Oscar Wilde once said, that the only way to get rid of one obsession, is to replace it with a new one.
“I don’t think we should still go tonight.” Esteban was looking out the window, watching the rain. “This weather…”
“Don’t worry, Moses.” Gonzalo unwrapped a gum and popped it into his mouth as he drove on. “It ain’t the end of the world.”
It was twelve noon. The rain poured harder as we cruised through the highway on the way back to the Bernabeu, where we were to pick up our cars. Good thing there was lighter traffic this time, probably because of all the detours around the city. The radio spoke about a few flooded areas and stranded vehicles in certain parts of town, and that some schools have already cancelled classes and have sent their students home.
Meanwhile, inside the Q7, Gonzalo’s denial of the gravity of his marital issues have brought him to play lovesongs over the radio. Utterly annoying, to be honest.
Sergio, on the other hand, endured it quietly. He’d barely spoken a word since we left Dr. Nathaniel Asshole Fuentes’ office. Poor bastard. I guess the quick visit to the man’s clinic resulted to him being possessed by a force more commonly known as Obsession over a Stranger. Congratulations, I thought. You may be gradually moving on from the loss of your wife, but you’re still the running as Spain’s Next Top Idiot. Ah, fatal attraction. It’s a dangerous thing.
Anyway, so there we were, just sitting like toads. No one was talking, really. No umpfs, no heavy breathing, no humming of weird tunes. Just that Halo song from Beyonce and her insanely high notes on background music.
“So you’re still not gonna tell us what happened back there?” God Bless Gonzalo for deactivating the mute button for all of us.
Sergio sighed. “Just an hour ago, you were looking for a fuck to give. And now all of a sudden, you’re interested to know my affairs?”
“Well I already told you.” he folded his arms and sank into his seat. ”Jane is Elena. Elena is Jane. And —-“
“Yeah, yeah, and the doctor is her boyfriend, not her dad.” I continued, finishing the rest of his sentence. “We already know that. But why do you think is she using his last name when they’re not hitched yet?”
“Hmmmm…” Gonzo took a shot. “Engaged?”
“I doubt that.” Sergio replied. Finally, he decided to participate in the conversation. “If there was a ring on that finger, I woulda noticed. It was the first thing I looked at when I approached her at the club. So I’m certain. There was no ring.”
“Well if I were to hit a club and get it on with some random stranger, I wouldn’t be wearing my ring, either.” Higuain slowed down as we reached a u-turn. “Makes sense, right?”
I didn’t say anything, well, because I agreed. And as much as Sergio would hate to admit it, Gonzalo did have a point. Elena must have just taken the ring off.
But then again, ”No.” I sat up straight. “When we hit the Prius, I asked if she was married to the doctor, because the business card said Dr. Fuentes and she said her last name was Fuentes, too. But she said she wasn’t married. Remember that, Serg?”
“So, okay, okay, wait.” Esteban held his hands out in the air. All the while we thought he was daydreaming looking out the window like that, who knew Granero was a gossip too? “She’s Jane on daytime and Elena at night, or Jane to her boyfriend and Elena to strangers, she’s not legally wedded, and she’s not engaged either, but her boyfriend’s last name is already attached to hers….”
“And she was in the club last week.” I added. “Alone.”
Gonzo turned the wiper speed to fast. “And she slept with the Ramos.”
I saw Ramos glare at him, as if to question the significance of their sexytime in the whole situ.
“And she looks like Lisa. Don’t forget that one.” I said. “And she smells like her, and acts like her, and sounds like her.”
“And she has a boyfriend.”
“Right okay, stop it.” Sergio turned to us, maroon in the face. ”Right now, stop psycho-analyzing the whole thing. Just shut up. Everyone of you just fucking shut up.”
“I said this before and I’m saying it again. Sex changes everything.” And I meant that.
Sergio sighed as is frustrated that none of us could get the point or understand where he was coming from. “It’s not. the sex.”
“Fine, then what is it?” I asked, as though to challenge him.
“You won’t understand.”
“Yeah?” I scoffed. “Try me.”
Sergio paused for a few seconds to run his hands through his hair. He adjusted his seatbelt as though it was making him uncomfortable.
“I know it’s never safe to be be nostalgic about something until I’m absolutely sure there’s no chance of it coming back.” Ramos took a deep breath and look at his hands. He wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. “I want to wait, I do. I want to wait because…I mean, what if she comes back?”
“And then again what if she doesn’t?” Gonzalo uttered.
Ramos looked at him and nodded. “Exactly.”
See, just a few weeks ago, Sergio was this guy who still lived miserably in the memories of his wife. He refused to get out there, he refused to let anyone in. We almost thought he’d live the rest of his days loving Lisa. We even almost thought he was hopeless.
Well, I guess it’s true then. Obsession makes everything possible.
“I think attraction is beyond our will sometimes.” Sergio rested his head on the cold passenger window and closed his eyes. “And it happens. Even if you fight so hard not to, it just…happens.”
