It was an afternoon like any other Wednesday. One more day of the routine on which life sometimes hangs. A day in which a group of friends got together to play football.
They arrived little by little. We almost had the twelve we needed to form two teams, since the field was small and could only handle seven against seven.
Everything was normal. The heat was intense and threatening. The shade scarce. Only a small bit was projected by some eucalyptus trees on the very edge of the field, where there was a drop off about two meters deep, held by the retaining wall that extended all the way down the field. Some guys were warming up. I was with Walter and some other friends. We were six guys ready to play. But we wanted something to drink before beginning the game. No one had even a little bit of water. Since the nearest store was a five minute walk away no one wanted to go.
After a while, I couldn’t wait anymore and decided to just go. I was thirsty and it seemed like no one else would go.
I hurried since it seemed like the game would begin at any minute. But when I got there, luckily, the game had still not started. Still everyone was out warming up on the field.
I took the bottle to the bit of shade and sat on a small piece of wall that stood out like a small bench. I was still thirsty. I opened the bottle and when I served myself a glass I heard “watch out”.
It was too late. A stray ball smacked against me with force. It struck precisely my hands and, almost instinctively, I tried to hold on to the bottle. But the ball was stronger and quicker. I dropped my glass and the bottle. It fell from my hands and landed two meters below me, at the feet of the wall on some pieces of wood.
I couldn’t see this last detail because I was mad at what had happened. I heard some laughter and that just made me madder because I had not been paying enough attention to be able to stop the ball.
It seemed I was blinded by thirst. That was when I reacted. I jumped for the bottle that I had almost forgotten. I would have if it had not been for my thirst. When I landed I saw the bottle had emptied out. Almost two liters of water were soaking into the ground. I could only coax a drop from the bottle.
I was still thirsty and I was not the only one. Everyone was thirsty and they could not believe that the whole bottle had poured out. They were mad, and even more, thirsty.
It was too late to go back to the store for more water. The game was ready to begin. I was still upset at having had water so close and that it had been knocked from my hands. Even worse, I was still thirsty and its was game time.
That day we played well. Everyone concentrated and we seemed to connect among ourselves. We didn’t have to even say anything. The teamwork made us efficient and we won the first match.
Because the next team was already waiting we started the next game with hardly a moment’s rest. We kept our concentration and connection.
The third match came up. Then the fourth. It was a rematch with the first team. We fought for the ball, to win. We began to attack, but our precision weakened. We missed some opportunities. And, as they sometimes say, “goals that you do not make, make you”. That’s what happened.
“It was time. We were tired.” That is what we said. And it was mostly true. They were demanding games. We fought to guarantee a second goal that could carry us to victory. It did not matter how long the game lasted, the important thing was to make at least two goals before the opposing team could.
We had played for hours and night was about to fall. We got ready to leave. “Now we can finally get something to drink”, I thought. We went to the closest store. Someone suggested we get some beers but it was late and already chilly. That idea did not hold the majority. Someone else suggested some piscos to warm our throats and the guys let themselves be tempted.
We bought a bottle of pisco, a soda, and some limes so we could make some chilcanos.
Everyone seemed ready to have a sweet evening that began with some pisco, so we kept going instead of mixing the drinks there.
As we went down the stairs to the city, two of the guys stopped. One of them seemed to be asking the other to help with the bag with the bottles. I don’t know if the other person did not hear him or what.
I saw the shadows falling in the dusk and, seconds later, heard a violent yet ephemeral sound. I compared it to the sound of a pressure cooker when the steam is released. Something struck the pavement and the glass bottle shattered. That sharp, piercing sound was the end.
The silence was so absolute. No one seemed ready to break it.
I went down the stairs until I reached the two guys and found myself before a situation like the one I experienced earlier. The bag had broken and the heavy bottle of soda had fallen first and bounced back where it hit the bottle of pisco which broke and cut the plastic soda bottle.
The stairs and the two guys were covered with the liquid. They could not believe what had happened.
“It’s a sign” someone said. “A sign from the Pachamama. Today is her day and we all have forgotten about her.”
He was right. It was August first, the Day of the Pachamama, as they say in the Andes.
On this day many people, especially those in rural communities, make a ceremony in which they make a payment (give a meal) to the earth. They say the earth is very hungry and thirsty at this time.
At that moment we all remembered that and, surprised for what had happened, suddenly felt insecure.
Each of the guys decided to go their own way, instead of staying together to party. They did not even say good bye. They just left.