Please do not touch the art. The first art is a bag of bloodied soccer balls. We do not touch the art. We shuffle in silence. The next art is a massive flag, so massive that it drapes around the entire room housing this exhibit. I lose her for a minute, but then I see her and the panic goes away for the time being. My sister is crying—I wonder why until I see the film and register the unbearable noise. It is people. Thousands of people all crying and screaming and tearing at their clothes and lighting torches and shouting in unison. The film changes and they are new, a different angle, a different side of the coliseum, all screaming and crying and tearing at their clothes and lighting torches and marching and clapping in unison.
I watch and I am afraid. I think about the guns and the fire and the war that is happening outside of those walls. I am terrified for the teams and the losing side and what hate is growing inside of the small, stepped-on people high up in the crowd. I wonder if the smoke stings their eyes. I try to fit their Portuguese into my Spanish. I fail and I look up each word individually, torn from their paragraphs. I feel the panic building in me and I have to leave. I claw my way out of the flag.
3. Juntos num só ritmo.
We paid a lot of money to look at flags and footballs. I want to touch them all, but I doubt that will help me to understand. We love the World Cup in the same way we love the first day of school and comparing maps and absorbing museums. So much of me finds satisfaction in collections and organization, and the entire world is so neatly packaged in these games. I want to know so much more about these packages: who made them, who thought fans would respond best to those colors with that country, who decides why these people matter and to whom. Heather is two rooms ahead, tracing the names of players and artists on the plaque on the wall. I imagine myself on the worst teams and write different versions of my biography for different channels and papers around the world.
I wonder how I would collect and organize the players. I fear the deep inadequacy and jealousy I would feel next to Ronaldo and Messi. Their familiarity will hurt my ability to package and categorize and file away the teams. I’m not sure where to put the final players, after all, these games are chameleons. This museum tells me in English that games belong with religion, with war, and with art. My sister will know. I will remind her to tell me.
I have brought my sister to this gallery, in her new city, to touch the art, hoping our time together will somehow force her to never forget me. I want to hold her hand and have us both touch paintings and sculptures and flags and not have to discuss anything and pretend we will never be apart. I want to leave our fingerprints as claims to the messages these pieces are proselytizing. But it would just be another layer of dirt and another film for someone, wrapped in noise and curtains, to review.
Later, when we are looking at a map of Brazil made out of pop cans and lighters, I ask my sister why she was crying. My sister wants to shape these cages and hallways in a few years, and she can hear the way a room should be arranged in order to help others categorize the past. She tells me she thought it was beautiful. All those people, together as one body, one voice. She said it’s how she pictures heaven. She says it’s the antithesis of war; one voice celebrating victory and power. I think about this vicious city, and I am afraid again. I hope it will be beautiful to her.