Darragh bought a new football so we went to Parque Las Heras to play. It was General San Martin’s Feast Day so a day off from school. We woke up late to birdsong and sirens. On schooldays we`re up before the birds, but there are always sirens. It was sunny so I took out the sun cream and generously lathered it on. Anyone who knows my excessive sun-creaming will laugh at this point. We descended seven floors and left our building with the bright, new, orange ball proudly under Darragh’s arm. We marched the block to the park.
The park was hopping. Literally. Teenagers with springs attached to their shoes bounced like bunnies. Steel drums beat out a pulse. Legions of toddlers in motorized little cars drove round and round. Parts of the park were covered in white fluff as if flocks of sheep had been savaged earlier. Darragh picked up a massive nut that had fallen from a tree, discovering that it contained the same white fluffy interior. A yard of grass was at a premium so we scouted for a suitable yet secluded location to hide my poor first- touch.
Passing bare trees, groomed dogs on leads and friends sharing mate, we found a grassy spot and shyly began passing the pristine ball. Eventually, losing inhibition with no-one watching I began the usual messing; botched attempts at extravagant skills. Ribolas, bicycle kicks, Cruyff-turns. Trying to break my embarrassing keepy-uppy record. Soon one of the local children joined us. Then more and a match began. One child looked at me and in Spanish asked, `Are you a foreigner? You look like a foreigner. Are you Brazilian?’ I don’t know if it was my silky football skills or the excessive sun-cream that gave me away.