The Fourth Man I Beat Up

Sometimes you don’t need to beat someone up in order to beat someone up.

My doll after being stepped on by “The Devil”

My cousin Bernardo was nicknamed “Capeta”, or, in free translation: “The Devil”. He used to be always angry, untamed, and never listen to his parents. He would break a dozen video game consoles throwing them against the wall whenever he didn’t get to win. And his parents would buy a brand new one for him. He wouldn’t have dinner at the table if he wasn’t hungry. That’s how much he was spoiled: there was no “I’m not eating now” in a Brazilian family back then. You had to sit down at the table with the family, at the time chosen by your grandmother, and you had to eat. And if you dared to eat just a little bit, they wouldn’t stop talking about it until you eat the exact amount of food they thought was good for you.

Bernardo had no reason to be so angry, his mom used to spoil him saying he was handsome and smart. His dad would approve his tantrums, praising his “manly” way of dealing with things. The stories of his tantrums would be shared with laughter at family dinners. But, let’s be rational: a tantrum is a response of someone who’s unaware of his own environment or truth. A little boy throws himself on the floor crying after being repressed because he doesn’t know that putting his finger in the outlet would electrocute him. Some adult men don’t grow out of these lessons. But because they’re often aggressive, we think they may be right. That was the case for my cousin. The truth is he was a bully to us, the younger female cousins. I don’t know if he was a bully at school or if he was brave only under his parent’s wings. Probably the latter.

Bernardo “Capeta” was mean and everyone in the family thought it was OK. His aggressiveness was praised by my uncles and aunties and he was the hero of my younger male cousins. But my younger female cousins and I thought he sucked. Because we were the target of his devilish behaviour, we were the butt of his jokes. I’m glad I didn’t live in the same city as him — my cousins who did avoided him like one avoids the Devil. Or the “Capeta”. But usually, during the holidays my parents, brothers and I went to this city in the middle of Brazil, the city I was born in (Rio Verde), to visit part of our family that lived there. Once, when I was ten (and Bernardo was 18), we went to Rio Verde to spend Christmas with my relatives. I didn’t want to go because Bernardo would be there, but when you’re ten years old you don’t have much saying. At least in the 90s. I told my mom I didn’t want to hang out with him and my mom shamed me about not “liking our family”. My mom always tried to shame me when I wasn’t nice to people in my family, even when people where not nice to me. Even if Bernardo didn’t try to be nice to anyone. He was allowed to have this behaviour, though, because he was a man.

As soon as my family and I arrived in Rio Verde I met my female cousins at my uncle’s house and we started playing with our dolls on the living room floor. About ten minutes in Bernardo came and stepped on our dolls. He was an eighteen year old man. I hated him not only for staining my doll with his shoes, but for doing that because he was way bigger than us and knew we couldn’t do much about it. That happened at my very first day in Rio Verde, and after that I stayed quiet and by myself. I didn’t want to play with my cousins anymore, I just wanted to be left alone. So I would grab a book and be in a corner by myself, away from everybody. But he would come and call me names. I would only stare at him and be silent. He would laugh his butt off.

On the third day, it was Christmas’ dinner. The adults went to my uncle’s house, where the dinner would take place and left the children at Bernardo’s, where we were hosted, trusting him to take us there later. I was in his bedroom reading, since his bedroom was being used to host his female cousins. During this period, he slept in the living room with his male cousins. I heard my cousins getting ready to leave and I stayed in the bedroom since I was already set to go. I hadn’t put on a dress or a shiny shoe because I was hating that trip, Bernardo was making me feel miserable. My cousins got ready, I heard them talking about waiting my two other cousins who were coming back from the candy store, so I stayed in the bedroom. About fifteen minutes later, Bernardo came in, and at first I thought he was going to call me to leave to the party, but instead he locked the door from the outside and said:

-We’re leaving, bye! — and laughed.

I knocked the door demanding him to open it. He laughed even more and said:


I yelled to my other cousins, but they were already outside. I’m not sure if they didn’t see what Bernardo was doing or if they saw it but didn’t want to get into a fight with him in order to unlock me. I believe it was the latter. And I got mad. I yelled for about three minutes, until I almost lost my voice. I wasn’t yelling words anymore, I was just yelling. The more I yelled, the more I got angry — I was having a nervous breakdown. I looked around and I saw his CD collection. He loved music and was a CD collector. His stuff was very organized, like the mama boy he was. He was proud of that CD collection, he used to show it off to all the cousins — most of us didn’t have the money to buy a single CD, which made the collection even more impressive to us. In the middle of my nervous breakdown an idea struck me like lightning: I can’t hurt him physically, because I’m ten and he’s eighteen, but I can destroy something he loves and hurt him anyways. So I yelled:

-Hey, Bernardo, do you like your CDs? — and I grabbed one of his CD boxes and smashed it against the wall. Then I grabbed another one, and another one.

I managed to break up a bunch of Bernardo’s CD cases

-What the fuck are you doing? — he yelled from the porch.

I heard him running back into the house. Then unlocking the living room door. He would kill me. I heard his steps toward his bedroom, where I was. He was going to beat me up for sure. I heard him unlocking the bedroom’s door. A cold wind went through my spine, I was in danger. My hair had unleashed from the hair tie during the breakdown, I was sweating and breathing heavily. I looked like an insane person in an asylum. I was ten. I heard the door unlocking. I grabbed another CD box, the last one, and got ready. As soon as he opened the door I trowed the CD box into his face. I don’t think it hurt him, because it was the strength of a ten year old girl, but the surprise made him light-headed, I took advantage and ran.

I ran to my uncle’s house, where the party was taking place. It was about fifteen blocks away and I was breathless when I got there. Bernardo arrived right after me, yelling, he was insane. He asked everyone’s attention and told what I did. What I did. I. He was the one having a nervous breakdown now. He wanted to kill me, my three uncles had to hold him back. His mom, super protective, yelled at me:

-Why did you do that, Carol?

-Because he locked me in the bedroom and was going to leave me there. — I said.

-That’s not true, I was going to unlock her as soon as we left! — said the liar.

-That’s a lie, you were all leaving! — I defended myself.

-Carol, you shouldn’t do that! — his mom said.

-No, HE shouldn’t lock me in a room and I DON’T REGRET WHAT I DID. — I was assertive, they knew they wouldn’t take anything from me from that point on.

My mom didn’t say anything, and her sister — Bernardo’s mom — knew that was the code for “I’m not scolding my child”. Seeing that my mom wouldn’t do anything about it, she started scolding me herself. She started yelling things like “girls shouldn’t do this kind of thing” to which I would answer “I DON’T REGRET WHAT I DID”; she would then yell more and I would repeat that I had no regrets. This went on until my mom finally told me to stop talking back to my aunt.

I entered a bedroom, laid down on a bed and closed my eyes. I had won. I didn’t have the strength to beat him up — which is what I wanted to do — but destroying his CDs hurt him as bad as a punch. Sometimes you don’t need to beat someone up in order to beat someone up.