By Jonas Gerken
There are many sounds in Brazil that I am terrified of. Gunshots, fireworks (which sound very close to gunshots), and the screaming cigarho bugs that begin their screech at three in the morning, are a few of these such noises. But the worst of them all is that dreaded intercom doorbell.
When family is home the ring is only a minor threat. Normally there is somebody else who is closer to the interphone or is not otherwise occupied who can answer. Sometimes I can coax my five year old host brother to answer it so that, upon not knowing what to do with the guest on the phone, he hollers for his parents who deal with the situation, and I’m off the hook. And then there are times when I can just put in my headphones and act like I didn’t hear it. But there are always those moments, those solitary moments, when the buzzer rings unadvised and I am frozen in my tracks.
The house is empty, and I know it is, yet I wait hoping to hear footsteps coming down the hall upstairs, or a door swinging open signifying relief. But I am met with no response from the house, and the poor patron at the gate, whoever it may be, is left with the same ungratifying silence. It is at this point that I must make a crucial decision, one which can have future ramifications that I cannot foresee. I can let the buzzer ring, acting as if there is nobody home, and let my ignorance comfort me. But what if my host parents told the visitors that I was home, in which case I would be dishonest and both I and my host parents would be disappointed. It is a risk too often not worth it. So then my other option is to pick up the interphone, and briefly converse with the visitor in Portuguese.