With that, no one spoke another word. Soon, he drifted to a short, light nap.
A few minutes later, the familiar street leading to the Bernabeu got visible from the windshield. There was a moment of silence in the car, we were all just watching as the rain fell harder. This time, though, a gust of wind blew and the trees outside bent like their branches could snap.
It was suddenly serious inside the Q7. Not only was the weather gloomy, even the car’s cabin was suddenly filled with this dead air. We kept mum about our thoughts, really. No one wanted to speak.
Oh but despite of the silence, all three of us, I knew, all three of us were thinking the same thing.
Sergio didn’t posses the urge he had, instead this urge possessed him. He didn’t control the eagerness he had, it controlled him. He wanted to know Elena.
A few moments later, Ramos cleared his throat. “We’re still going tonight, though. I’ll meet you at the club.”
Gonzalo momentarily glanced at him, “You sure?” he brought his eyes back on the road. “With a weather like this…she might not be there.”
The Q7 slowed down on the curb before making a left turn, then pulling over to an open driveway. Finally, we were at the Bernabeu.
Sergio took off his seatbelt and turned off the radio. “I’ll take my chances.”
Unfortunately, Sergio was wrong.
“Okay that’s it. He’s down.” Gonzalo turned and grabbed this tiny girl in a short black dress and dragged her to the dance floor. She looked twelve. Don’t worry, though. He wasn’t groping or touching her inappropriately. He was just dancing.
Yes. We did push through to the club that night, despite of the ripping winds and hard rain. The weather didn’t improve. It was still stormy. Thus, there were fewer people in the club. And the absence of a full dance floor coupled with an almost empty bar explained why got drunk early.
Well okay, not drunk-drunk like drop-the-Copa-like-it’s-hot kind of drunk
And sadly, to Sergio’s —- and our dismay, Elena did not make an appearance. Or Jane. Jane did not make an appearance.
Ramos waited patiently the whole evening, he moved from one part of the club to another, even checked outside a couple of times, but to no avail. None of us saw a single sign of Elena tonight. And yeah, Sergio was disappointed.
And I thought it was a good thing. This Elena obsession might be a blessing in disguise, after all.
Sergio refused to dance with that blonde who approached him earlier. And for the first time in a long time, he didn’t drink a lot. He got past one in the morning still able to stand up straight with two of his legs not folding, and he didn’t kiss or grope anyone tonight. Afraid a pair of eyes might see, perhaps. And blow his chances. Thus, he behaved.
It was different for one of the four of us, however. Esteban, this hammered fuck, still wouldn’t move. Not even the loud music in the club could wake him up.
I shouldn’t have left him alone in the bar with that girl in a pair of leopard print bra, I thought. She looked too fun. And Too fun meant trouble.
“Yo fool, getcha ass up.” I shook Granero to wake him up. His head was bowed down on the table, cushioned by his folded arms. “Get the fuck up, come on!”
“Oh no, he’s smashed. How are you going to get him out of the club? I don’t think he can walk?”
“Don’t worry, bonita.” I said. “He’ll get up.”
I lifted Esteban’s plad shirt and poked him on the right waist as deep and hard as I could.
He fell off the bar stool with a loud thud and a groan.
“His tickle spot.” I uttered, wiggling my eyebrows. Then I turned to Granero and helped him up.
“Leave me alone.” he rubbed his ass with his palm.
“If I do that, in a little over a few hours, you can expect your spermicides to be swimming in some girl’s ovaries without you even knowing.” I laughed lightly, holding Esteban’s arm so he wouldn’t fall again. His knees were still wobbly. “Now open your eyes and look at me.”
Esteban tried to open his eyes, but could barely get them open. “Who’s that?” he pointed to the woman on my right. The girl I met a few hours ago on the dancefloor.
“This is Rosa. She’s from Panama.” I said, referring to my new found friend. “Rosa, meet Moses.”
She giggled. “Moses. That’s cute.”
“But you can call him Esteban. And no, he’s not that cute when you get to know him. I’m cute, however.”
She giggled again. She’s so cute, this girl. Good thing we pushed through tonight, despite of the insanely crazy weather. Otherwise I would have missed on this one.
I was supposed to tell Esteban we needed to bounce, because I promised Rosa I’d take her back to her hotel. But before I could, Granero was back to his nap. This time, leaning on the bar, his head thrown back, mouth slightly opened, eyes half-closed.
“Benzema…” Sergio’s familiar voice was easy to hear in the not-so-full club. I turned to see him behind me. “I gotta bounce.”
“Now?” I looked at my watch. It said 2:30am. “We’re supposed to head out too.” I looked at Esteban, who now was snoring. “Shit.”
“I can’t stay no more, man. Rain could get harder. Detours all over the city.” He said. “The kids are home with the nanny. My sister flew back to Seville this morning and so I gotta be home. Before my route gets flooded.”
