About 18 months ago this man took a shine to me. Yes, he did! He bought me a drink; discretely mind so there was no pressure. When I acknowledged the drink he flipped down his wallet and showed me his family photos, not so well preserved, faded, but very dear to him.
The bar owner Nacho said he came in once a month, and never without his hat. He lives on his own with a few goats up the mountain. I gave him a peck on the cheek to thank him for the drink and he blushed. I promised him a snap to add to his collection and he asked me for three. One for his mother, one for his girlfriend, and the other for his wallet.
The next time I saw him, I had forgotten and he was clearly agitated. You better get me those photos the next time you come over, or I will kill you, he stated in only a half-joking way. He stood up unsteadily and for the first time I noticed his foot – it was turned out at 90 degrees. He grabbed for a pair of crutches to steady himself. I wondered how he managed to monthly visit into town as it was clear he could not drive himself.
Two weeks later I brought him four photos – an extra larger one to put over his fire. He bought me another drink and was really very happy with the photos, turning them over and over again as if they were magic cards.
Since then I had not seen him for at least a year and thought about him from time to time. Then I became worried, and asked Nacho about the man who comes in sometimes, where was he, was he ill? Oh, he still comes in, he was here last Tuesday.
Finally, a few days ago I ran into him again and he was in fine form, garrulous and full of humour. He actually looked younger than the first time I met him. He told me his name is Jesus, that he is 83, and that he has had a lot of girlfriends, and even a child or two, out of wedlock. I am very good with my tongue, he joked.
It is his present girlfriend, who I believe fathered a child with him many years ago, that drives him in once a month so that he can have a drink. They are neighbours.
I wondered about his mother. Was she still alive? How old was she last year when he asked for the photo to give her? My Spanish is getting better by the day, but the locals can be very difficult to understand with their multitudes of dialects. Jesus is no exception.
He took out a crisp well-preserved 100-peseta bill to show me. It was in better condition than his photos and dated 1931, so therefore from the time when Spain was still a Republic. Why did you keep that, I asked Jesus? To remember, he replied. I left the man who comes in from time to time with his memories and later looked up the value in present day terms of 100 pesetas. About one pound sterling. A memory well kept.
Sadly Jesus passed away of heart failure 10 days after I published this blog. He was alone in his finca. I was in England, it was November 25th, and my mother had just turned 85. RIP Jesus.