In memory of*
Isle of Skye, Scotland
22nd April 2021
Following a long walk against the wind, under the rain I could feel to the bones, I have found myself standing on the edge of the cliff. Wind continued to blow in the same direction, but now with a renewed force, as if it intended to call a halt, to move my body back to a safe place. At my back, a neat green lawn, which only constant rain could have produced. In front, my possible destiny, the void. Infinite grey rocks at its blurry end, which should smash my head, and as a consequence, my sorrow.
Whereas tears have not ceased to fall for a decade, I have felt one of them slowly sliding on the corner of my mouth. Perhaps this was the way my sadness made its farewell, with its very long, slow and wet kiss, with its form and flavour of salty tears.
Suddenly, I felt somebody else’s presence; two kids of colour, around four-year-old, were running into me with curiosity. Having stopped very close yet at a safe distance from the cliff, they stood there watching me. They were looking at me attentively again and again, and I saw in their eyes they didn’t understand what was happening yet intuitively knew something was wrong here, that the situation was serious.
In a little while, two teenagers arrived, Stuart and Georgina, who later introduced themselves as siblings. Stuart was the older one. After a few seconds of silence, the younger said:
-Hiya, I’m Georgina.
She immediately extended her hand in the novice’s act of negotiation. I didn’t respond with a handshake, but instead turned my gaze again at the void, of which end seemed rather harsh and dangerous this time. My sorrow turned into anger; ‘why is it often so difficult to stay alone and have a moment of privacy?!’
Then, Neville arrived at the scene with no rush, calmly and with a harsh voice of Caribbean accent said:
- Turn around, I want to see your eyes.
I couldn’t believe in such an invasion of privacy; this family seemed more stubborn than YouTube premium adverts. I turned my gaze, furious, I looked towards that harsh voice of a weird accent. The instant I saw Neville, I knew he comprehended, that he was suffering from the same pain, I felt my look changing, now to a semblance of an unprotected lad, looking for solace. Through sheer reflex, my arm extended towards Georgina, whose hand was patiently waiting there in the air. When our hands met, she pulled me abruptly and we both fell on the green and neat lawn.
The four guys ran into us to embrace me.
Dan woke up with a terrible headache and dry mouth. Children have already spent a couple of hours alone, fighting, screaming and playing. Before anything, they could eat a horse. Emily’s [the eldest sister’s] failed attempt to prepare scrambled eggs ended up only with a huge disaster in the kitchen.
Dan didn’t quite remember half of the last night’s party, and less even, how he got home. Laura, his wife, instead of in bed was found on a single sofa in the small studio. Still asleep, amid a disaster of monstrous scale, even larger than the kitchen’s. The worst however was that sickening smell, which reminded him of a stop by the street food goat-meet broth. He closed the door and wished Laura luck for when she wakes up.
He dressed quickly in sweatpants and took children to Mexico Park, two blocks from them, to eat something quick outside, to feel alive again. Children requested hot cakes with loads of honey, knowing that their father, in the state he was in, couldn’t bear the smell even if for a moment. Dan ordered extra hot chilaquiles with green salsa.
On that day Steve, nearly four-year-old, learned how to ride a bike. When he did it for the first time, he shouted:
- Mama, mama, I did it!
- Hahaha, mama isn’t here, plonker! But you can tell your dad – said Emily.
- Buddy, I knew you’d make it. I’m so proud of you?
Steve kept pedalling; deep inside he liked that his dad saw him and supported him. Yet he could not get why mum so often was not there.
Upon their return home, Laura was waiting for them, has already had her shower and was surrounded by a strong lavender scent of her perfumes. The house smelled of a cheap removing odours spray, of Mediterranean waves.
-How are you doing my loves?
- You’ve missed it, mum.
- What’s happened?
- Tell her, Steve.
- What have I missed?
- Tell her, dad.
- Well, Steve already knows how to ride a bike.
- Wow, amazing news.
Steve dropped his bike and run upstairs to his bedroom. All he wanted was to be alone and cried out until he fell asleep.
