That One Mario of Fontainhas


That One Mario of Fontainhas
Photograph by Eshna Benegal

The newspaper slapped the table as it landed. Boldly, it read:
The past few weeks had Mondays starting with sensational headlines and wonky statistics: “¾ MEN IN FONTAINHAS ARE NAMED MARIO”

The Christmas spirit was in full swing for all the Marios and the rest in quaint Fontainhas. Houses lit up with baubles and tinsel, cribs and baby Jesuses. For all, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. In other towns, Christmas looked white. For the residents of Fontainhas, Christmas looked dhinchak. With aunties and uncles parading in their Christmas best – pearls around their neck exchanging patais with their patraos and gossiping about the Alexandrea next door and her daughter who was spotted braless at a party with a boy. It was time for family, dressing up and kitschy Christmas decor for all but one Mario in one house with one Alexandrea. Mario, a hard-working boy of Fontainhas was having a difficult marriage. Well, the difficulty hadn’t started there. Mother Dearest had had her way with him his entire life. Most recently, she had shipped him off to the Gulf and when he returned, she shipped him off to Fointainhas with his new wife Alexandrea. Alexandrea didn’t want to get married, neither did Mario. But here they were. Statistically, a child is born within 2 years of marriage in Fontainhas. There was no child, no marriage either. Earlier that year, Mario had also lost his job. It is safe to say he was not feeling the Christmas spirit, he hadn’t been for a long time now. 

That Monday morning Mario arose at 11 am, earlier than usual. Mornings were the hardest. The bed allowed him a space for anonymity, facelessness. He could sink in and disappear. This morning, much like 95% of his mornings, his body felt like lead. He stared at the ceiling hoping a gaze long enough would dislodge it and the ceiling would come crashing down on him. Ugh. A wavering sigh. Mario rolled his eyes at the dread that cozied itself in his heart. How much longer would it be there? Lonesome, listless, he dragged his weight up and out of bed. On the table outside a loaf of bread, tea and the morning papers. Alexandrea had gone to work. ¾ people in Fontainhas have a lazy eye. Mario was one of the three. He rubbed his lazy eye and glanced at the paper with the other. He read the headline and for the first time in a long time Mario’s eyes shone. He had found an answer. 

That morning Mario walked with purpose for the first time in years. He thought about what he read today. People die kissing on Mistle Top. The last kiss he had had was when he was 16. It was with that one Maria, no not that Maria, the other Maria, that one Maria who had given him a quick but effective peck near the fort. ¾ girls in Fontainhas are named Maria. 

He went to the market. The fish was all sold out, without a frown he bought pork. He walked through the streets while Maria’s house, not that Maria, the other Maria, that one Maria’s house put the finishing touches on their Christmas decorations; a huge golden star on the roof. 2/3rd houses in Fontainhais have gone for the “make-your-house-only-look-like-a-christmas-tree look” this holiday season. Today, Mario looked happy. And everyone in Fontainhas knew because that one gossiping aunty told them all. And so, while Alexandrea walked back home, the aunties of Fontainhas congratulated her and prayed that she has a smooth delivery. The bread loaf that day was thrown at the walls and the pork stayed uncooked in the fridge. Mario was even more determined to get to the top. 

Mistle Top was a new creation by the youth. It was a spot on top of the hill where a rain tree curved just before touching a 6 foot tall boy named Mario, different Mario, and was a foot above that one girl called Maria, same Maria. Mario and Maria kissed on Christmas day and as the aunties say, they got pregnant the next day. Two weeks later they were married, two years later, Maria gave birth to the third Mark in a 10-metre radius of Fontainhas. Since then, the good boys and good girls of Fontainhas have gone there on Christmas day to find love that’ll last them a lifetime and some just a night. But for most of them, according to the papers, they fell off while making passionate love to each other. 

The day the bread loaf was thrown at the wall – it was the 23rd of December. Breadcrumbs near his head, Mario tossed and turned on the mattress in the living room. If there was anything worse than waking up, it was falling asleep. The dead of the night gave rise to bigger demons than he would like to admit. In his dreams, Mario saw a woman. Her radiance blinded his vision. She floated on air and her skin was as white as pearls. Her beautiful golden hair created whisps behind her as she walked towards him. She reached out and held his hands. The coolness of her touch made Mario tremble. She walked with him to what looked like a pit of pure iridescent light. The coolness left his fingers as the woman dissolved into the hues of white and Mario woke up. 

That One Mario of Fontainhas
Photograph by Eshna Benegal

The sweet smell of Neureos and Medimix filled the air. Alexandrea was packing boxes filled with Marzipan, cookies, small tarts and Mario’s favourite, Neureo. His heart began to swell. Mario stood up and ran out of the house. Neureo reminded him of his mother, he didn’t like her much anymore. His breath hastened as he walked out of his house. Mario had lost his father when he was 10. Father Dearest was a musician. He would play in the small hotels made for white people in the city. According to the statistics, more white people enjoy it when brown people sing white people songs. And so, he did. Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Eagles, he sang the lot. Mario wanted to be like his father. Mother Dearest wanted Mario to make money. And so, Mario did. After father dearest passed, his guitar was sold. The records of his favourite musicians were sold. His clothes were sold. At the age of 11, Mario began working as a delivery boy. Then some patrao who knew them took him into their restaurant as a waiter. After school he would go to the shack, change, and begin serving drinks to the Marios and Marias of the world. In between shifts, he would be found sitting behind the bar counter peering into his books. Mario had to be smart. “Otherwise how will you go to the Gulf when you grow up?” Mother Dearest had said. And so, after college, he went to the Gulf and the rest you already know.   

