The Flame Years later in a grimy gritty Carlsberg sponsored sports bar in Kings Cross, Jeremy would confide in me that the romantic outpour of 1998 was the beginning of a series mental health issues which would result in him being sectioned at a Wood Green hospital in the summer of 2015. He said, I went a bit over the top mate and build a house in my subconscious with no roof or ceiling, you know? I should have stopped the storm of emotions before I developed a sort of religious fervour which would make me consider sacrificing my own flesh for the plight of Chilean democracy. Of course I was never going to lift a finger for them but mate to even think about it was a bad sign. I was nobbled by the flame of wanting. A wanting which supplanted me. I was not a lad from Leeds studying Literature or Philosophy anymore but a bolt of self-imploding nuclear longing pointed at an overly attractive twenty year-old girl. It was the first time I ceased to be English. It was the first time I was my species, an undefined lump of sentient meat in awe of Lula’s socialist views and her perfectly shaped legs. Like a million other sentient lumps throughout the ages gobbled and munched by the monster fangs of romance, flesh and huge ideas.
I tried to console him endlessly reminding him that we had all been there but he was not having it. His suffering was bottomless. He said:
Mate I fucked up epically and the worst thing is that I would do it all over again. Much the same but worse. I would go in headfirst. I would not control. I would jump with more swagger and vigour into the black hole of the moment. Into the well of otherness. I would bloody time-warp myself to the exact instant, that particular slice of the time-space cake-conundrum, a couple of minute micro-seconds before the first devastating snog. Blind drunk with pisco. The whole university campus screaming and shouting and sixty percent of the male student population staring at her face. Delving in and pining for that almost perfect feline dark-eyed holy face which would haunt me for the rest of my pathetic fucking life!
That night we got completely wasted and ended up in a flat in Hackney where two beautiful young Italian girls fought for our affections. It was fun and exciting to watch our old Indie Englishness seduce young Europeans with Pulp and Blur t-shirts. For them us regazzi were the real thing. We had the perfect Indie Northen folk Yordie accent and the most vintage sports shoes they had ever seen. Years before they were scouting the night-clubs of Milan for boys which would assimilate something as English as us.
That one even got Jarvi’s glassis –I heard one of the girls say.
We did not complain. Together they brought back an idealised version of Monica Bellucci. The dark hair. The chiselled body parts and the dark eye-make up. We played covers and smoked a million cigarettes. I was having the time of my bloody life but Jeremy kept looking back to the morning of the arrest of Augusto Pinochet. His fingers strummed the chords but his mind was buried in 1998.
Stunned he was, Pinochet. His bodyguards did not have guns. No one expect it. Not in England. And the Bobbies did it. They just went there and cordoned off the area. The great General detained. Did not even have his clothes with him. I watched it all unfold years later. On the TV.
Meanwhile the Chilean students of La Serena University partied like they had just won a World Cup. Colourful fireworks decorated the skies and the air was perfumed with the intoxicating smoke of pure marijuana. The University Dean who was secretary to the minister of Education during the Pinochet regime cancelled classes for the day. He was afraid students would cause too much commotion and notify the press. The strategy was to let the youths go wild for a day and then try and forget the matter. He was sure Augusto would be released promptly. The Chilean government were already taking steps for his liberation as they considered it a violation of their national jurisdiction and their autonomy as a nation. According to them, Pinochet was a Chilean citizen protected by Chilean law and could only be tried in Chile no matter how many children’s fathers he had led to the slaughter. The Dean hid in his imperial office as the afternoon turned into one of the wildest festivals the university had ever seen.
Jeremy was glued to Miguel, Ulises and Lula. He followed them anxiously as he took swigs form the Pisco bottle. Lula was getting more euphoric and agitated by the minute, jumping about like a coked-up butterfly and spitting out all kinds of obscenities against Pinochet. He loved watching her swear. She swore with her heart. She swore as a sort of prayer summoning both the joy and the pain of years of frustrations. She was alive. As alive as anyone he had ever seen. The red of her dress was brighter than anyone else’s clothing. The contours of her body more defined, more precise. She was conceived at a higher resolution than the other youths around her. Jeremy was certain. He tried to scream and swear too but his voice was faint and unsubstantial. There was something missing in the resonator of his throat. Energy? The traces of vitality which were impossible to rally or fake? He kept trying. Pushing his chest tightly to emanate sound. Luckily he was close to Lula’s radiant being. The idea was to be charged by the potent electrical charges her body and mind exerted. Lula was loving the attentions. She could feel it. The waves of her magnetic field spreading around the festivities. She felt the power and the attention but she wanted more. She stopped her screams and looked at Jeremy intensely. Then ordered him to crouch down. Jeremy obeyed like a trained police dog and Lula hopped on his shoulders with an athletic jump. He was bewildered and drunk and yet found the strength to stand up. It was a moment of heroism in the narrative of his life. A moment of victory. As soon as he straightened his back he was overwhelmed by a feeling of tremendous joy. Her perfectly shaped long legs dangled over his chest. He grabbed her ankles and sighed with pleasure and excitement. Her hips were locked upon his shoulders and Jeremy tightened the grip. He could feel the tremor of his heart as it pressed against her legs. He felt lighter than he had ever felt before. As if her weight was lifting him up to the smoky palladium of resistance and fulfilled desires. He screamed again and this time a loud grunt emanated from his throat.
-Muerte Pinochet! –He cried. -Muerte –she responded as she touched his face.