Coyoacán, Mexico City
22nd April 2021, circa 6pm
Just as Paco, his friend, requested, he arrived at the centre of Coyoacán (a borough in the south of Mexico City) in a company of his sister, Emily. The siblings never liked to take the tube, in particular she couldn’t bear the persistent stare of nearly every male tube passenger; each of them was staring at her like only a dirty old man does. She kept breathing & walking fast; at least they didn’t yell at her with Steve by her side.
They arrived a little later than Paco. He was always on time, so unusual for a Mexican, but on that day it took him much longer to leave given his meticulous haircut, resembling a Rockstar from the ‘50s, including his scent of lavender perfumes: he never knew why but that smell was his favourite one.
-Hiya Elvis – said Emily bursting with laughter.
Her comment made Paco blush, but despite his embarrassment, he winked when smiling at her, revealing his tiny dimples in his cheeks. This time he made Emily blush.
- You two stop being silly, let’s go for a coffee.
They got into Sanborns and ordered three cups of americano plus one order of mollete sandwiches to share. That’s about what they could afford.
Paco and Emily didn’t stop smiling at each other and exchanging the telling looks: tired of their lovebirds’ games, Steve dropped abruptly:
- WHAT?!?!?! – replied both in unison.
- Since when do you like it?
- No shit, you don’t even know how to jack off, and now you pretend to build a mock-up?
Soon Paco realised what he’s just said; Emily’s look transformed in an instant and since that moment her gaze turned into her mobile and hasn’t stopped sending texts. She became absent and moved to another online chat.
- Yeah, imagine that. My first project will be to rebuild the whole UNAM (the National Autonomous University of Mexico), it’s just about the time, you know what I mean?
- Pffff, it wasn’t Oxford, because then the old would be cool, right?
- Oh, wait.
- What else is in your plans?
- Well, my main project will be to design a new Aztec stadium.
- You’ve got to be kidding me, so that now it will be bigger than Maracaná
- Yeah way, Wembley would look like a wee one. I will build a new football cathedral man.
They coincided in favour of UNAM Pumas football team, but when their chat moved to Premier League their sharp debate was never ending. Paco cheered Arsenal, whereas Steve, under his father’s influence since early years, was a super fan of Manchester United.
- I’m off, Mati is picking me up. Don’t forget to arrive home early. Today our parents will be there waiting for us. See you at 10:29pm at the main entrance. We will be entering together; you know what I mean?
Emily sent a good-bye kiss; Paco was left downcast. He knew he made a cock up: how on earth he scored his own goal speaking about jacking off first and then, even worse, he buried himself in this absurd discussion about football.
- Well man, it is what it is, let’s go home. At least we’ll play FIFA.
Dan was an average marketer when he was offered a job with a re-location package, based in Mexico City. The marketing agency, a hub for many highly-skilled professionals, was looking for someone whose English had that magic BBC accent and was ideally white: prior to the ’86 World Cup they needed to level their status up internationally.
Laura didn’t worry too much, she knew she’d find something quickly, even as an English teacher. In the end, everyone needs to speak English.
They took their decision on the 6th of April; Manchester weather were as usual wet, cold, windy, but before anything, grey. Exhausted, both shouted in unison:
Let’s go where the sunshine!
They arrived only a month before the World Cup Mexico ’86 started.
Coyoacán, Mexico City
22nd of April 2011, circa 8pm
Paco’s home was on the México ‘86 Avenue, an old building with a style and to a certain extent well-maintained. They opened 2-pint-bottle of Coca-Cola, Sabritones crisps with lime and Paco started smoking Delicados cigarettes. He was one of a very few Steve’s friends who was allowed to smoke in front of his parents and, as Paco used to say, every football match was too stressful for him, so he needed to smoke like a chimney while playing FIFA.
Steve always wanted to play as Mexico, as if he wanted to make it very clear that, despite having his British parents, he couldn’t be more authentic Mexican. Surely, Paco used to select England, to make Steve even more pissed off when defeated.
