The Compound Chapter 2

Agitated shouting welcomes me back to the apartment. Where have I been, it’s nighttime now, they’ve been worried sick. I tell my auntie that I’ve spent the last hour twenty meters away from their front door and that she should calm down. I don’t have to insist much, she’s soon sat back down on the sofa and watching her series on the BBC.

Two doors face me, one that leads to the guest bedroom and the other to the kitchen. I know that if I were to go in the kitchen I’d be followed by my auntie, interrogating me as to why I’m in there, so I go with the first option.

I unpack the few things that I’ve brought with me. I leave my book and charger on the bedside table. I place my sunglasses, loose change, and a pile of folded clothes on top of the dressing table. My auntie would like that I hang the clothes in the wardrobe, but I know myself all too well and I know that I’d forget it all if I were to leave it in there.

Her series must have finished because she’s suddenly at the door. She sees the folded t-shirts and insists that she’s going to search for some spare coat hangers. I tell her not to bother, that she knows that I’m forgetful. She agrees and heads to the kitchen to make us all a gin and tonic.

The gin tastes like vodka and the tonic probably went flat a few years ago, but I prefer this to the off-brand Coca Cola that she used to give me as a child. God, I’m still traumatised by the time I took a gulp of my drink with all the excitement in the word just for it to taste like petrol. To this day I still don’t trust any drink which is served to me in a blue plastic cup.

When I finish my gin and tonic I notice that I’m a little tipsy and, as a consequence, a little rebellious. I fancy seeing my auntie’s confused face, so I stand up suddenly and announce that I’m going to head back outside and get some air.

She asks why I want to go outside at this time in the night, but I’m not sure who she’s asking exactly as she refers to me in third person. It’s almost as though she were asking my uncle, but surely by now she knows that he won’t respond. He’s already glued to his laptop, his nose almost touching the screen. It’s his habitual position.

I head out into the conservatory and struggle with the “glass curtains”, a stupid invention which has converted what was once a lovely outdoor terrace into a stifling greenhouse. I can’t get them open to step outside. Shit.

The noise I’ve made has attracted the attention of my auntie, who now joins me to see what the heck I’m doing. Bloody hell.

After making an offhand comment, she shows me the trick to opening the door of the glass curtains and I step out into the night. She joins me, much to my surprise.

I squint my eyes in order to adjust to the darkness and try to figure out the black shapes in front of me that contrast all too much with the cold white light that floods the inside of the apartment.

The night is broken by a pinprick of bright light, like the star of Bethlehem that we had to learn about countless times at school. I see that the light comes from a big lantern that is hung from the balcony of one of the buildings in the distance.

Thanks to this light, and as my eyes are now getting accustomed to the darkness, I begin to make out what’s laid out in front of us.

There’s a pool, small but pretty, which is surrounded by a tiled deck, a fence, and then a hedge, decorated at each of its corners with a set of four palm trees. There’s two types of grass: the typical everyday kind which stretches from the garden until the pool, and then there’s the denser and finer grass which covers the final golf hole.

Ah, yes, I’ve forgotten to mention the poshest of all the posh things about this resort: the golf course that sits at its center.

Supposedly, my auntie and uncle retired here because of just that, because my uncle loves his golf. I don’t trust people who like golf. As I see it, the only interesting aspect of this “sport” is the chance to jump in a golf cart and go flying around the course at full pelt, just like my uncle does in his car. But golfers don’t do that, because they’re golfers.

My auntie informs me that it’s to attract moths.

During my reflections over the wasted opportunity golfers have to feel alive for once in their lives, I’ve asked my auntie about the strange light. I did this without paying attention to what I was asking, something I do a lot. It takes me a moment to remember what she’s talking about.

In that flat (I can call the dwellings of others ‘flats’ without any problems), according to my auntie, lives a guy who’s super into moths. I ask her if she meant to say butterflies, as I know that sometimes she can confuse words in her own native language, but she tells me no, that he just really loves moths. I don’t know what to do with this information.

Back to the subject of golf. My uncle, as far as I know, has played golf a grand total of once in the almost ten years that they’ve been living here. I should probably ask him why he doesn’t go more often. I think I know the answer.