Miguel was biting his nails. He hated seeing Lula balanced on Jeremy’s English shoulders and yet somewhere in the bottom of his partisan heart he was also pleased for the triumphs of his new foreign companion nation. After all, the Brits had imprisoned the hateful troglodyte. And the pale-faced blondie was not as bad as he had first appeared. He had to admit that Jeremy was with them in the midst of the chaos. Yes, surely pining after Lula more than a real political change but still with them, screaming, drinking pisco, carrying the most beautiful insignia of Chilean resistance, a perfectly sculpted offshoot of the Latin American Pacha Mama.
-Here more! –exclaimed Miguel as he passed Jeremy the bottle.
-The gringo already drunk –protested Ulises.
No one cared. Jeremy gave it another shot and moved towards the centre of the green where students were burning an A3 size photograph of the general. Lula was rooting for his movements from above his shoulders and Miguel and Ulises followed disapprovingly. One of the anti-general youths noticed the unusual looking formation of Jeremy and Lula and started to laugh. He then pointed to the balancing act and invited his friends to mock them. Some of the students joined in the ridicule and one threw a water bottle in their direction. The bottle nearly hit Jeremy in the head. He had to move his head to the side to duck the impact and this made him lose his balance momentarily. He was oscillating from side to side. Miguel and Ulises intervened to try and hold the human totem pole together but the alcohol was already too advanced in his system and his centre of gravity was shaken. Jeremy tried to regain control but trampled over a foot and finally completely lost his balance toppling over forcefully with the weight of Lula on his back and landing straight on the leading youth of the student group and his photo in flames. Luckily Lula managed to prowl off Jeremy’s back before the fateful impact and scrambled over some of the students gathered around to land in a non-humiliating manner. Jeremy tumbled like a clown. He felt the heat of the flames spurting out of the old photograph and tried to extinguish it quickly whilst navigating his downwards trajectory. Luckily the speed and force of the fall extinguished the fire quickly and did not impart much damage to his physical constitution. The fall was much worse though as he trampled over boots and heads and landed flat on his nose on the floor. There was a moment of complete silence and surprise before the gathering of students and teachers burst out in a unison chorus of laughter. Even Fuentes was cracking up. Lula sprang up like a puma and moved quickly towards Jeremy to turn him over. He was all grass and mud but he did not feel any pain. The vision of Lula crouched over his body opened a massive smile all over his face. He was lost in her marble eyes and abstracted over her features. The chiselled nose. The cheeks slightly protruding. The flesh-frenzy lips. Red as blood. The shoulders where all his words would perch like spellbound birds. The hills of her chest. The golden sand skin. Who cared about the student’s laughter?
-You oks weón? –Whispered Lula softly with motherly affection. Jeremy did not sense the charcoaled photograph of Augusto Pinochet stuck to his right elbow. He did not taste the wet mud which covered his lips and had even filtered inside his mouth and on his tongue. He could not see Miguel running towards his position or Ulises sauntering away in embarrassment. Jeremy could only see Lula. Her perfect face, her inquiring fingers.
-I am game –he said –I am game.
Jeremy would have never thought it would have happened in front of a drunken gathering of intoxicated anti-Augusto’s. With no regards for Miguel or any of the other dark hunks who hovered around Lula like ravenous wolves. She planted her thick lips confidently on his narrow opening without a care in the world. With total disregard for the public eye or the ridicule of his fall. She kissed him affirmatively, cautiously, cheekily too. With a mischievous glint radiating out of her dark marble eyes. As if to tell Jeremy that the lighthouse had not been a mistake of his delusion. That she had kissed him then. That the first lips he had tasted in Latin America were hers and no one else’s. That Pinochet’s incarceration deserved to be celebrated in whatever way she saw fit. That she thanked England profusely. That perhaps the past could be redeemed. That maybe they could start again. That history deserved another shot at goal. That if they changed the plot themselves then there was a slight chance the world would follow and start amending centuries of mayhem. That otherness had to stop taking precedence over decency and common sense. That the blood-thirsty goddam general was in chains and her father was still dead but less dead than he had been three hours prior before they knew they had got that son of a bitch. That he was quite hot for a white chicken English Northerner with less class than Chinese cod. That she liked his trainers and his old t-shirts with years of stains. That there was a flame inside her that had not been lit for years and that she was up to the fucking chucha of reining it in. That perhaps a Gringo was easier. Less real. More adventurous and frivolous. Less binding. That she could not bear to hurt a man like her father. A dark Chilean man. That she did not give a damn what the chucha students thought. That she was off her face on pisco and dope.
-Weón culiau –interrupted Miguel –what you doing?
Jeremy looked at Miguel for an instant and smiled. He asked him to help him get up. Both Lula and Miguel pulled him up as the students laughter was transformed into moments of awkward silence. Jeremy did not give a shit. He felt a new wind travel through his system and lift his spirts. His injuries were masked behind a totalising feeling of victory and euphoria. There was no pain. He picked up the remains of the Pinochet’s photo and tossed them into the air. Some of the students cheered. Ulises and Miguel sighed half proudly half pissed off with his theatrical demonstration of support. They offered him more pisco. He accepted it and moments later Jeremy threw up all over Miguel’s boots. He would have hit him both for the kiss and the boots but he was too drunk to notice. He kept on babbling about politics and guns. Praising the judge Baltazar Garcon who had issued the international arrest warrant. Fuentes joined their group too and made everyone dance like possessed Indians. Jeremy laughed and so did Lula. There was much more drinking. More dope. More insults to the air. More scenes of decadence. The jubilation was confused with intoxication. Everyone forgot about Pinochet and concentrated on sex, booze and shouting. Two boys approached Lula to ask her to dance. She refuted their advances immediately. Jeremy had a smile as big as the Valley of Elqui. He did not know how he got home. He could not care less. All that mattered was the kiss. He was still talking about it when we left the flat in Hackney, unfulfilled, restless, high on drugs, low on everything but memories.