His stare pierced straight into her eyes, like someone being blinded by an eclipse because they’d looked directly at it. Was he squinting because of the snow, had she pulled a face, that made him look at her like that, was it the stain of cider on her merino jumper? Maybe he was surprised at seeing a fellow Chilean in London.
“Laia!” he called out. The referee turned around abruptly and shouted “What did you call me?” Alexis chuckled “You don’t understand!”. “Are you saying I don’t know how to do my job”, the referee screamed back.
While Alexis had been celebrating his goal in front of the fans and transfixed for a few moments by this silver haired woman in the crowds, the referee had called for VAR assistance to determine whether the goal should be allowed or not. The VAR had decided Alexis was offside and it shouldn’t be allowed, by Alexis had been oblivious to this decision.
Suddenly, the referee reached into his pockets like a cowboy reaching for his gun in a saloon and pulled out a card. RED! He waved the red card at Alexis who looked up incredulous — not knowing whether to laugh at the shock or protest in disgust.
Like a bull in an arena, Alexis became transformed by the red card and stormed off the pitch through the dark tunnel.
Meanwhile, the olive tanned silver haired woman felt a pinge in the heart that she couldn’t comprehend. A footballer had been sent off for wrongly been offside. Was it her rebellious tendencies to fight injustice that had so plagued her during her youth that were coming back? After all, this was just football… Was it empathy towards a fellow countryman? Every time she met someone from Chile, her body froze like going outside into the Arctic tundra and getting an icy draught go right through you.
She wanted to scan every Chilean she met to understand what they did during the dictatorship — whose side had they been on? what had they done, or more to the point, what hadn’t they done, while Pinochet’s fans were gleefully clapping a government throwing people out of planes?
Then there she was…in the members’ bar on the top of the stadium, looking over 22 dots moving around. “A pisco please” a voice muttered still boiling with rage. “From Atacamba”. “Ata what?” the bar lady replied?
Suddenly, he felt a gentle tap on his arm. “No te preocupes, I’ve never seen any bar selling Atacamba pisco in the UK, but try this…” Alexis took the flask the woman gave him and sipped slowly. “There’s some heat in here!”
The woman smirked, “I infuse mine with chillies, particularly in this winter!” And then Alexis thought he was hallucinating. “Wait, that flask, who are those characters on it?” “Oh that, it’s a collage of Belle & Sebastian”. “Belle & Sebastian was my favourite cartoon”. “My son loved it too, he’d be the same the age as you”. Alexis grinned back and then stopped. “What’s wrong?” the lady asked. “The collage makes me think of my dad, he used to paint collages, he was in an art performance troupe”.
And…then…everything came back. “Alexis?” the lady echoed around the room. “L..aia?” Alexis replied. “I thought you were dead?”
“They tried to disappear me, but I disappeared before they could find me”