‘Nothing’s happened to him.’
His father said one day while they were alone at the table: this had all the signs of being one of those unexpected moments when he shrugged off his absent-minded façade. Miguel had been quiet for a while and looked up in surprise.
He said again as he peeled a peach. And then he said, whenever someone who’s supposed to call doesn’t call you always think something must’ve happened to them; they don’t have to go all the way to Rio to start you worrying when they go off the radar that they must be dying in a ditch or held hostage in a hole or sliced open on an operating table.
His father, unfazed, cut off the spiral of peach skin and passed him a piece with the knife.
‘That’s just how it is, Miguel.’
And then he told him yet again (it was a family story told and thoroughly retold, always with the same relish) that exactly one month before the wedding his mother – your mother, Miguel, you know what she’s like – had swanned off to help with the restorations after the floods in Florence. And weeks went by and back then there were no mobile phones, and she left no address, no way to get in touch, so he was completely on edge for the ten days before the wedding.
‘Her wedding, which was my wedding, Miguel, and me not knowing if there was even going to be a wedding and her parents, your grandparents, usually so polite, losing their cool, trying to get me to call the police, the Carabinieri, Interpol. Or at least to call every last one of your mother’s friends, when I barely knew who they were – you know how she is with her friends.’
And he spent the whole week before the wedding – he had told this a million times for a laugh – standing to attention by the phone in his potential in-laws’ house (because his own father, the famous and odious writer, didn’t have a phone and refused to have one for as long as he lived), unable to eat or sleep, lighting one cigarette off another, the smoke sighed away by his ex-future-mother-in-law as she replaced ashtray after ashtray. Thinking about how to repatriate the corpse or struggling not to imagine her in the arms of an infernal variety of artistic Italians and by the end even crying secretly in the guest bathroom: never would he forget the pattern on those bathroom tiles, and he even feared they would be the last thing he saw before dying.
‘The worst days of my life, Miguel. The worst I’ve ever been through.’
And his mother never called. What she did was show up two days before the wedding very tanned and very happy, in love with Florence and later with Sienna and Lucca, where she’d met some lovely people with villas and gardens, but none with telephones.
‘So no, Miguel, he hasn’t been kidnapped or murdered, it’s never that, they never get kidnapped or murdered, Rule will call when he calls and show up when he shows up. I appreciate what a bad time you must be going through, but I also appreciate how far away this whole thing will seem in no time at all, just as I can now see myself wringing my hands in Madrid while your mother was hitchhiking around the Cinque Terre or whatever. And I see how ridiculous I was, and still have a ridiculous complex about Italy, a country I can’t stand the sight of and just hearing any of that tacky waffle about the Cinque Terre spoils my whole day.’
Then his father licked the peach juice off his fingers and washed his sticky hands.
Excerpt from Segunda parte by Javier Montes, translated by Jennifer Adcock, Kymm Coveney, Lucy Greaves, Ellen Kenny, Emily Rose, Joey Rubin & Anne McLean with the collaboration & intervention of Javier Montes, at the BCLT literary translation summer school 2013.