The aunties watched as Mario roamed the streets in his house slippers, breathing heavily. Every street in Fontainhas now thought that they had lost the child. Statistics say that words in Fontainhas travel faster than light itself. Must be right only. 

Looking up at the big clock near the square, Mario realised it was now 11:45 pm. Midnight mass would start and then he could go to the hilltop. Window to window, Mario peaked into the church to see if he could find his mother. As expected, Mother Dearest sat in the front showing off her new necklace, her bejewelled shoes and satin skirt. All of which came from Mario’s savings. Next to her was Alexandrea. She looked nice only in the new red dress she bought. Mario went to the back of the church. When asked to pray Mario stood and apologised to God for what he was about to do. He was also angry at him. He wanted to know why he didn’t protect him, why he didn’t help him when he needed it. But all of that is in the past now. It was time to take control. Before the crowd dispersed, Mario slipped away. 

The bushes on the hill glimmered oddly in the moonlight. Shiny Christmas dresses and suits of hormonal teenagers sparkled as they did dirty dirty in the bushes. Mario felt underdressed. Trying not to look at the bushes he carried on when- Snap! His chappal broke. Great timing. Was this a sign? Mario thought. “No, Mario you have to do this,” he told himself. Someone in the bushes turned. “No no, I was talking to myself ,” he said. 

At the top, the city sparkled, looking like a tangle of mirchi lights. Mario inched towards the edge. He held on tightly to the tip of the raintree branch and craned his neck. He gasped. The drop was far. He slowly came back. He breathed. Statistics say that ¼th of the people who go to Mistle Top go there to commit suicide. This was the first time Mario was part of the lesser half of a statistic. Mistle Top was also Fontainhas’ one and only suicide point, ironic. Mario looked around to see if anyone was watching and soon realised, looking at the shiny bushes, the probability of that was close to zero. Mario prayed. Thanked God and stepped forward with a tenderness he wishes his mother had shown him. His mother. Oh, his mother! This is all her fault. Tears started streaming down his face. At least this way he wouldn’t have to look down when he let go. His mother had done this to him. How could she? How could a mother not see her child’s pain? How could life have been so unforgiving. Mario prayed once again. For good luck. One step after the other he moved closer and closer and closer. The tears were blinding. He breathed lightly before – BAM! He was on the ground. He had slipped on his torn chappal and had landed on his bum. A pain shot through his gluteus maximus. He took off the chappal in anger and chucked it down the cliff. He waited. Hoping to hear the chappal landing. He didn’t. 

He got up again. Looked around again, for what God alone knows. He moved forward, prayed, thanked and before he knew it – A tap. He turned around, eyes blazing with anger. A young couple wanted to “have a moment” they said. They were from different religions and if she gets pregnant then the families would have to say yes. That’s the problem with Mario, he has a soft heart. “Ya sure, have your Christmas miracle,” he said. Mario stepped away. He sat by the rain tree looking away, 3/4th of the time. 1/4th of the time he glanced over to see these two engaged in passionate face eating. Who will tell them that you don’t get pregnant like that, not this Mario for sure. 

Half of Fontainhas the bushes cleared out by the time these two were. Stamina. Once they left, Mario got up, dusted his bum and went to try again. 

Mario prayed, once again. Thanked God, once again and stepped forward, once again. His naked food dangled over the edge as he filled his mind with thoughts of his mother. But this time he could think of nothing. His mind was blank. He leaned forward. His weight keenly shifted over the cliff’s edge – BAM! Mario was on the mud again. “Babies are made through sex!” he yelled. He looked up. It was Alexandrea. She looked scared. He got up and dusted his clothes. 

Statistics say 1/16th of the people who come to commit suicide on that hill get saved by someone. 1/4th of them get saved by a loved one. ½ of them actually love each other. Mario was once again on the lesser half of the statistic. 

Alexandrea and Mario kissed that night for the first time, not on top of the hill but in their bedroom. They showed those young shiny bushes how babies are actually made. And as for Mario’s dread, it took a while to tame, as do the hardest/most rewarding things in life. With Andrea’s hand, he was able to see that iridescent pure light often enough. It burned the brightest the day his child was born. He swore that day that he would always be on the lesser side of the statistics, for he had read somewhere that 3/4th of the children of Fontainhas never follow their dreams. He and his child would not be any of them.

P.S. None of the statistics mentioned in this essay are accurate. None of the mentions of accuracy mentioned in this essay are accurate. 3/4th of this essay would therefore be classified as inaccurate. But what else is fiction anyway?

Eshna Benegal Photo

Eshna Benegal

Eshna is a video editor, writer and dancer based out of Bangalore, India. She has written for online journals such as LiveWire and Indigenous. She comes with a relentless love for nonsense, flowers and trashy reality TV.  Her instagram id is eshna.benegal 


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