At first I slept in a container, behind a slaughterhouse. I can still smell the rotting meat in my nostrils. That’s why I smoke so much. To repress this goddam sweet, cloying smell. I thought of my mother a lot that night. She could fall asleep anywhere and always wake up fresh as a daisy. I think that’s partly why my father left her. He couldn’t bear the thought that there was someone more vigorous than him. So on a Thursday he woke up, put on the ironed shirt mother prepared for him the night before, shaved, ate breakfast, kissed his wife on the forehead and did a runner. We even asked the Red Cross to search for him but he was never found. I thought about it many times in those 10 years. What it would be like knowing there are people back home, sad, angry, desperate, waiting every day for years to receive news of me. But no one was waiting for me. Perhaps to call it a disappearance is an exaggeration. Only those can disappear who are visible. Right? Those that others wait for. Don’t you think?
Did you wash your hands, little rascal? For as long as I can remember, that’s what my grandmother would ask in my head after every urination. It was the same on that day, too, although I could barely hear it because the beer-bloated bladders of thirty men were roaring in my ear in the stadium’s urinals. My grandmother was the most famous madame in Basel, a dovelike vulture who was most proud of three things: her Armenian ancestry; her daughter, who she raised in a brothel but didn't become a whore; and her grandson, who was a wonderful football player. The latter, of course, is me. But by the time I was surrounded by the screaming bladders, I was already a long way from my talent. And at that point I had no idea how much further away I would get in a few hours from anything that had been my life.
The score was 1-2 to Basel, by the way. That was worth almost everything. I was very happy. So happy that for a few hours I didn't even care that Jens and Stoveman had disappeared from the stands when I got back from the toilet. The pub next to the stadium was just like the one back home, only the Italians drank themselves louder.