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The final frontier. Cancer, Virgo, Libra.
In my house I have everything. I have doors that bolt-lock themselves, drawers that don’t let themselves slam. I have a reminder sent to my phone through an app connected to my oven that tells me when my food’s done. Reactive window-panes in every frame of the house, changing through gradients of translucent to transparent, muted to the morning sun and porous to the exploding stars at night. I believe I’ve identified constellations from the window I sit at, double glazed, light-reactive. The windows are cleaned every Tuesday. I have things on my mind.
The kitchen is cleaned every Wednesday, the house in general every Friday. I have an island in my kitchen, a breakfast bar, fully-stocked spice-rack, mugs hanging on a stylish set of hooks my son has named ‘the mug tree’. My bed is situated in a drop in the floor, two carpeted steps down, into a little recess. It’s a mansion-house I suppose, broader, boxier: basement, ground floor, upstairs. I have a walk-in wardrobe. A garage with a shiny new Benz in it.
I play on the emotional fringes of the game. I play there to provoke the magic they pay for. I’m a tactician, a strategist. I drag myself through hell backwards to stop the ball going out for our throw-in in the 89th minute. I make runs that hurt me even though I know I will not receive the ball. My game is intuitive, untaught, learned from long Saturdays at the football cages at the park, from age seven to, I suppose, now. I still play football in metal cages on Saturdays, figuratively speaking. I follow my emotions.
I have a coffee-machine that delivers rich, delicious coffee, the only required effort on my part is to put a small capsule of my choosing into the slot, close the lid, and let the magic happen. It came with an insurance plan and cover, a subscription to the newsletter, a capsule-delivery of my choosing, like clockwork, every three weeks. I had the ‘Ethiopian Intensity’ this morning.
They signed me because I am a Galáctico.
My wife, Maria, tells me I need a hobby. I tell her training is tiring. I tell her lies. I let things get uncomfortable. We don’t have sex nearer to a big game. I’m not cruel about it, but if it is good enough for boxers then it’s good enough for me. She says that it doesn’t make a difference when the match is two days away, but I’m on the fence. We eat out a lot. Usually the same two or three places. Neither of us can cook.
‘The food here is always so beautiful.’
She works as a model sometimes, nothing cheap, clothes on. She’s good at her job. She’s been in adverts on TV and was a star before any association with me, her own entity. She’s building her portfolio and often bumps into people in the industry at Grosso’s, while we’re eating. She wants to be a catwalk model, which I think is the most appealing of modelling options. I talk to her at dinner knowing I’ll be interrupted like this:
‘I spoke with Naomi last week and I told her what you said the last time I saw you. Here, actually. That’s weird. She said that she would like your details, she would like to see a portfolio, she would like to tie a bow on you and put you on advertising boards the world over.’
‘Seriously. A lot of excitement.’
‘My God. Take this, my card.’
I have a telescope in the garden, though I keep it in the utility room, adjoined to the garage. When it’s looking clear-skied I go out there and look at the exploding stars. The life-cycle of stars.
I read the newspapers on my tablet. I read about the Chelsea manager, banning three players from the senior squad for being found drinking by paparazzi in London. The article says that Chelsea are still looking to recruit a forward, after the bizarre form displayed by formerly lethal striker, Van Gild. He had lost his form. News-entertainment shows ran features on ‘The Yips’, the sporting phenomena of which players fell off the radar completely, lost their skills.
I eat breakfast in the Jacuzzi, with another coffee. I try to keep my mind active. I was good in school, smart. Football was what I was best at, so I followed it. I liked physics, maths. The Magnus effect and its application to a football. I take a call on my new phone.
‘We need an interview for the website today, would it be possible to secure a few words from you after today’s training session?’
‘What are the questions?’
‘Your thoughts on the upcoming game? A few general questions.’
‘Yes, that’ll be fine.’
The life-cycle of stars. My son, Leon, is learning this at school. He told me two days ago that most stars burn out, wither into white and then black dwarves. Only some grow, become supernovas, become black holes. I’m not sure how correct that is, but I didn’t challenge him on it. They wanted my interview because I am a Galáctico.
