April 15, 2012
I sat down at my computer today to tell you how I walked around a favela, one of those notoriously impoverished, crime-ridden communities huddled on the hills of Rio de Janeiro. But I’ve changed my mind. Instead I’m going to tell you a story about a land far away – 5,800 miles to be exact.
It was 7.30pm on Good Friday when my news editor wandered past my desk. “You know what darlin’,” she said (she really talks like that) “There’s a 13-year-old girl who’s been missing two days now. She might just have run away but, you know, it’s a quiet night. Why don’t you go and have a chat with her mum and see what happened?”
Forty minutes later, I pulled onto a street in which mine was the only car. I parked, I knocked and the girl’s mother let me in. Her house was bare, save for a few chairs on the carpet-free floor and a sofa that had seen better days. There was a puppy and several kids though, including an eight-year-old who had his nose pressed against the window.
“Is that your car?” he asked me excitedly. “What is it?”
“It’s a Vauxhall Corsa,” I replied, trying not to smile.
Four years have passed since that night but I remember it perfectly. It either altered the way I see the world or it confirmed simmering doubts I didn’t know I had. The girl’s mother was vague. Her kid was a runner – always disappearing somewhere. Maybe she was being bullied at school but, then again, maybe she wasn’t even going to school. Her mother had no idea.