My auntie tells me that that’s the dark side.

Once again I’m disassociating thanks to thoughts on golf. It’s not the first time that she’s bragged about living on the other side of the resort, the side which receives the most sun.

The sun here is the guiding motive behind everything. They come to Spain in search of sun. They choose their houses according to the sun. Days without sun are the days I have to put up with an endless barrage of complaints about the lack of sun. I don’t like the sun; it blinds me, it burns my nose, and it makes me sweat. I could live perfectly happily on the other side with the crazy moth man.

I tell my auntie that the supposed “dark side” isn’t so dark right now thanks to the moth lamp. I think it’s a good joke, but she doesn’t really react. She murmurs something that I don’t fully catch and heads back inside.

I throw myself down on the grass outside of their little garden. I can see the stars, a pretty little phenomenon which reminds me of nights spent in the village where I grew up. In Madrid you can’t see shit. I try to make out the constellations, but then I remember that I don’t know any of the constellations, so I give up. I hear a cricket which sounds to be pretty close so I turn my head in order to look for it, but then I remember that I don’t know what crickets look like either. I’m so uncultured. At least I’m not rotting away on the sofa inside, watching episode after episode of some series that the BBC commissioned in order to fill in the gaps in its programming.

Not a single thought passes through my brain until a sudden light and a shout from my auntie brings me back to reality with a bump.

She asks, incredulous, what I’m doing there on the floor. I tell her that I’m star gazing an she scoffs. She tells me to get back inside. I don’t want to go back inside. I get up anyway, I’m still on my best behaviour as it’s still the first night.

My uncle isn’t there when I get back to the living room. He’ll be in bed already; saying goodbye to people is a formality that he doesn’t see as particularly important. I see the small depression in the sofa formed by the endless hours spent on his laptop and it’s only then that I realise that the sofa is new.

They bought it on Facebook, my auntie informs me. Bloody hell, I don’t know how I didn’t notice before: this new sofa is orange. And I’m not talking about a subtle tone of orange, it’s orange orange. I lie to her and tell her that I like it. The lie lands and she heads of to bed as content as can be.

I don’t understand how they thought this colour would look good. Neither do I understand what kind of manufacturer decided to fabricate a (presumably false) leather in this colour. I guess that the set of two sofas at least now serves an important function, that of distracting from the rest of the furniture that populates the room.

There’s minimalist glass tables, there’s ornamental wooden tables, and there’s bedside tables where there shouldn’t be any bedside tables. Each cushion is different, the only visual thread linking them all together being that they’re all really ugly. The coffee table wobbles. It’s a mess.

Speaking of messes, there’s also two pieces of artwork on the wall. One is your bog-standard hotel kind, an oil painting which will have been reproduced a thousand times. It portrays the wooden window shutter of an old house, the dream of any Brit abroad. The other artwork is the image of a winged figure, a figure which I don’t know whether I find more or less sinister when coupled with the fact that it’s super pixelated. I’m sure she’ll have bought this one in her favourite local discount warehouse.

Then there’s the butterflies. My auntie can’t make any underhand comments about the moth man, because she’s the butterfly woman.

There’s a clock whose roman numerals have been swapped out for 3D butterflies. Above the orange sofas, where any normal person would have hung a mirror, there’s a swarm of plastic butterflies which stretch from the top of the pillows all the way up to the roof. There’s colourful butterfly stickers along the glass of the sliding door, just in case they forget the layout of their own house. These butterflies in particular are especially gratuitous, my auntie and uncle never leave that door open.

I decide to go and see if my auntie has managed to decorate the house with any more butterflies since the last time I visited. I head towards the guest bedroom and am spooked by the sudden appearance of my uncle as he steps out of the bathroom. I thought he was already asleep.

I take the opportunity to ask him why he doesn’t use the resort’s golf course more often. He tells me that it’s too expensive. I knew it.

I tell him that if I were him then I’d just ignore all the rules and that I’d grab my golf clubs and golf balls and head out onto the green to play without paying my dues.

The look he gives me could kill.