At training I score. I pass, I collect possession, I occupy areas of the pitch, the space, rush into it like water. They call me a Raumdeuter. The manager is building the team around me and I realise this today. I give an interview afterwards regarding the upcoming match against Spurs. I say that I am looking forward to my return, and that wearing the shirt makes me proud.
We invite Léandro and his girlfriend over. We get some food brought over, put on some music. In my house I have multi-room speakers. The music is selected from a central port and plays throughout the house, or in certain rooms only. I have multi-room TV, all on the same satellite provider.
Léandro says, ‘Moved back in so quick.’
His girlfriend says, ‘So brave.’
‘It was time,’ Maria says.
‘Yeah. We couldn’t hide forever. This is our home. Though Leon enjoyed the hotel didn’t you?’
Leon smiles and nods.
Léandro says, ‘Are the police any closer to finding them?’
Léandro has beautiful feet, fast and nimble. He is my best friend in the team. We talk about the game, about what can be done within the white lines. About the ebb and flow.
I’m clever in a different way. A maestro, in context. The game is all about space. You use 11 men to try and dislodge the other 11, move them out of position. The only man you really need to wrong-foot is the keeper, but he has 10 men in front of him, guarding. So I use the pitch and the chemistry of like-minded men to move the opposition to where I want them. Léandro says ‘Football is an act’. I agree and point out the coffee-machine.
A dummy-run can make the defender follow the run, brings him out of position, opens up space for a team-mate, an attacker, a part of the pitch we haven’t filled yet. This is the ebb and flow of football, 11 separate games of chess. Account for every yard of the pitch vs an eight-by-eight chess board. There isn’t a tangible numerical answer, the only answers lie in knowing the game. I am a tactician.
Léandro and his girlfriend leave. We tell the security, who then switch to night-patrols. My wife puts my son to bed and then she goes to bed too.
The life-cycle of stars. I sit at my window while my family sleep. I look at the stars. I drink coffee. I try to log a new constellation. My doors bolt-lock themselves. I have things on my mind.
They said it was a job.
They said it was a hit, a score. They posed as parents of a child in my son’s year, signed up to the ‘phone-tree’ of parents in case of emergencies. They received access to our phone numbers, our address, most likely through a hackable contact in the school.
I sit at the window and watch. See the stars burn.
They scaled the walls, after pulling up outside in a blacked-out SUV, like the one I see pull up to my gate and check-in with the guard posted there. They scaled the walls, came round the side of the house, the side I’m sitting in now and smashed their way in through the windows, glass shards spreading all over my kitchen floor. I heard the noise and stood up from the sofa. They pointed shotguns, found us in the living room.
I put my hand on Leon’s shoulder and started kneeling, until he understood and did the same. Maria kneeled, moved over to our son. They held the guns on us and one of them said ‘Doors’, prompting one of the other two out of the room to check the locks. They wore masks, Mexican, Day-of-the-Dead, dark with vibrant fluorescent swirls and manic smiles. They were English, I could place accents. Virgo had a tattoo on his wrist but the police still haven’t identified anyone with the same rocket tattoo.
The same one said ‘TV’ and the other one walked to the TV, turned it off at the wall.
I said, ‘Please.’
‘We need your co-operation.
Leon and Maria were taken into another room. I fought and was hit. I watched while I had my face pressed to the carpet, close enough to count individual fibres.
‘Two Rolexes. Necklaces. Diamonds.’
‘Crux?’ He shouted for results while he pinned my face to the carpet with a shotgun.
He put the shotgun to my back, behind my heart, and led me upstairs to the safe in my room.
‘How is my son?’
‘You can make this all back in a week, this just keeps the economy spinning’. I keyed in the code. They took the keys to the Benz, £10,000, another necklace. Libra took me back downstairs, into the spare room. They were pointing guns at Leon and Maria. I tried to measure the distance, see if I could get to Crux and Virgo before I got shot, if I could kill them where they stood.
They wore radios that beeped and said ‘Clear’ every few minutes, but I didn’t know where the reports were coming from. I thought they might have us surrounded, would kill us here, in our own space.
‘Where are your mobile phones?’
I looked at my wife.
‘In the living room,’ she said.
Cancer left the room. Libra held the gun on us until the other two came back.
