Thy King cometh onto thee (Matthew 21:5)
Early on Monday morning, two weeks later Alejandro finally left for Madrid and I stumbled home. That day Spain was celebrating the bicentenary of Europe’s first liberal constitution, proclaimed in Cádiz when it was still among the richest cities in the West. The new bridge should’ve been inaugurated during the celebrations. At the corner of Calle Ancha and San José police blocked my way. Two black limousines crept up the street. The first stopped right where I was standing. I stared into the car and looked straight into the eyes of King Juan Carlos. He’d become old. Big pouches nestled under his eyes. For an eternal moment we stared at each other. Then he opened his mouth. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I could have sworn he said ‘Vete’, leave. He yawned, closed his eyes and his head sunk into the soft, cream coloured cushion attached to his leather headrest. The convoy carried on. Queen Sofía followed in a separate car. She didn’t look at me.
I slept the entire day and then called Rocío.
‘You’ve been released?’ she asked.
‘Don’t be mad. Let’s go out and enjoy the celebrations.’
The city had put up a stage on Plaza Mina, where artists performed flamenco. We listened to the melancholy songs that told of jealousy, lost love and despair. Afterwards the musicians continued playing and the entire plaza erupted into a dance. Children, parents and grandparents joined in to dance Sevillanas. Proud Spanish women held their heads up high, pushed their breasts out and moved their arms around their heads and torsos to bewitch their partners like puffed up peacocks in a mating ritual. Rocío’s face almost brushed mine, but before I could touch her she was gone again, keeping her distance.
I’d made plans for our evening and they started with drinks in a new beach bar.
‘Hey Rocío, amor, what’s new?’ our waiter asked in a German accent. He was blond, tanned and wearing surfer shorts and flip flops.
Rocío smiled. ‘Hey Wolfgang. This is my friend Paco.’
‘Oh! The invisible friend. I hope you take good care of my angel.’
He took our orders and disappeared.
‘How do you know him?’
‘They invited me for drinks at the opening. It’s a shame you had to work.’
I looked around. None of the waiters were Spanish.
‘So the Germans are even stealing the few new jobs that we get here?’
‘Don’t be mean. This is a tourist spot. Tourists don’t speak Spanish and none of us speaks any foreign language.’
Wolfgang returned with the drinks and I downed the vodka-red bull in one go.
‘Should I get you another one?’ Wolfgang asked.
‘That’s all for now. Thanks.’ I turned to Rocío. ‘Hey, I…’
‘I could take my break now,’ Wolfgang said and sat down at our table.
‘Oh great.’ Rocío smiled at him. ‘So how’ve you been?’
‘Actually,’ I said ‘I changed my mind. Why don’t you get me another one of those?’
‘A’right, mate.’ Wolfgang disappeared again.
I leaned over to Rocío and held up her glass for her. ‘I have a surprise, but you need to drink a little bit faster…
‘What’s the rush?’
‘The café where my mum’s working will stay open late because of the celebrations so we have the flat to ourselves.’
‘Oh,’ she grinned and inhaled her drink. ‘Let’s go.’
I left money on the table and we passed an astonished Wolfgang who was just returning with my second drink.
‘That one’s to go,’ I said and grabbed the glass from his tray. ‘Enjoy your break!’
‘I’d long given up all hope,’ Rocío giggled.
We rushed home and up the stairs, into the flat. I opened the door to my room and I stopped dead in my tracks. My brother was sitting on my sofa, bent over, his head in his hands.
‘Juan! What are you doing in Cádiz?’ I pushed Rocío back into the living room and motioned her to leave.
Juan looked up. ‘Moving back in.’
I cast one last look at Rocío who rolled her eyes and left.
Juan was staring at the picture of the Golden Gate Bridge that our father had given me when I started out at uni and Dad was still the proud head of our family who thought his sons were the future of this country.
‘Another one down,’ he said.
I opened the closet and made space for Juan’s clothes. The sofa would be converted into his bed, and I’d have to share my room again.
The next day Alejandro was still in Madrid. I went into his office. I had to find Manolo’s number. Juan would be on the dole for six months, so he could support my mother. I flicked through the rolodex on Alejandro’s desk. Nothing under M, nothing under S. I went through all his drawers in search for some other form of address book. Nothing. I stared at Alejandro’s office phone, praying for a call from Manolo. Nothing happened. Then I saw the letters M.S. next to the upper speed dial button.
I pressed and waited, my heart pounding in my chest.
‘Yes?’ Was it Manolo?
‘Paco here from Cádiz.’
‘You’ve taken some time to call me back, amigo,’ Manolo said.
‘I didn’t have your number.’
‘I left a message with Alejandro after you suddenly disappeared.’
‘He must have forgotten about it.’ The bastard. ‘Do you still have the room?’ I didn’t dare breathe.
‘It’s your lucky day, amigo. I didn’t have time to deal with the issue. The room is yours if you want it. I’m in town on Friday, so let’s meet then.’
I called Rocío.
‘Any plans for Friday night?’