I Kissed Him Goodbye
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Water drops tick my skin and the wind tries to induce a tickle but fails to do so and I stand near the Santo's coffin and the priest tries to intimate the Lord about his arrival. I was looking at him; he sleeps so peacefully and without any hassles. He left me wondering if I was as spiteful and despicable as I am feeling now. He left me asking why I hadn't told him the truth about his mother. He left me guessing what I could have done to help him stay at the zenith of his career and hold him from succumbing to his greatest fear, the fear of failure. All it took was an inch to fail. The rain drops got heavier and the wind blew stronger as petals and leaves caressed Santo’s body and bid adieu to a world; a world that instilled hope and fight in him and when he met with his destiny, took his values as a token of sacrifice to induce pleasure that was painful and unworthy. They were about to close the lid. I ran to the coffin and asked the boys to wait; I wanted to see Santo for one last time. I could neither stop the tears that kept rushing nor resist the guilt of failing him. I bent closer to him and kissed his forehead as a symbol of our love that went beyond the pitch and preaching. Finally, the lid was closed and the coffin was lowered. I had nothing but a fistful of soil to give him as the last offering. It was done. Santo was done. I went to Alberdo and asked him to go back to Spain with Danilo and Liusio. I walked back, head hung low and eyes swelling in shame and sorrow, heart trying to beat out the grief and mind hovering over all those questions that shall haunt me for years to come.
I heard a paper trying to force itself out of my pocket, it was the letter Santo gave me. I quickly snatched onto it and held it softly, afraid it would tear to pieces as it was partially wet. I started to read…
I have always loved you. I looked to you for courage, for inspiration and for love. You were always there for me and I could count on you. I don’t know why I am penning this. I just felt I needed a chance to pull me out of all this mess. Real Madrid is certainly not within the reach
of a poor boy who played by the sands of a distant land. You were the ‘God’ I have been
praying to since my childhood. The club has been kind to me. The people here are humble (though a few players are not). It was great training here and playing, father.
Do you know how I felt to step on the grass for my first match father? There were more than 50,000 fans and the stadium rose high into the sky. There was a slight drizzle and the sky was pitch dark. Then father, I stepped onto the pitch with floodlights drawing shadows in eight directions and fans roaring to welcome me. I had goosebumps, father, I was living a dream. Remember you always said that there were a few gospels of the culture here? I did respect them and they gifted me. I could bear the fruit father, glory and goals. Fame did follow. Yes father, I was starting to dream big. But you weren't here to wish for. I did not know the way. I began living in dreams, ignoring that I had to work for them……..
I am a small town boy father. I don’t know what to do with so much fame and following
that I earned over a small time. I felt everything was in place. I started going out…to parties….drinks….drives. The world and time were running so fast they did not let me decide. I kept running. It wasn't long before I did the drugs. I’m sorry father. For me and the trust you place in me. I started off snatching all that the world deprived me of, riches, cars, house, fancy gadgets, fashion…….but I never thought I ended up being the same wealthy and unwise person I had despised growing up. It struck me now father, after it’s all over. I thought the stardom and record would help me hold my ground. But before I knew I lost it. All I wanted to do was what Cristiano was doing here or Messi at Barca or Rooney at United. I wanted to help the team in more ways than one. But the coach felt I wanted to do everything, including his job. I spit at him father. I did lose it. I am sorry I put you out of this. I did not want to bother you in your seventies. I thought things might get better. But soon I knew my days at Madrid were over and it was too late to let you know. My riches seemed to tease me. My peers were on the pitch while I was carrying refreshments. My fans began to dwindle in number and counselors were calling to fix an appointment. My manager Gratisso was persuading my sponsors not to back out. The world around me fell apart father. Of all my possessions, you and Mom were the only ones that promised to remain with me father. The only thing that cheered me up was that you were happy and will take care of Mom. Drinks replaced water in my body and soon, I was inhaling more drugs than air. Women did not make me happy either. So I went out for long drives. I was speeding away, from all the insults, pain, bills, fans and……..my life. I felt all alone sometimes. There were a few who used me as a chic-magnet and a money minting machine. They were done with me once I lost the entire beginner’s charm. I’m alone now, father. Not sure what to do, where to go or how to live. Hence, here I am, writing this letter just to make me feel more comfortable. If ever I was to give you this, consider me done and dusted father. I would have failed you, mother and myself by then. I thought football was my life and I came to the place where that was what mattered. But I realized I did not know life beyond football. It’s too late now, too late. Take good care of mother and yourself. That would only make me happier. Hope I can sort myself out before I end up giving you this letter….
The letter slipped through my hands and flew past me and my conscience and through
the window, just like Santo when I spoke to him for the first time and he ran into the meadows. I pulled my Frock coat from the shelf put on a Newsboy cap, walked my way through the muddy and greasy roads and reached the park. I asked myself what the purpose was and I did not hear back. I was certain that phase had come where my body parts with reason and does what a childish instinct dictates. I sat at the same bench that bonded me and Santo while a cold breeze greeted me and prompted me to remain mute. I could feel a cold trail on my cheek as a tear found its way down from my eye. He was sad he failed. He wished God could have spared an inch and given him an opportunity. I knew how he felt. I did no better either. That inch was the bitter truth that I failed to stop him, that I failed to be with him and that I failed to resurrect him. So I told the wind…and Santo…
“I failed you son. I did.”