Chapter 2

The Normal and the Normative

Illustration de Paloma Agüera

We were not doing very well that year and with what was left of the football league little could be fixed. Antepenultimate matchday and another defeat, the fifteenth in sixteen matches up to that moment. We didn’t even get angry anymore. Nor did the coaches shout at us from the bench to correct us. A few words of encouragement if they saw that one of us was feeling down, some cheers when we made it past the middle of the football field. But no pressure, that’s all there was. Little footballers with no future, having a good time, even in defeat, on a spring Saturday morning. Most of us only thought about finishing the match and playing outside the field without any rules or squeezing a coke and a bacon sandwich after a shower.

Final whistle, finally. I greet the opponents, I congratulate them. I try to go as fast as I can to the locker room, but those who are coming from the bench have gone ahead of me. I catch up with them, so much so that I can hear a conversation I shouldn’t have to hear: “Aguilar’s father looks like a robot” says one of my teammates. Laughs. “He hasn’t stopped screaming during the whole match, he looked like he was going to eat the railing” replies the other. Laughs. A third one joins them and starts to walk imitating my father, from side to side, with some stops that make him unbalance backwards, fall forward, having to lean where possible on the sides. They see me and apologize. They were just kids, I think now. We are just kids, I thought then. I didn’t laugh, but I would have if I was one of them. 

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Lucas 23:24

Before the match, as in every match, he was already there waiting to greet me. Even before those other divorced fathers who, like him, could only see their children on weekends. Some of them didn’t even go to football. This seemed to be the only thing he could remember. He struggled to kiss me before I went into the locker room, exchange a few words, give me some advice. During the 90 minutes, even though maybe he didn’t realize it, he would shout for me to get into position, not to go up so much, to go down, to run, to push. Sometimes he would just shout without any purpose, with great difficulty to get the words out or with words with no apparent logical order. He would scream for me to do anything that his passion, now an uncontrolled emotion in a jumbled mess governed by the disease, would want to be reflected on the field, the field he himself stepped on the second league. 

“What’s wrong with your dad?” another colleague asks me in the shower after the game. I’m surprised because I find his question mature and even more his answer, “it looks like a disease”. He continues showering without giving it further importance. He’s just a kid, I think now, he looks like an adult, I thought then.

I quickly finish it, I’m the first one, and try to get out of the locker room while my colleagues insistently ask me to stay a while, to hang a bit at the bar. It’s the moment to chat about consensual gossips and the true meaning of the football team: to share with friends a time without duties or schedules.

Outside, the fathers who come to see their children rant about various topics and drink beers, some the first one, others the tenth, accompanied by the tapas that they are given in the stand attached to the locker room, the same one that makes the bacon sandwiches and from which my father moves away a few meters to wait for me. He knows that I don’t like to stay, I don’t know if he senses why, but I invite him to go to granny’s house, and I will eat my sandwich there where nobody sees us. One of the fathers, who is already drunk, now I know, shouts some jokes at my father when we walk away. He tries to turn around to reply to him but he has a hard time turning around with his balance and decides to keep walking, worrying about maintaining the pace.

I would have preferred to see him drunk, the usual, I was just a kid. Now I really want to drink that coke, even if I had to do a balancing act.

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