"This is our last cycle." He says with his sad, baggy eyes. They aren't sad because he's a sad person, but simply because that's how his eyes look at first glance. He's got that smug that can only come with the years of experience a fifty-year-old ex-soccer player can display.
"That's right old-geezer," I reply. "This is our last cycle. What are you going to do after this? Live another hundred years?" I joke. He laughs. He tilts his head back and looks at the ceiling after having a good stomach laugh. I look at him from head to toe. This old bastard sitting in front of me. This old, degenerate perv. This retired goalkeeper. This, this, this amazing person with amazing stories to tell. God, I can't believe it's been almost a year since we started chemotherapy together. I can't believe I remember it like it was yesterday.
"Stick it in there, honey." He flirted with the nurse. The nurse giggled.
"This might sting a little." She warned again.
"Don't worry about it, I've had Woah!!" He winced as he shut his eyes close. He opened his eyes wide and looked at the nurse in the eye. "Something tells me I blew my chance." He joked. The nurse shook her head in both, disbelief and flattery. She checked the IV. The old man took advantage of the moment and checked her out from head to toe. I felt a little repulsed, but couldn't deny the fact that he had good taste.
"Alright, Mr. Smith." She took her hands to her hips and looked at Mr. Smith in the eye. "The dose you're receiving today is to make sure you can take the full cycle. Also, we want to see if you have any allergic reactions. And--"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." The old man broke her pattern. "I've heard this type of things in other fields. It's a bunch of mombo-jombo if you ask me." The nurse giggled and didn't take it personally. She did some final touches on the IV bags and hoses, then let it run. She walked up to me. I was so intrigued by the interaction that I had forgotten what I was there for.
"Can you please tell me your name and date of birth?" She looked at me in the eye. Her green iris contrasted so perfectly against her red lips. She reminded me of my kindergarten teacher, my first crush. "Name and date of birth?" She raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, Enrique Fonseca. October 16, 1999." I said hoping I didn't sound too desperate. The old man chuckled. Was that a challenge? The nurse pursed her lips. I looked her in the eye as she prepared my bay. I sat there attentively, paying attention to every detail. At this point, I had to ask.
"What's your name?" I asked her.
"Savanna," She looked me in the eye with a gentle smile.
"Savanna," I repeat. "That's a pretty name." I complimented her. She blushed. The old man neighed and scuffed.
"What you got there?" Savanna referred to a book I took with me.
"Oh, a book," I stated the obvious.
"Nah, dah, I mean what is it about." She chuckled as she teased me. I chuckled with her.
"I could've guessed that's what you meant," I admit my roughness. "It's about sports psychology and how top athletes prepare their minds for victory."
"Oooo, that sounds interesting. You're ready to win aren't ya'?"
"Hell yeah," I replied. "Easy money." I pretend to dust my shoulder off. "do you read?" I asked her.
"Yes, I read."
"What you read about?"
"Oh, the usual, here take this," She handed me two pills and a styrofoam cup of water. I took them without asking why I needed to take them. "Romance, mystery, biographies. The mainstream." She downplayed her taste.
"Nice," I nodded after hard gulping those two pills. "what's your favorite book?"
"Alice in Wonderland." She answered without missing a beat.
"Hah, interesting." I nodded with real curiosity.
"This is going to sting." She warned.
"Stick it in, Savvy," I said. She grinned and inserted the needle in my meta port.
"That's it?" I exclaimed. "I didn't feel a thing."
"Thank you," She took it as a compliment. "You're all set. You're receiving a small dose to see if you can take the full cycle and to see if you have any allergic reactions." She nodded for me to nod back. I did.
"Alright." She turned around. My male instincts kicked in and I saw all the reasons the old-geezer was distracted by. Savvy was hella attractive.
"Kike," The old-geezer hissed from afar. This caught my attention. Only family members called me Kike. How did he know that? I turned to him with a raised eyebrow.
"Don't give me that, I lived in Colombia for years," He closed his argument. "Hey, what are you here for?" He asked.
"Chemotherapy?" I said half teasing half unsure what he meant. He chuckled.
"Little brat, I meant what type." He looked me straight in the eye.
"Bone, I think..." I replied.
"What do you mean you think? you don't know what's going to kill you?"
"It's not going to kill me," I said firmly.
"You sound so sure of it, how do you know?" He taunted with a gentle smirk. He wasn't doubting me as much as he was testing me. Hindsight is twenty-twenty.
"I know because of this." I showed him my book. "I know how to fight effectively," I said feeling anger rising up in my chest. He chuckled, which made me feel even angrier at the moment.
"Relax," He leaned back on his chair. "I know a thing or two about fighting effectively. I was a pro athlete myself." He confessed.
"What?" I said incredulously.
"Do you play sports?" He asked me.
