Like Smoke

Like the Prose: Challenge #8 – Shape a story inspired by football (soccer).

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I’m in a café in Madrid, and inevitably the conversation turns to fútbol – football – the game I know as soccer. As has happened time and again on my visit to this city, my companion’s demeanor has the song “Gay or European” from Legally Blonde: the Musical  running through my head.

I apologize for my bad language skills. “Me Español es muy mal y Mexicana,” I explain.

He counters, “Me Ingles es como humo.” Like smoke.

But I understand more Spanish than I can speak, and even though the Castillian accent throws me a little, somehow, we manage to communicate.

He asks me if I follow the game, and I have to admit I don’t. “I’m not really a sports person,” I say. “Except for figure skating and horse racing.” I blush and add, gesturing to the television, “I like the outfits. The shiny shirts and tiny shorts.” I’m quoting the musical again.

He laughs at that. “Well, who can blame you. It is why men watch gymnastics and swimming, no?”

I have to agree. It is probably why some men watch those sports.

“The problem is, you look at fútbol and see a ball game,” he says. “And really, you should see a dance. It is a dance with a ball. A great dance on a ballroom made of grass. The ball, she is your partner, and the other team, they are trying to steal your partner, and get her to go home with them for the night.”

“Okay,” I say, “you make it sound almost sexy.”

“It is sexy,” my companion insists. “Come, let me show you?”

“Now?”

“Do you have other plans?”

I don’t, and I admit it.

“Alright, so…” and he asks for the check, and pays it before I can make even a token protest.

He leads me a few blocks away to a terraced square where young boys in school uniforms are kicking a ball around. “That building,” he points, “was once a palace. Now it is a school.” He calls the boys over, asks if he can show the Americana how to appreciate fútbol. Asks if they will assist him.

At first, I just watch, but gradually, I’m drawn into the pick-up game. It’s casual. Informal. All good, because I’m told not to put my purse down (thankfully it’s a small cross-body bag) lest someone wander off with it.

And after half an hour, or an hour, I’m breathless from the activity, and the altitude (Madrid is much higher than where I live), but I’m also beginning to see what he means. It’s a dance. Patterns upon patterns.

We treat the boys to limonadas or Coca Colas and join them in their refreshment. The afternoon is dying, and my companion asks if I want to extend our afternoon, tour the literary quarter, then go to dinner “… and perhaps another kind of dance, if you are interested…?”

He’s a wonderful flirt, and I’m definitely interested. I accept his invitation.

* * *

Weeks later, I’m sitting in my office racing to meet a deadline when a box arrives from my Madrilleno dance partner. It’s a regulation fútbol and an invitation to return for a proper visit.

I laugh at the gift because I expected our encounter to be as ephemeral as his professed English skills.

Like smoke.

Then I reach for my phone to send a message over WhatsApp – asking when’s a good time for a visit.

He says after the World Cup.

I tell him it’s a date.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Like Smoke by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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