‘Just one. The wife’s.’
Libra spoke to me: ‘Does the boy have a phone?’
I asked him: ‘Leon. Do you have your phone?’
Libra said, ‘Guns down. Virgo, get the lamp.’
Virgo threw down a carry-all he had on his back and unzipped it, began assembling a 10W LED work-light, battery powered. He turned it on and left the room.
‘He’s gone to cut the electricity. I need your phone, Leon.’
My son looked at me and I nodded. My son walked towards Libra and took his phone out of his pocket and placed it in his hand. Then he came and knelt between his mother and me. I took my phone out of my pocket and threw it across the floor. The lights dropped.
They said it was a hit, a big score.
I sit here and see the pale pink sky rising over in the distance, the windows tinting incrementally. I cut them both free after I freed myself. I turned the power back on and phoned the police from the landline, as well as the club’s Player Liaison Officer. They blind-folded us, hog-tied us with cable ties. I found our phones in a dish in the sink, the tap still spraying water into it, our phones waterlogged and blown-out. They gave themselves time and space from the scene of the crime.
They had slashed the sofas, destroyed TVs, smashed up the kitchen. They knifed open my bed, turned my son’s room upside-down. They did it while they left us in that LED light’s glow. I put my son and my wife in a luxury hotel, paid for four private security guards to stand outside the door at all times. I watch the 24/7 blacked-out security SUV make another check-in at the gate.
The dew on the lawn is crisp, sparkling like the stars I’ve spent the night learning from. Learning how to occupy space, how to swell into being as a supernova, a black hole. I push a ‘Moroccan Dark’ capsule into the coffee-maker. I froth milk. Delicious coffee trickles from the nozzle. Constellations feeding off a Galáctico.
My son watched Star Trek: The Next Generation in the hotel. The final frontier. He asked me if we were safe.
‘We are safe. We have new locks. New security.’
They pulled up in an SUV, they’d most likely studied the house for weeks, devised escape routes, plotted the fluency of traffic. They found our weakest point: the windows.
It feels like they’re still in the house. I feel like it still, because they are still free, still abstractly ‘out there’, ghosts that came with the house, hidden in the cavities.
Maria says I have tunnel vision. She wakes me up in the chair, my Moroccan Dark all over my chinos. She says I have tunnel-vision and that I need a hobby. I don’t have tunnel-vision. I don’t need a hobby. It isn’t tunnel-vision; it isn’t a tunnel. It’s a hole, a black hole.
My wife blamed me and told me I was essentially the culprit of the burglary, the one who made us move, the one who didn’t protect us properly. She said it in front of my son, who listened and said nothing, his arms behind his back and his eyes under a damp blindfold. They blindfolded us and left us in a dark room.
We returned to life in the same house two weeks later with guards, alarms, cameras, check-points, weekly reports on the integrity of our perimeter. I read articles in my hot-tub with a coffee. I read about Alzheimer’s, about people in a residential home in America who all suffer with it. They all locate themselves at a point in their own history and seem to occupy it from there, gradually losing comprehension. There was a sufferer in the article who could only repeat the word ‘Shucks’ endlessly, as he moved around the residential home. The life-cycle of stars. I wondered if I would become a sufferer of Alzheimer’s in later life. Would I remember myself from this point, wounded, clipped? Would I spiral inwards, lose comprehension, repeating the same word?
In the next game, my first game after the robbery, I scored two goals. I made myself available in space and received the ball and hit it from outside of the box. It dipped, moved in the air. The way I’d kicked it had put spin on it, forced it to dip wickedly, clip the underside of the bar. The second goal I lifted over the keeper from a one-on-one. I disguised the shot, acted. Tricked the goalkeeper into diving down to his side. He could only watch the ball float past him and into the net, his body committed to a dive and unable to change momentum. I moved the keeper off his spot, moved him out of position, used the space.
I play in the black hole, on the emotional fringes. My football is personal, honest, played as it should be. I respond to the world on the pitch. I go where space is, where it’s okay to live. I am the Raumdeuter, the implosion, an inverted, swirling mass, a false growth in the fabric of reality, a black hole on the pitch, supernova, the final frontier, repeating the word, Galáctico.