"Yeah, I play soccer," I replied. He laughed so loud that Savanna came to call his attention. He apologized as his laughter died down.
"What position?" He asked. "Don't tell me, striker." He guessed.
"How do you know?" I frowned.
"Oh, I've seen that smug before." He chuckled. "The face of the man who thinks he can do it all. The invincible, the untouchable, the praised by the millions." He closed his eyes as if remembering every face of every striker he battled in his life. "Ooo, I remember this game." He started and went to tell me stories of his glory days as a goalkeeper for Millonarios.
He told me every detail of the moments, of the games, of the players he faced, and I couldn't believe it. For all I knew, this old-geezer was demented and was making stories up to pass time while in chemo. For all I knew, he simply knew people's soft spots and he had found mine. For all I knew, I was in the presence of someone who has been where I want to be. Either case, that very first day, after chemo was over, I found myself looking forward to the next cycle.
The months went by and he shared a different story every time. He told me about the time he faced Ronaldo "the phenomenon" Nazario and how intimidating he was, but also what sort of mentality he set himself into to keep his goal unbeaten. He told me about his ritual to get into the zone and it resonated a lot with the rituals shared in the book. He told me about how much he enjoyed playing finals.
"The process felt better than holding the trophy." He would repeat constantly.
I wowed at the stories the old man related. He wowed at how much attention I paid to him and how close I had gotten with Savanna. He would always give me a thumbs up every time I applied one of his routines to pick up chicks. I let him borrow my book and he read it from cover to cover. He agreed with ninety percent of what it said, the other ten percent was actually doing it.
Although we were technically being killed by cancer and chemo, those moments and those stories made us feel alive.
"You know," He brings me to the present. "It was a good idea to not attend a support group." He chuckles. "we wouldn't have had the time to bond." He leaned back. "You made me feel like a dad." He smiled. We're sitting in the same chairs we've been sitting in since day one. I can't see, but I can feel the change in the atmosphere. It dawns on me that he never talked about anything else but soccer and his legendary matches, and his many women... He has never mentioned... family.
"Old-geezer," I start but I don't know how to continue. How could I've been so inconsiderate? I had let my passion take a hold of me and forgot completely about the essence of what a man is. His family. "Do you have any kids?" I finally ask. He doesn't' answer. He sniffs. I think I know the answer. I lower my gaze and for the first time in almost a year, I feel the effect of chemo. I feel weak and dizzy, drugged and high in not such a pleasurable way. I fall asleep.
I wake up and immediately direct my eyes to his chair. He's there. Reading a book.
"You young people don't know how to take a slide tackle." He closes the book. I want to talk, but he stops me by saying that I need the energies.
"I do have a kid." He sighs, "He must be around your age. The last time I saw him he was three years old. He looks like me, for better or for worse." He exhales. "I've tried to reach out to him, but I'm scared."
"Scared of what?" I ask
"That he will reject me." He confesses. "It's just been too long." He says as I stare at him. There's a long pause.
"Hold on," I say "How can a guy who faced Ronaldo, Lampard, and Rooney be scared of his child?"
"It's not the same." He says, "There's a big difference between being hit in the face with a ball going 180 mph and being hit in the heart by the rejection of your own son." I agree with his point.
"Well, how about we call him?" I propose.
"Are you cra---"
"No, I'm not crazy, old-geezer. You know who is crazy?" I get up from my seat, grab my IV and walk towards him. "The old guy who wasn't afraid of a PK shoot out, the guy who went fists first and knee out no matter who was in front of him. That guy was crazy and I need you to be that guy so you can call your son," I demanded as I pull my phone out. I hand it to him fully knowing that he had his number.
He grabs my phone and dials it from his heart. He puts it on his ear. I can hear the ringing on the other end. The atmosphere turns tense, the anticipation makes the seconds last forever.
"He's not answ--" Old-geezer's eyes widen. He looks at me and at Savanna.
"talk, talk," we both encourage.
"Ahem," the old-geezer clears his throat. He smiles as his eyes glaze over in tears. "Arthur..."
"I'm... it's me, your dad." He says then he takes his phone off his ear. He looks at it as we all hear the dim sound of the deadline. The amount of pain in his face can't be measured. He looked at me. My mouth goes dry. I... I... I... I don't know what to say. I feel guilty. I feel.. the phone rings.
He looks at the phone number. It's Arthur's!
"Answer, answer!" We encourage him. He does.
"Of course it's me my little Van Basten." He says with a tear rolling down his cheek.
"Oh, don't sweat it." He chuckles, "it's nice to hear your voice, too. you sound all grown. what? I sound old?" He chuckles. "that's because I am!" he laughed pulling his head back. I observe him for a second. I smile and make my way back to my chair. I sit down and see the story unfold before my own eyes. It makes me feel warm on the inside. Seeing my chemo grandpa smile makes me feel warm on the inside.