“Alright then.” I gave him a high five and the traditional manly hug. “I’ll see you practice on Monday. You take care, man.”
With that, Sergio headed out.
And he’d be glad he did.
A few minutes past three in the morning, after four detours that brought him thirty minutes and twenty nine kilometers out of the way, Sergio reluctantly drove into an un-lit road.
“Shit. Power’s out.” he mumbled to himself. It seemed the hard rain and strong winds interrupted the power supply in that part of town.
Squinting into the dark road, Sergio turned his headlights on bright, upped the wiper speed on “fast”, and released the gas pedal to get the fast Land Rover to slow down. A couple of cars drove past him through the south bound lane, telling him there was an open road ahead.
Finally, he thought. No more detours.
The Land Rover’s fog lamps hit the blank space of nothing but rain water. His windows were up but he could tell the wind was blowing pretty strong. The big droplets hit his windshield sideways, making loud rattling sounds throughout the body of the SUV.
“Dammit.” he muttered. A gush of strong wind blew once more and a piece of leaf flew over his windshield, causing him to slow down more. The wiper couldn’t get rid of it at first. It flattened it out before sweeping it to a corner of the huge glass. Finally, when the leaf no longer denied him full visibility of the road ahead, Sergio caught a glimpse of something reflecting on the right side of the highway.
Something was moving.
He slowed down more, afraid that this thing might cross. It could be an animal, he thought. Thus, he gently stepped on the brakes to get the Rover to a speed of 10 kilometers per hour. A little too slow for a road this long, he thought. So he pressed on the car’s hazard lights, enabling the vehicles tailing him from behind to know not to come too close.
He could be wrong…but then…he could also be…
As he pressed on the brake pedals deeper, Sergio turned the Rover’s steering wheel to the right, causing the vehicle to pull over to the side. The SUV came to a full, sudden stop, its tires screeching roughly on the pavement.
Once out of the main highway, he wasted no time. He got out of the car, opened the backseat door and grabbed the giant umbrella on the rear panel.
See, not too far from where his car accidentally parked, about thirty feet away, was a familiar looking vehicle.
The Prius’ hood was up. Sergio started to walk towards it.
“Hey…” she turned immediately at the sound of his voice.
She was soaked. Her own arms were wrapped around her to warm herself from the cold.
Sergio quickly moved closer to her, putting them both under the umbrella and out of the pouring rain. “Hold this.” he told her.
It was obvious she was hesitant at first, a bit shy and reluctant to impose.
Sergio noticed this. However, the rain poured harder and the wind blew stronger, so he no longer waited for her to take the umbrella. Quickly, Sergio took off his black leather jacket while holding the umbrella over them both, careful not to get her any wetter than she already was.
“Here. Wear this.”
Slowly and trembling a bit, Elena took the jacket and wore it. “Um, thank you.” she mumbled. Even her voice quivered.
“What happened?” he asked, as he put an arm over her shoulder, leading her closer to the Prius’ hood.
“There were detours….”
“Right, right.” Sergio tried to take a peek at the engine, but it was too dark. There was no way he —- or anyone could work on the car tonight. And not on this weather condition, no. Thus, he turned to her. “Where you headed to?”
“Home.” she replied with a weak voice.
Sergio turned back to the engine, gestured for her to hold the umbrella while he put the hood back down. “Do you have a phone?”
“I do. But the battery just died. I’ve been trying to call Natha—-“ she paused. For some reason, she no longer continued. This caused Sergio to turn and look at her and when he did, he saw her looking down to her toes.
He immediately knew something was wrong. He wanted ask, but it obviously wasn’t the right place and time.“Do you have stuff inside the car?” he asked her instead.
She nodded. ”Yes. Why?”
“Go get them. You’re riding with me.”
Elena shook her head and gestured with her hands.“No, I…um…I’ll be fine. I can just take a cab…”
Sergio sighed. “How long have you been standing here?”
Elena did not answer. She just looked down to her feet again.
“See? Now come on,” he put an arm over her shoulder again, “Let’s go get your stuff.”
“Wait, okay, you have a phone, right? Can I make a call?”
He shook his head and pressed his lips, flattening them out. “I don’t have a phone right now, remember? We’re in the middle of switching numbers?”
Of course that was a lie. “So come on. I’ll take you home.” Sergio took the umbrella from her hand and led her to the driver side of the Prius. And this time, Elena no longer refused. After all, she was tired and soaked. And really, really cold.
Once the door was open, Elena bent to get her stuff. A purse and a plastic bag with a box inside.
“What are you doing out here, anyway? At this time of the night? he asked.
Elena straightened up, closed the car’s door and pressed on the keyless lock. “I was supposed to be gone just a few minutes. But the detours, they got me lost. See…” Then she turned to Sergio and held the plastic bag up as if to refer to it. ”…I just went to get my doughnuts.”
And so, for a moment there, Sergio found himself thanking God for the rain.
And the detours.
To be continued…