Point-to-Point

Lampposts in a favela and in life: Point-to-point.

You have to show impetus. Even if you are going to get stuck ahead. Even if it’s a one-way ticket. Only in this way do you honor past combatants, set an example for the present ones, and inspire those of the future. Point-to-point, more than an effective technique of tactical progression, is a statement of petulance: you will not stand still — no matter the circumstances. And, more than that: you go forward. You do not go around. You do not retreat to advance. You just go. The straight line is the shortest distance between two points, isn’t it? Yes, so keep going. From dash to dash, you draw a line and advance. From point to point. There is more than violence in combat. There is a certain wisdom. Show momentum and you progress toward your goal. Because if you retire at this most difficult time — if you loose the impetus — then you won’t go anymore.

You are looking at death closely, very closely, and you are laughing at it. How many people at that time look at you and think, “What’s this for? What’s the point?” They do not know why they let themselves stop, and the world standing behind the lamppost is another world completely different from that between lampposts. Behind it, you are an animal; your survival instinct preserves you, makes you return home to your wife and children; there you do not kill, but you do not die either.

If you are one the “bravest” of this kind, when the shots give a truce you put your rifle to play. You do not show your face. That would be too much. And for what? Your rifle can do the work, even if it has no rhyme or reason, no direction or course, no right destination. But damn it, it’s just a favela, and no one who is worth a dime is awake at this hour in the middle of such a shooting, or is it not? This is the famous “exchange of fire.” Two groups of cowards shooting at random, making noise in order to scare each other off, both wanting to avoid the clash like vampires fleeing from the cross.

When silence finally comes as a blessing from a father, shame is almost not felt at once. The adrenaline runs free; sweat runs loose; all this can not have been for nothing. You feel that something is wrong but ignores the feeling. Or try. As you recover, the strangeness increases, giving way to looks that try to find a culprit for that inactivity. You and your team have not advanced more than two lampposts, and now you see the entire street of the favela, tapering like a black hole toward infinity — and deep down close to infinity you know there are eight men. But you’d better forget about it. After all, they are crazy and all they want is to get killed. This doesn’t make sense and everyone knows it.

You and yours ignore each other’s resentful gaze; you pretend to yourselves that if your leader had gone you would have gone too.

You would have, but you have not.

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