That night, I was leaving a dance club and had wandered away from my friends when a drunkard had to show me the way to the train station. He wasn't just any drunkard: he had a prodigious spatial memory. He was unshaven and had a dark face, as if painted with charcoal, and wore a blue jacket and slip-on Reebok sneakers. I can orient myself easily and never get lost, but when I smoke, a bus is no longer a way to get home, but a neon light that leads to space, a sound that comes to life. That's how I was when the drunkardfinished his long explanation and I approached him to give him some coins. But I didn't have any money left in my pockets. I apologized and he returned a smile. The drunkard knew that not having cash doesn't mean not having money, because he asked:

“Won't you buy me a coffee?”

"A coffee," I repeated. "Okay." 

We walked to the service station on the corner, where I bought him coffee and a pack of cigarettes with my card, and asked him to give me only one. Since I had also ordered coffee, I talked to him under the pale light of the station.

“Good memory for the streets”, I said.

“I had a cab for a few years”, he clarified. "Here and in the South Zone, always at night. Then I quit, sold it for little money." 

He showed some big, decayed teeth.

“Now I bust myself quietly, without breaking anything, you know? Without making a fuss.”

At that point, the gas station attendant approached us. He was an elderly man with gray eyes, protected from the cold by the company jacket.

“Friend”, he said. "How are you doing tomorrow?"

“Good, Ramoncito, good, I went to the gym today, ran a few laps around the park...”

And he let out a drunkard´s laugh, rough in his throat.

“I don't cause trouble, I was just telling the friend, he bought me coffee.”

The attendant looked at me inexpressively. 

“Just as you see him… like this”, he said, looking for the other man with his eyes. "He´s a hell of a soccer player. A complete genius. What a waste, brother. If they had seen you... tell the boy here where you'd be if they had seen you.”

“I guess... in Chaca”, the drunkard said.

“Chaca! Come on, you idiot… you could have played for the national team! With your talent… what a waste! Chaca, stop joking around...”

The attendant went to the bathrooms, laughing. I thought about asking more about his condition as a player, but I wanted to leave, to get home. The problem was, once again, that I had forgotten how.

“I'll go with you”, the drunkard said. "Let's go." I told him it wasn't necessary, that I was fine with him repeating the old explanation. I was willing to get lost as long as I was alone. But as I thought of an excuse to get rid of him, he replied:

“It's just that I have nothing to do...”

“You know that the train”, he said as we walked down a poorly lit street, "is a strange thing, I took it a lot. You think it's going somewhere, but it's not going anywhere. Look, I've been all over the place: Pompeya, Torcuato, Morón, Tres de Febrero, who knows... It's all the same, all equal. Or, well, at first, it takes you, but then, for me, it doesn't. You run out of bullets, you know. You run out of numbers, like in the lottery. Oh, how I feel like playing the lottery! Don´t you? What number do you play? No, but seriously, I see that after... I don't know. You're the train, you know, in the end you're the train. And the train you're going to take now is going nowhere, remember that, buddy. What do you think? What's your opinion on the matter, eh? Wait, you didn't tell me the number. If you're playing the lottery, what number are you playing?”

"I don't really have a number like that", I said.

"I play one zero four. One zero four, always. Do you know why? Nah, why would I explain it to you... It's a long, long story, eh. But if you want, I'll tell you. We're a few blocks away."

