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An island where I thought I had lost my people*

It’s been several minutes while I am sitting in darkness, on that old chair, of which an arm support is broken into two pieces. I am staring at the balcony window of our living room feeling cold, because of the wind coming in just from the right corner of that window. Stars are there as always, resembling specks of dirt in the night-time darkness. Meanwhile, I am missing smoking a cigarette. That ugly yet pleasant smell, I am missing its smoke making my throat and lungs ill. I cannot stand its absence; I used to get through my anxious moments in a company of a cigarette.

I open that balcony window and I kneel; I wish that cold wind healed me or at least, made me forget. Rather than anxiety around the cigarette, I’m referring to my future-related anguish; that creation of hypothetical experiences that hurt as if they were real, they fill me with the sentiment that dry my heart up.

I’m here, in the country of the avant-garde, where political system is nonetheless a constitutional monarchy. Occasionally, I feel as if I was self-exiled; certainly, I am searching for a refuge at a distance, far away from the loved ones. All of a sudden, night-time wind reminds me I am in the island now: an untimely downpour prompts me to get up and close the window. No doubt I will get ill, my body cannot forget its upbringing under the sun.

Over six years ago I relocated from Mexico to the United Kingdom. I was happy, proud and with an inflated ego; I thought I could make it all. I got immersed in this society of can-doers, of wearing oneself out until nearly passing away, where life is moving with the highest speed, with no time left to contemplate a mother’s portrait who still loves you at a distance.

I keep asking myself what the reason was to move ten thousand miles from home. Whereas I have dozens of rational explanations, I’m still lacking the fundamental reason. Why do we distance ourselves from the loved ones? Why do we leave the neighbourhood where we grew up? Is this distance and absence essential to emancipate?

I start to pull up the hair from my legs, one-by-one and then two per once; I want to feel pain and I want my body, not my mind, to suffer. A persistent thought floods my fragile self. I can’t help but thinking about my mother’s death, about the time when she won’t be here anymore, with me. I feel that pain and I suffer, it makes me feel sad and scared: it makes me also want to be next to her, to spend more time together. In fact, it has occurred to me that I have possibly distanced myself actually because of her and that the family love comes at a price. I still do not know what the unconditional forgiveness is, which brings me more pain and sorrow.

None of these happen in relation to my dad. Instead, his hypothetical absence is located in my intellectual mind: put it blindly, I know it will happen one day. I wish I had him close; I want him to comfort me; I wish he could make me feel important and protected.

My siblings: when I have a gut feeling that this thought is about to arrive, I just close my eyes and force myself to avoid thinking about it. And until now I have managed to make a gateway in the exact moment. I shall call it a very disciplined way of running away from the pain.

My grandmother Julia is 99 and still sane. For a long time she used to show her dour side, yet in recent years she has learnt how to laugh, and how to celebrate life. She represents the oldest root in the family and in a way, we all come from her. I have my ticket to visit her when she turns 100, but because of Covid I have no idea if travelling will make it possible to give her a cuddle and a kiss. A little prayer to ask heavens to give me yet another opportunity to see her.

My uncles are also there in these anxious times. I am not brave enough to call Perico every week because every time I see him, I’m mortified. Lalo has never heard how much he matters to me, how much I love him and how much he influenced my life; I’m impressed every time I realise he’s still with us; I love him, yet with him, the worst creeps up on every minute.

I get up eventually. My knees eaten up by psoriasis suffer every time my skin’s open cracks separate to let me see my flesh. A deep sigh: I’m not fancy a beer, I’d rather prepare a lemon and ginger tea, to let its heat heal me from inside, whereas I continue with this premature sob that is preparing me for the future grief.

I’m sorrowful and exhausted. It really must be time for bed and rest, but in this precise moment I’m receiving a message on my mobile.

- Mate

- bad news

- My dad got Covid

- He was hospitalised on Friday with pneumonia

- unfortunately died yesterday

- he couldn’t get out of it

I call him immediately and I’m hurt to see my mate devastated; I feel hopeless; my eyes water and I order them to hold on and not to shed a single tear; I realise how important physical contact is. I don’t know what to say, in normal times I would give him a hug as the only way to say that I feel his pain and I am there for him.

My pain gets interrupted by my son’s night crying, surely caused by a nightmare: he always calls me in a precise moment as if, while asleep he suspected my suffering and with his crying, looked after me.