soul cripple

Arriving at the Santiago airport on a Wednesday at seven in the morning can be a major mistake. Barclays, his wife Silvia and his daughter Sol were unaware of that little detail. After getting off the plane from Miami and walking for miles through corridors that seemed endless, after dragging their shoes and advancing at a weary pace, they finally came to a gigantic human queue, a zigzagging jumble of hundreds of people who crowded together waiting to pass. the blessed immigration control. It was an exhausted, sulking crowd, a hodgepodge of impatient travelers, a tower of Babel reduced to rubble. “If I stand in this fucking queue, I’ll die of a heart attack,” Barclays told his wife. He hadn’t slept at all on the flight. She had read, she had written, she had seen movies. She still hadn’t taken her sleeping pills. He would take them arriving at the hotel. If he took them on the plane before landing, he would already have fainted at finding himself confused in the midst of that crowd of people yawning, coughing, sneezing, complaining, and all without masks. The only paranoid with a mask was Barclays, despite the fact that he had received five vaccines against the coronavirus. “Let’s go to the handicapped queue,” he said, and headed resolutely to a migration corner where three or four people in wheelchairs were lined up. “They’re going to kick us out of here,” Silvia said, embarrassed. “Trust me,” said Barclays, sure of his good fortune. When their turn came, they approached the uniformed immigration officer. -Are you disabled? he asked Barclays, examining him from head to foot. “Yes,” said Barclays. I am mentally handicapped. The agent looked at him in surprise. “I have a mental illness,” Barclays continued. I am bipolar. I take lithium. “Then he’s not handicapped,” the agent told him. “Mentally handicapped,” Barclays insisted. If you want, I’ll show you my pills. I take Valcote, Seroquel and Remerón. Shall I show you? he said, bending down, opening his rolling briefcase. “No need,” said the immigration agent. – Do you know that Remerón is Mirta Zapina? said Barclays, being funny. I always travel with Mirta Zapina. Some people believe that Mirta Zapina is my lover. “Please, retire and do your normal queue,” said the uniformed gentleman. You can’t go through here. “But believe me, I am disabled, crippled in my soul,” Barclays insisted stubbornly. Isn’t that phrase cute? Crippled of the soul Unamuno said it. He told it to the Francoist general Millán Astray during the Spanish civil war. -If you don’t leave, I’ll call the police. “Very good morning, then,” Barclays withdrew. Although his wife was looking at him with growing irritation, he did not go to the gigantic, serpentine queue where the newly arrived travelers brooded over his discomfort. He then walked to the row reserved for the elderly and babies. “You’re a shame,” Silvia told him. It is impossible to travel with you. Once they were in front of the migration agent, he told Barclays: -It is not your place to go through here, sir. This queue is for the elderly and babies. “My daughter is a baby,” Barclays said. -How old is she? the agent asked. -Until what age is she considered a baby? Barclays was careful not to give the wrong answer. “Up to three years,” said the agent. “My daughter is three years old,” Barclays lied. His daughter Sol was eleven years old and she looked at everything in disbelief. “He suffers from gigantism,” said Barclays. It is an incurable disease. But there are worse, of course. How the baby has grown in just three years, damn! It is that the human species evolves! When the agent threatened to call the police, Barclays resigned himself to walking to the line of common travelers. Half an hour later, he was still doing the blessed queue. “I’m never coming to Santiago again,” he announced spitefully. They finally passed immigration controls. Zombies and dizzy left the airport. A driver was waiting for them with a little sign that said “Mr. Barclays, Ritz Hotel. “How wonderful this city,” said Barclays, suddenly in a good mood. One leaves the Santiago airport and feels in Madrid, in Barcelona. Ten minutes later, the smooth and orderly vehicular traffic collapsed in a pandemonium. It was rush hour or rush hour on a weekday. The van was not moving. And the driver was not willing to remain silent. He was talking about his parents, who were German. He was talking about his wife, who cooked very well. He was talking about his daughter, who had studied in Argentina and then emigrated to Germany, where she made her way. He spoke wonders of him and his family. He spoke ill of the president and his left-wing government. -What time does this old mummy shut up? thought Barclays, growing irritated. The girl Sol complained about the atrocious traffic. “Luckily you didn’t take your pills,” Silvia told Barclays. The driver kept talking about himself and