Following two warming-up matches, without exception, the time to place a bet has arrived.
- The looser invites tacos.
There was a turn of a grand match, Manchester United vs. Arsenal.
The game was very tight. When Rooney stood up to score to confirm Manchester’s win, Paco’s dad came from nowhere and turned the game console abruptly off.
- What are you doing here? It’s already past 10 o’clock.
- I haven’t realised, Mr Rogelio.
- Dad, I’m going to Steve’s home, we’ll order a pizza. Or even better, we’ll go for some tacos.
- Right, look after yourself and hurry up!
- See you, sir.
- See you Steve, regards to your parents.
13th September 1992
Last two weeks have been particularly challenging for Laura, with painful ribs, never-ending exhaustion, and the absolute worst was when she intended to walk: every step was as if two machetes cut her pubic area off.
She was about to finish her second glass of bubbles. She used to say it was the only relaxing thing that worked for her and was allowed – or at least well-seen- where she came from. All of a sudden, she opened her eyes with all her strength and remained still.
- What’s up? – asked Dan.
She said nothing, but it was obvious that the day has come. Dan left to drop Emily off with the neighbours, who will be looking after her. They didn’t know that 19 years later they will be the ones to offer Emily solace.
- Hope all goes well. Best of luck.
After dropping Emily off, he left again, this time to catch a taxi and, largely predictably, quickly got to hail a green eco beetle.
- Y’right mate? – said with his clumsy English accent – my woman is about to give birth. I’ll come back with her. It won’t be long. To Mexico Hospital.
- Sure sir, I’ll be waiting here.
Laura was lying on the floor with immense pain, but still, she took her last sip and said:
- Take me there now, scumbag!
Hours later, a midwife left the operating theatre.
- Congratulations, it’s a boy. The mother and baby are well.
Dan has only recalled that he smiled. He hadn’t wanted to see Laura given his fear of blood. As he had known it was a long wait, he was better off to Diente de León pub; this place was fit to have a think about his newborn’s name.
- Steve, Laura would like this one – he mumbled to himself.
- The baby’s name is Steve! – he shouted out to the midwife.
22nd of April 2011, circa 10:15pm
Two friends run towards the tube station, knowing they were late. On top of everything, it was Friday the payday.
- Mate, and how about we take a taxi?
- No way mate, too expensive.
- Yep, but look, I promised to arrive early. Emily will be furious.
- Right, let it be so.
They hailed a green eco beetle that has seen his better days long ago; though it was probably unlicensed, the driver’s face seemed friendly.
- What’s up my blondie, you take it or…?
They entered the taxi, soon to realise that they’ll be late anyway with this hell of a traffic. They tried to call Emily to let her know they’ll be late, but without success; her mobile’s battery was dead, given her long online chats.
- You know what my blondie?
Steve detested this way of addressing him, always blushing as a result.
- What’s up? – replied
- I feel I’ve seen you before, haven’t I driven you before?
- Nop. Not that I’m aware of.
The lads started to discuss the match they’ve just played, best shots and all the detail. In regard to the last play, they debated whether Manchester should have been pronounced a winner or they should have gone overtime.
- Has Manchester played today?
The taxi driver didn’t stop interfering with their conversation, slowly gaining their attention, and at some point, the conversation nearly turned into his monologue.
- …and suddenly, I’m hailed by a Mr real blondie, much like you, blondie, and he says: - Mate, my wife be pregnant, take us the hospital - you know, with this funny gringo accent. Well you know what I mean, what could I do, I waited for them and after a while his wife came downstairs, a lovely blondie bursting with pain. It seemed one of them was a bit drunk, but you know what I mean, I drove as fast as I could to the hospital, and when we arrived that mate says ‘Wait a moment, I need you take me to another place’. It took him a while, but he returned, and I don’t remember where I took him next. This must have been about 15 years ago or so. No, wait, man, it had to be around 20 years ago. Sure, you weren’t on this planet yet.
Steve looked at the taximeter and then at Paco.