Even for that season it was hot. I went west along the coast and found myself in Nerja, everything shivering like cellophane in the haze.
I saw they had built a palace where the dunes had been. Once the dune pools held egrets. They had reminded me of home. Creeping close I could glimpse the birds’ reflections in the water. Now there were fountains, but the fountains were turned off, and the swimming pools empty. After the first palace was a castle. After that castle another castle. Or palace. Each castle was fifty apartments piled on top of one another. Towers and minarets, but all empty. No cars in the parking places and the dune grass like wire breaking through the tar. And everywhere the signs; some Se Vende, some For Sale. But the English have stopped coming. Suddenly there are no English.
At last I saw a man and I asked him about a job. A
watchman’s job. A caretaker.
I’m going to Madrid, he said. My cousin has a tapas bar. The polytunnels are for the Africans.
I was in Madrid once and saw the living statues in Plaza Mayor. It crossed my mind. Who would I be? I thought of Picasso. They named the airport in Malaga after him. Then I thought of Lorca. I saw a plaque for him in Benal Madena. I looked up from the street and there it was. But how does a poet dress?
Then I thought of Clint Eastwood, the man with no name, the thin cigarillo between thin lips. Who would dare refuse him money? A fistful of dollars? But I would have to stand on a box. No men are tall where I come from. Even in this place, they call me Lazarillo. The little Lazarus.
I turned a corner and war had been declared. There were the Rangers supporters and there were the police. Grown men were vomiting in the street. There were police horses with white eyes, men with helmets and shields. The warriors are called The Gers, a Glasweigian tribe half naked and painted blue, singing outside GMex and The Thistle. I trod the broken glass around the Briton’s Protection Hotel. A gallon of Grunt, an eight pack of indigo SuperT. Bellies brimming with gold. I thought of the desert I had once crossed – all that ash as if the world had burned. Goat herders in their cinder-coloured rags.