Chapter 16

What if

Illustration de Paloma Agüera

Cough that leaves phlegm. The ambulance arrives by sound and lights. Again. Road of curves and precipices. Then, on the highway, he exceeds the speed limit but not much. Already in the hospital. There is space in the corridor. Distinguish the urgent from the important. If anything, I am the second. Four days without discharge. Blood tests, diaper change, PEG, percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy, take it away!, What the hell do you have to do to die? Pneumonia has eaten a lung. There is no room for more phlegm. On the sixth day he arrives, my son, kill me! Don’t cry. I remove the nasogastric tube, how do you want me to tell you? I hear the signature on the paper. The pen tearing the sheet. As long as it lasts. Hours. Minutes. My sentence, finally. The machine that measures my pulse draws earthquakes. Morphine and dreams.

As the happy birthday song is over, I inhale and fill my lungs with air. We are in my bachelor apartment, the one I never had, we are in the dark except for the small flames on the chocolate cake that light up the smiling faces of my whole family, the one I have formed and the one my children are forming: her husband, his wife, their children who are now my grandchildren. She is also there, Marta, I will call her that if I can’t think of another name, the only love I had after my divorce. I’m standing in front of the table, stable, not looking for a wheelchair to sit in because there isn’t one. I have remnants of rice in my mustache that move as I catch my breath because I can eat by myself. There’s a candle lit for each year completed, 57, and I was the one who has turned the lighter wheel smoothly, as if it was what it is, what it normally is for everyone, what it would have to be: a basic movement in which the finger moves the steel friction stone so that it produces a spark. One of the grandchildren has decided to keep singing and another chants my nickname, my nickname for him, “Abu, Abu, Abu!” I would like one of them to be named after me and this is how it’s going to be, at least until he’s born. On the couch there are boxes wrapped with wrapping paper. I don’t know what’s inside but I imagine it; some socks, like last year, and the year before that, the Real Madrid basketball jersey that, now that I take care of myself, maybe I can show off at a party with my workmates and, the main course, some tickets for a Sting concert, although it’s a pity he’s splitting with The Police. I can’t wait to open them, reverse process: I inhale and empty my lungs of air. I blow them all.

Now yes, complete darkness.

Final beep of the electrocardiograph.

I should have turned 57 this year. I should have.

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