his growing relatives. “How tiresome parents who speak well of their children,” thought Barclays. I prefer those who speak ill of their children. If the migration queue lasted more than an hour, the taxi from the airport to the hotel lasted an hour and a half, in the midst of an inclement sun and with a foul-mouthed driver who drilled their heads with his incessant chatter. Arriving at the hotel, Barclays gave the driver a stingy tip. When registering, he told the reception not to make phone calls, since he planned to sleep until four in the afternoon, the time when a World Cup soccer match that he did not want to miss was starting. “If the Pope calls me, they tell him I’ll call him back,” he joked, but no one laughed. As soon as he settled in his bed, Barclays turned on the television to find out which Chilean channel was showing the World Cup. He went through the entire channel offer. They weren’t showing soccer. He was alarmed. He was startled. He was distraught. Immediately he called reception and asked which Chilean channel was showing the World Cup. No one knew how to give him an answer. Then he fell asleep, thanks to the sedative effect of the pills. An hour later, he rang the phone and they woke him up. “Mr. Barclays,” a lady from reception announced in a melodious voice. To inform you that the World Cup is only broadcast by the DirecTV channel. -I asked not to wake me up! Barclays growled. “But you asked us on which channel they were showing the World Cup,” the young lady defended herself. -What channel is DirecTV? Barclays asked. “We don’t have DirectTV in the rooms,” the receptionist said. -How? Barclays yelled, flinching. Can’t I watch the World Cup in my room? No, Mr. Barclays. We only have DirecTV in the bar. You have to go down to the bar. -I don’t want to go down to the bar! Barclays exploded. I want to see him in my room! I yell profanity when I watch football! He didn’t say vulgarities, he said procacidities. “Let me see what I can do,” said the young lady. Barclays hung up, cursed his luck and fell asleep again. An hour later, the phone rang again. -I asked not to wake me up! Barclays yelled, almost collapsing in a fit of nerves. “It’s that the engineer is outside his room to install DirecTV for him, Mr. Barclays,” explained the receptionist. -Not now! Barclays went on shouting. Let him come when I wake up! -And what time do you plan to wake up? the lady inquired. “At four in the afternoon, when the game starts,” said Barclays. And please, don’t call me anymore! At four o’clock in the afternoon local time, the Barclays alarm made a high-pitched buzz. Barclays called reception and asked for the engineer to be sent to watch the football. “He’s retired,” they told him. In pajamas and slippers, Barclays went down to the bar and watched football, while drinking one coffee after another. The next day, the engineer installed DirecTV in the living room of the suite that Barclays was occupying. I could finally watch the World Cup without going down to the bar! Because in the exclusive club on the tenth floor, the World Cup matches did not show either. -In this country the poor cannot see the World Cup because they show it on DirecTV- Barclays told the hotel engineer-. It should be like in Argentina, where public television broadcasts the World Cup. Between games, Barclays went down to the club on the tenth floor, ate in abundance the delicacies that were offered there to certain exclusive hotel guests and drank splendid grape juice, without being charged anything. In that hotel in Santiago he had celebrated his fortieth birthday. Now he was fifty-seven and there was nothing to celebrate. While his wife and his daughter went shopping or went up to the indoor pool on the fifteenth floor, Barclays lived only for football. He shouted the Argentine goals as if he were Argentine. He shouted the Spanish goals as if he were Spanish. He deplored the Brazilian goals. He regretted the German goals even more. Barclays wanted the Argentines or the Spanish to win. But in no case the Brazilians or the Germans. His wife, however, because she didn’t watch football, or she only watched it from time to time, wanted the Germans to win. That opened a wound in the couple. Watching the biggest game of the week, the picture suddenly froze. There was no way to resume the transmission. Barclays did its best with the remote control, but failed. He immediately called the reception and shouted: -Send the engineer! I can’t watch the world cup! The image has frozen! -A thousand apologies, Mr. Barclays, but the engineer is not here. -Where is the? -In his house. Today he does not work. Barclays hurried down to the hotel bar, sat in a corner chair and, despite being a teetotaler, ordered a glass of champagne. “Traveling is an overrated pleasure,” he told himself, hating not being in his house.


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