By Vera Brenner
To dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19)
‘The trick is to find a guiri. They’re all lonely. And they all have their own rooms.’
My friend Raúl had adapted to the new circumstances right away. When it came to sex, in Cádiz foreign girls were your best bet. And during carnival, sex was what it all boiled down to. Raúl had come home all the way from Germany to be part of the fiesta.
The music was pumping in the huge pavilion. Green laser beams cut through fruity artificial fog and the fancily dressed masses were swaying back and forth like wobbling vodka jelly, caught in an infinite loop of ‘Danza Kuduro’. Like remote-controlled puppets, we threw our hands in the air to every ‘las manos arriba’ and circled our hips with each ‘cintura sola’. Sweat trickled down my spine and belly and drenched my Superman costume, which was already covered in the piss, greasepaint and vomit from the last four days and nights.
‘Nevermind guapa,’ I said ‘the left one hurt anyway.’
‘Sorry.’ She turned and tried to make the pain go away by rubbing her nicely rounded ass against my crotch in circling movements.
‘I’m Paco,’ I shouted into her ear.
Spanish name, not a good sign.
‘Wanna rescue me, Superman?’ She added more pressure to her rubbing. ‘I lost my hose. Got a replacement?’
I squeezed her tits. They felt very good. ‘You from Cádiz?’ The all important question.
‘You Superman or Sherlock Holmes?’ she turned and forced her tongue into my mouth.
She tasted like beer and vomit. I made her drink some of my vodka-red bull. Then we kissed some more. It tasted better this time.
I pulled her out of there just before midnight. It was dark outside, the moon only an echo of a crescent over the skeletons of the abandoned bridge pillars protruding from the bay. Rocío puked on the esplanade.
‘Got a place we can go?’ she asked.
I shook my head. The room in my mum’s flat wasn’t an option. ‘Your place?’
‘My parents would love that.’
So she was from Cádiz. We were all in the same boat here. The banks had quit offering mortgages to first time buyers, rooms for rent were as rare as rain in July and the only ones who could afford the soaring room prices were Erasmus students from Germany or wherever they came from. We all lived with our parents instead.
‘Let’s go to my car.’
The old Seat had served me well during the previous years, but the MOT was due and my finances were at a low ebb. For the time being I’d left it in front of the harbour entrance where parking was still free.
I led her over there. Some punks had smashed my mirrors, but that wouldn’t stop us. I flung the door open and pushed Rocío onto the back seat. From the corner of my eye I saw that the passenger window was missing. So was the radio. And why did the car reek of piss? Rocío pulled up her skirt and spread her legs as far as the tiny space would allow. I stood on the pavement and wrestled my cock out of the Superman onesie. My phone rang. I let it go to voicemail. It rang again. Rocío puked into the foot well.
I slid my cock back inside the costume and shoved Rocío into a more decent position. Maybe some other day.
‘I feel like shit.’
‘I’ll take you home.’
But first I had to call my mum back.
‘What are you still doing out in the streets? You have work tomorrow,’ Mum shouted.
‘On my way.’ I hung up. What would I give for a place of my own.
Rocío clung to me and between my injured foot, her high heels and the alcohol in our blood, we staggered along the dockyard.
She stopped at a bench that was facing the non-existent bridge. ‘So you saved me after all, Superman. But I’ve to leave you here. We turn that corner, my parents will see you. One of them’s always waiting up ‘til I’m home.’
I rubbed my left ankle.
‘Did that glass really hurt you?’
‘It’s an injury from the days when I was still going to be a professional footballer. It just hurts sometimes.’
‘You should see a physiotherapist. There’s a good one at Plaza Mina.’
‘I’ll keep that in mind.’
She kissed me and she was gone.
At seven thirty the darkness behind the bridge pillars gave way to the first signs of violet, pink and orange. I’d missed Sunday mass due to excessive alcohol consumption and needed to make up for it.
‘Today is the beginning of Lent,’ the priest began his sermon. ‘And these are difficult times. Some might think that nowadays life already feels like a continuous Lent.’
The people around me nodded and made approving sounds.
‘And yes – we have reason to be sad. As it is written in Nehemiah: our faces are sad when the place of our fathers’ graves lies in ruins. Yet – there is hope.’
The collection bag was passed around.
‘There is hope when we shoulder our responsibilities.’
I took one euro out of my wallet.
‘Let us not close our eyes to the ones around us, but let us remember that we are one family in this parish.’ He raised his head and his piercing eyes looked straight at me. ‘Never forget: he who does not provide for his relatives, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’
I dug out my wallet again and put five euros in the bag. Then we all lined up to get the black ash cross painted on our foreheads. Mass ended and I was saved again for another week.
When I came home from work that night I took my laptop and went to Plaza Mina, where the city offered free internet. All the benches were filled with people staring at their screens. For what felt like the thousandth time I tried to find a flat share, but there wasn’t a single ad. I scanned the job sites. I worked as an engineer, but my boss only paid a trainee salary. German companies were advertising engineering jobs in Stuttgart. Some even paid for a language course. The bloodsuckers lured us in. No job offers in Spain. From my class of graduates I was the only one with a so-called job. All others had given in and were studying German to work in the land of Europe’s self-appointed saviours. Soon my generation would be non-existent here. But I was Spanish and I loved my home. I didn’t want to live in a rainy country with bad-tempered people. I also couldn’t leave Mum alone here with my dad gone and my brother, Juan working in Seville. But life felt very different already. I couldn’t remember when I’d last spent a Sunday with my friends drinking at tapas bars or getting wasted on sunny beach terraces.
I was just going to call Raúl on Skype when a guy wearing a motorcycle helmet ran towards me, snatched the laptop from my hands and scrambled onto the backseat of a waiting scooter. Off they went.
I was never going to find a better job or a room of my own.