Then he started telling me the story of someone, I wasn't sure if he was talking about his father or his uncle, someone who had been a lifeguard all his life on the beaches of Mar del Sur. This lifeguard suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to an accident in his childhood. He was the most alert lifeguard of all, with fifty or sixty rescues, not a single death. But one summer a beautiful and enigmatic woman arrived in Mar del Sur, married to a blind painter. The woman and the painter went to the beach every day and it wasn't long before the lifeguard, who helped the painter bathe on the shore, struck up a difficult relationship with the woman, forged in long days of sun and windy nights that made the shutters rattle. The woman was careful and always returned before the blind man awoke, although for him it never dawned or darkened, he always saw different shades of gray and yellow. During their stay, the blind man began a painting whose production extended over time. The midday sun made tiles on the water, the blind man asked to be taken to the house to paint. The woman took advantage of the shade of the shack to distract her body, where the lifeguard lost himself, dispersed in knees and wood. The blind man painted and the woman became obsessed with something indefinable, something uncertain that represented that shack for her life. When she returned to the house in the afternoons, the painting was always covered with a cloth and the blind man rested in the armchair, legs up. He asked her without aggression to make him some mate tea, explained that he had been having many visions, it was good, he said, very good, and suggested extending their stay perhaps indefinitely. The woman, anxious, allowed herself to be convinced without much opposition, with some fatalism. The old man said he was painting something extraordinary, that she shouldn't see the painting until it was finished. The woman agreed, said that April was the best month for vacationing. She told him they would be alone in a beautiful place. The blind man nodded, said he could feel the proximity of the sea in his bones. That night, the woman snuck over to the lifeguard's house to give him the news. The lifeguard spent long sleepless nights smoking with a stapler and a radio. He was used to letting the hours pass without anything breaking. So when the woman arrived, he received the news suspiciously. They went to bed, but the lifeguard didn't sleep all night. The next day dawned cloudy. The woman left and came back desperate: the painter was no longer in his house and had not appeared anywhere. No one in the town had seen him walking or getting lost on the beaches. It was as if the earth had swallowed him up. Instead of going to look for him, the woman ran to the house to the house to uncover the painting...

"Fuck", the drunkard said to me, "I forgot what I was talking about. Look at that little black kitten over there. Do you see it? Yes, the black one. He's waiting for the other one, the spotted one. They get together every night to talk behind the trash can. What a place, right?... with so much to choose from. If I were a cat, I'd go to the bench in the closed park. Or some little roof. If they climb everything, you know what it's like. I don't know why they go to talk in the dirt. With so many places to go. If I were a cat... I'd get the hell out of here. I'd kick until I reached the countryside, make friends with the trees, with some puma... Puma Goyti! What a player, Puma Goyti, do you remember him? I haven't seen him in a while. I used to go to the station to watch him. The Puma was great, bald with a way of talking, a handsome guy. And what about you, hey? We haven't even told each other our names. I'm Moreno. Nice to meet you."

Through the fog, the red and white barriers of the level crossing appeared. We had arrived at the station by accident. I thought it was time for me to leave, and I didn't want to leave him talking alone because, after all, we were having a conversation. Then I thought that, as excited as he was, he would get on the train with me to accompany me home. What if he really insisted on accompanying me to my stop and then followed me to my door? I would stand firm. "You drunken bastard, that's enough, get out of here," I would say. In the end, people on the street are capable of anything. I suppose this guy could enter my house and sit down for a drink on the couch. Maybe he was armed with a knife or a switchblade. He could make me get on the train and take me with the blade against my back, under his jacket. Maybe he wasn't even drunk, maybe he was pretending, and the whole story was a maneuver to distract me and rob me with his friends, the gas station attendant... the gas station attendant was probably involved. I thought about the possibility that it had all been a facade, a perfectly rehearsed and unscrupulously executed act. Always waiting for some idiot to fall into the trap of the drunk and the coffee. And the idiot had been me. I regretted smoking, for getting lost far from home. I'll make up a name for him, I thought. I won't give him my name in case he does something with it.

"Jorge," I said, "my name is Jorge." 

It was the first thing that came out, a false name that gave itself away. I thought he would realize it, because there was a silence. 

"Jorge," he said. "Cool. There are the barriers, champ. I'll leave you because there's a game tomorrow. I have to stretch, you know... Remember: left platform. Always to the left for the north. If I hadn't gone the other way, wow... I'll tell you that one another time. Another, another time... crazy... hey, you know!" 

After waving his hand in the air, he shook my hand. It was blistered with burns and dried paint. I squeezed it. Then he turned around and left, talking to himself, to the shop windows, to the trash cans... I didn't want to see how dirty he had made my hand, so I put it in my pocket and went to wait for the train.
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