made me leave. I did not want to be anywhere else. I was with my Iara.
I leaned in to kiss her goodbye and could smell her perfume.
I walked all night, all over the city.
I had lived through traveling across hundreds of miles of land, traveling across the ocean, hundreds of bullets and explosions missed me; only to come home and be wounded by a broken heart.
The next day I went to her parent’s home. They told me that she died in a factory fire trying to save others. Her love knew no limitations.
When I could gather the strength to love again, I met Ana.
I told Ana about Iara. I believe love will overcome anything that pride is not willing to let go.
Flora cried. She could not believe the story she just heard.
She hugged her father and they consoled each other. They watched as the city breathed, in silence. When they were ready, they returned to the party, even closer than before.