The big day was Saturday. I woke up early after another night out in time for kick off and took a shower The hangover wasn’t bad, in fact it wasn’t bad at all. We had it all planned. We were going to watch it at Patrick’s next door in the air conditioning and I would make my breakfast there and Arsenal would win. It was definitely on because we had confirmed it a few days earlier. We checked-out and walked out of the hostel. The sun was up but it was all right because we were only going next door.
Patrick was waiting in the hotel restaurant with a serious expression on his face.
There is no signal. It’s not working.
They’re trying to fix it.
Huh? Whaddya mean there is no signal?!
I woke up this morning and it wasn’t working.
Let’s wait a few minutes to see if they can fix it.
A group of blokes walked in. Are you looking for the football?, I asked.
Well, the Sky here has decided to stop working this morning.
You’re joking! Well then, we’re going to head down that way.
They marched off. We continued to wait.
There is no need to panic, I thought, the world isn’t coming to an end yet, we have time (WE HAD THREE MINUTES). There were some other bars I walked past yesterday that looked as though they might show it, I said, let’s check them out.
So we walked past the same bars I had passed the day before looking and asking for a television. Most of them were closed and the ones that were open didn’t have a tv. We decided to go back to Patrick’s to see if they had it working yet. I picked up some porridge for my breakfast on the way.
I had showered and felt clean but now I was sweating, sweating. It braided down my face and soaked dark spots through my t-shirt. It didn’t help I was wearing grey, but I hadn’t figured to be walking around Satan’s arse crack all morning. I was supposed to be sat in air conditioning enjoying the football.
It was time to panic.
WHAT KIND OF DICKHEAD OF A PLACE HAS NO TELEVISIONS!
They were still trying to get it working at Patrick’s. I slumped into a chair in the restaurant and watched them work. My porridge sat uncooked on the floor beside me. I wanted to cry. The despair I felt was just missing sandbags and barbed wire. I didn’t know what to do. I went to the bathroom so that my face could crumple, straighten again, and walked back out. By now the first half was coming to an end.
Boxhead had gone upstairs with Patrick to check the score online. When he returned he was shaking his head.
It’s 2-1 Hull.
Patrick was looking at his phone. I think I have a place. It’s just around the corner…
We passed another English couple on the way. We stopped together in the road. They were unusually calm given the situation.
Are you looking for the football?, I asked.
Yes! We just asked in there. They pointed to the bar to the right of us. They have a tv but can’t get the channel for the game. They don’t have the licence.
That was the place, said Patrick.
It had to be, I said.
We’re thinking about heading over this way.
That’s pretty far… and we’ve missed most of the first half anyway.
What? It starts at 12 doesn’t it? We still have 20 minutes to find some place.
No, 11, six hours behind.
…GOD DAMN DAYLIGHT SAVINGS!
After that there was no point. Patrick went back to his apartment and Boxhead and I sat in a café and watched the live commentary on our phones. We followed the end of it at Patrick’s. I was smiling, but it was a half-smile of sadness. I’d missed it. I read that it was one of the greatest finals of the last fifteen years. The ‘British’ pub on the corner hadn’t even opened. What kind of moron is running that place, I thought. He could have made a fortune. I surely would have bought a coffee.
A few hours later I had gotten over the tragedy and went for a walk along the water towards the skyscrapers. Most of what I had seen of Panama City was shit. Walking to the supermarket there had been a grossly overweight naked woman sat on a park bench. I thought to myself, if Panama City is the wealthiest city in Central America, then what are the others going to look like? But this was nice.
There were people jogging, playing sport, laughing, smiling, happy, walking dogs, and me, just me and my thoughts, me and whatever I was feeling, whatever dreams I have left. It was all very modern and safe.
That evening, we watched people in a bar. There were these two, tall, good bodies, real sexy, and a line of guys queueing up to talk to them. Every one of the guys was politely rejected and the girls danced and politely talked to the next one in line and it went on and on. Yet the guys remained, just outside of the wringer, hanging around, sat on a wall like desperation. Where is the dignity? Where? Their spirits had obviously been crushed long ago, pinched out by the structure of our society where people are lonely, aching for companionship.
We didn’t do anything. We just sat there and watched, like two old impotent men waiting on a bus stop bench.
At least those boys had guts.
I woke on Sunday in our new hostel and my skin was moist from the hot, humid air, and I want to like you Panama City, I want to.
Well, I thought, today is a new day. I will do something. I am going to walk around the old town.
I am not a natural optimist so it was very difficult for me to think like this.
Just then, there was a crash of thunder and it started raining, really raining. It fell in torrents, overwhelming the drains and collecting in the streets.
I stood in the window of our bedroom staring out at it, scarcely keeping it together. My brown eyes still on the rain, I thought, well, it’s the world. Bad things happen.
Eventually we did make it out. It was still raining and the air had filled with bugs that had risen from the marshes and the birds flew among then filling their beaks. The old town is undergoing something of a renovation. There are expensive hotels and restaurants next to empty shells and run down houses that are cracked and falling apart. The Welsh pirate Henry Morgan destroyed the original Panama City (now in another part of the city), and where we were walking is where they rebuilt it.
There wasn’t a lot to see so we walked back. Then we took a taxi to the mall. I’d suggested the day before that we go see Godzilla, which I was looking forward to.
I’m really looking forward to this.
We arrived at the mall and rushed to find the cinema. The place was enormous. When we found it there was a line of people like I hadn’t seen at the cinema since I was kid.
SON OF A BITCH! LOOK AT THAT QUEUE!
It was 4.05pm. My heart sank. 4.30pm was the next showing with subtitles. We’d never make it. I went to look at the listings. There wasn’t another showing with subtitles for five hours.
On their own, trivial things, but all of them together
I fell to my knees and threw back my head and emptied my mouth, my throat, my lungs in one long, howling scream.
I guess there were good times. Like the time we went to the canal and afterwards the fish market and bought some fish which we all cooked in Patrick’s apartment in the evening. That was a good day. But it signalled the end of the group from the boat. That’s what happens when you travel. You meet people all of the time but sooner or later they will disappear and leave you there alone.
I wonder if those boys found the football?