No Front Wheel | Teen Ink

No Front Wheel

December 19, 2011
By Marianna GOLD, Andover, Massachusetts
Marianna GOLD, Andover, Massachusetts
10 articles 6 photos 1 comment

The boys on the bikes are free. They have no worries except to be home by dinner. The wind flows through their hair and tickles their shining eyes. I want to be like the boys on the bikes.

They have tricks, those boys. And they ride around like the stray dogs, in their packs. They cackle and howl like the dogs, and fight for their turf as well. The boys are sometimes joined by a tough younger sister; she is wild and carefree as well. But my brothers won’t let me play, stay home with Ma, they say. And mamãe has me take care of the tartarugas, in their rock enclosure. Home is boring, the sun shines and beckons me outside, but mamãe makes me stay and learn to be a lady.

The boys on the bikes are exciting. They can turn their flimsy pieces of metal into stages for death defying feats. They ride up and down the hills, with cobblestones and bumps. Flying down the streets of São Bento, they come. One boy is special. He rides, flanked by his two friends, and leans back on just his one wheel. The front is naked, just two rods sticking out into the air. But Thiago is fearless; it is easy for him to maneuver his one-wheeled bike.

Outside our home, late at night the teenagers flip and jump and share their bikes. On each other’s shoulders and doing handstands on the bars, they are immortal and have no fear of falling. My brothers are too young to play with them; mamãe says that at night the dogs are wild and unpredictable.

Americans came to São Bento in the summer. They visited the schools and spoke through a translator. She was a girl from the city. I liked her, like me she was short. Even though the American was younger than her by three years, the translator was tiny compared to the foreign girl. But she was smart and passionate about what they had to say. And she took the flat and loud American sounds and made them beautiful and soft in Portuguese.

The girl said she went to college and that we could too. The boys with the bikes laughed. They whispered to each other about what they though girls could be doing instead, and the translator with fiery eyes snapped at them. The American asked what they said, but my translator shook her head.

In town everyone knows the Americans are here. They walk down the street, excited by our colorful houses and stores, and they lift their faces to the sun. The Brazilian boys on bikes make eyes at them. They are curious and do lazy circles as they stand on the pedals, watching at a safe distant. I was staring out my window when the Americans walked by, the boys down the street yelled, Ay it’s the Americans! And the fiery-eyed translator looked up and smiled secretly at me.

The author's comments:
I wrote this a couple months after I went to Brazil. I am the American and the translator is a real, amazing girl that I met. I loved the town I stayed in and it was absolutely beautiful. But I did notice that there was unfair treatment of girls.

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