It's the typical tale of doomed Carnival romance: Boy spots girl in the sweaty crush of a street party. Moments later, they're locked in a passionate embrace. Then the crowd surges, and the human tide wrenches them apart, forever.
But this Carnival, there's hope for romances thus thwarted.
A blog offers star-crossed lovers the chance to find one another again. Called "Little Leopard, Where Are You?" in a coy reference to the kinds of colorful costumes Carnival revelers sport, the blog compiles emails from heartsick revelers seeking their lost crushes.
Rio's Carnival, which jammed into high gear on Saturday, is fertile terrain for romance and heartbreak: a five-day-long Bacchanalia where the music blasts, the alcohol flows and millions of barely dressed bodies press together into a pulsing, sweating, beer-guzzling mass of humanity where many have but one goal: To kiss as many partners as possible.
Popular wisdom has it that the celebrations are perilous for couples, though in truth probably as many marriages get their start during Carnival as end because of it.
The mission of "Little Leopard" is to tip the balance in favor of the former.
The blog's postings describe foiled encounters, giving as many identifying details as possible about the sought-after would-be lover. Each gives the seeker's email address and ends with a plaintive "Where are you?"
The blog reads like a compendium of the Murphy's Law of romance: Slips of paper with the precious digits, lost. Rendezvous missed due to snarled traffic or a faulty alarm clock. Simple shyness that keeps the right questions from being asked.
A typical posting goes something like this:
"I wasn't drunk, but I had a vision at Boitata," reads one entry, referring to one of Rio's more than 400 street parties, where as many as 2 million people converge to dance, drink and snog in the streets. "He was gorgeous, with curly hair, dressed as the Little Prince ... He was alone, maybe drunk, but his dancing was so joyful that he looked like a miracle. I was so entranced by his beauty that I didn't even dare get close. In a second, he disappeared.
"Did anyone see the Little Prince? Photos, information? Does he even exist?" the posting reads. "Little Prince, where are you?"
The brainchild of a blogger identified only as Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, "Little Leopard" was born last year as part of her bid to locate her own lost Carnival crush.
They crossed paths at "Sergento Pimenta," or "Sergeant Pepper," a wildly successful Beetles-themed street party. They kissed. Overwhelmed, she walked away without giving him her number or even her name.
Lucy soon decided to track him down. But she had precious little information to go on: only that he had been sporting a leopard-spotted headband.
The blog already has helped put several Carnival couples back in touch, Lucy reported in a recent post. Still, her leopard has remained elusive.
"He still hasn't showed up," she wrote. "I've kind of lost hope, but I'm having fun with the blog. That's what matters."
Revelers at the early morning "Ceu na Terra" or "Heaven on Earth" party in Rio's historic Santa Teresa neighbor were split on the usefulness of the blog.
"I think it's cool because sometimes you meet cool people during Carnival, but because of circumstances, you lose track of them," said Miriam Magalhoes, an 18-year-old student whose French sailor costume matched her that of her boyfriend. The couple, who met just after last year's Carnival, stood kissing in their sailor stripes, a red and white island in the middle of the sea of humanity that surged around them.
Language teacher Martin Berge _ who brandished a sign reading "On sale: French kisses" _ agreed that "Little Leopard" could prove useful.
"With the amount of business I do during Carnival, I could end up in a lot of the postings," said the 25-year-old, though he added, "I don't always sell kisses. Sometimes I give them away for free and other times there's a lot of negotiation before we strike a deal on the price."
The crowd roared, whistled and cat-called over the band's booming drumbeat as Berge placed a gratuitous kiss smack on the lips of a reluctant leopard-clad reveler.
But for Irene Ribeira, the whole concept of the blog defeats the purpose of Carnival.
"I think it's a bad idea. If the person wanted to see you after Carnival, he would get your number," said the 23-year-old, dripping under her synthetic wig and clown's face-paint. "I mean, what happened, happened. That's the spirit of Carnival."