My memories of the trial are quite vague. I remember the judge, a distinguished woman in her late fifties, her hair just starting to turn grey. I remember my lawyer, brilliant example of incompetence and dishonesty. I remember the family of the bastard I killed. I remember his mother’s eyes, hot pokers which bored in to the back of my head day after day, burning with an all consuming hate, smoldering with an intense desire to see me punished, to see me pay.
“Is there anything else you would like to add before we adjourn to discuss the case” asks the judge almost kindly
I stare ahead and shake my head
“You understand this is your last chance?” she repeats almost tenderly
I nod and try to smile at her.
“Está bien, Manuel, take him away”
Manuel is surprisingly gentle for such a big man. One of his big hairy hands wraps itself tenderly around my forearm and leads me away. We walk past the accusing glares of “his” family, the tears, the hate that permeates the courtroom like a bitter fog. A young man with an orange shirt, obviously a cousin or a friend, spits on the floor as I pass. A younger girl insults me, her lips curled up in an animalesque snarl.
My captor leads me past the crowds, through a narrow passage way and tells me to stop in front of an oak door. He takes out a bunch of large angular keys and opens the door with the faintest sound of creaking hinges. We both enter a small, sparsely furnished room, similar to any room anywhere. Manuel points the only chair, an old rickety thing with a straw back and crooked legs, and tells me to sit. Satisfied by the fact that I comply, he leans against the wall, takes a deep breath and takes out a packet of Marlboros. The acrid smell of cigarette smoke drifts towards me.
“Do you want to smoke?” asks Manuel
I look at him. He is truly a big man, probably close to two meters tall, with huge bulging shoulders and an even larger barrel chest. His large course hands and scarred cheeks contrast sharply with a pair of small but apparently kind and patient eyes. I take the cigarette he is offering and thank him. He lights it with an old silver lighter and I start to take long desperate pulls. I drag the smoke in to my lungs and enjoy the feeling. My hands shake.
“Don’t worry, chico, they wont take long” he continues. “Give it an hour or so and they will come call us”
“You are not from here, are you? Brasilero? he asks
I tell him I am Italian. I am from Rome.
“Ah, un Tano! My grandfather was Italian” he starts. “Came from Genoa without anything to his name, only three silver pieces hidden in his belt”
How interesting I reply. In effect nearly every single Argentinean has at least one Italian grandfather, all of which got here with nothing to their name.
Manuel starts telling me some stupid anecdote about his grandfather but I stop listening. His voice drones on but the sound doesn’t bother me. It is quite a low melodious voice and he utters every sentence with an obstinate slowness which proves calming and soothing.
I try not thinking about my situation. I try not thinking about whether they will send me to jail. And yet I can’t stop myself. I know I have to call my parents back in Italy. They still have no idea that their son is in an Argentinean court awaiting judgment. They are still blissfully unaware of the drama that soon will seek them out.
“And that is why we always had an Italian flag above the fire place” finishes Manuel
I pull myself out of my reverie and turn my head so that I can see my guard. I open my mouth to spit out some reply. Resentment fills my mouth with its acrid twang and I want to hurt the stupid man with my words. I want to scream at him, shout at him that I couldn’t give a fuck about his damned grandfather. That my life is about to end and that I hate him, I hate all of them, all of them who are going to be able to keep living their lives as always. All those people who will still be able to feel the wind in their faces, to take in the scent of cut grass, to watch the pretty girls walk to and through on Calle Florida. I open my mouth and stop. Someone has turned the keys and the big oak door is slowly opening.