Somewhere between not looking for a job and not looking for my passport, Marco invited me to join Matteo and him in a friendly game of football.
I tried to think of an excuse. My feet were sore from trawling half of Barcelona in my flip-flops. I needed to look for a job. I'd only just washed my hair the previous night, and didn't want to get it sweaty. My excuses were poor and had strong homosexual undertones, knowing none of them would work, I agreed.
As the day went by and 5 o'clock drew inevitably closer, my apprehension turned into a curious excitement. It'd been a while since I'd played football. Surely I couldn't be as bad as I remembered. Surely not. My bubble of excitement was burst around 3pm. I know Marco was saying it only to be helpful, but really I wished he hadn't said it at all, "We shower there". As if worrying about my lack of football skills wasn't enough. Now I had to get naked with ten other men. Being a beta-male has its plus sides, generally you don't participate in many sports, which means you get to miss out on showering with multiple same-sex partners. Not on this day.
I had already faced this fear when I joined the gym about 4 years ago. After finishing a "workout" with some "gym buddies" they got completely naked, obviously I was compelled to do the same and in all honestly it wasn't that big a deal. It became normal. Until one day I went on my own, and spent the usual hour in the gym. After that particular workout, I did the usual thing, got naked and jumped in the shower. Already in the shower were two kids, and they just laughed at me. They could not stop laughing at me. If it was because I had told a particularly good joke, I would have been proud. However, I hadn't told a joke. I was just naked, hence me not being proud, but rather embarrassed. That was possibly my worst ever cleansing experience. I managed to avoid showering naked in public after that incident.
Anyway. We took the metro to someplace an hour away and went into the university. My flatmates had a short conversation with the security guard that I really couldn't understand. They may have said; "watch out, this one is currently fighting four rape convictions", I just smiled innocently. The security guard smiled back, so hopefully they said something a little more in-line with the truth, just two actually. We got changed. I should at this point mention that I failed to bring a football kit (along with many other items) to Spain. Whilst other people were tightening their shin-pads, I was tightening my leather belt.
Whilst waiting for others to turn up, we knocked the ball around for a bit. I quickly identified the weakest passer and compared myself to him, I was better than him, thank god. Too bad for me, he was actually a goalkeeper, a really good goalkeeper. So I was the worst player. If we had been the Champions League winning Liverpool team of 2005, I would be the Djimi Traore.
The game kicked off. I strung together a couple of successful passes. I was beginning to remember why I was captain of the third eleven at school. I pulled off a brilliant piece of skill and almost set up a goal, this was going to be a walk in the park. Obviously not. I made two errors, that lead to conceding two goals, in less than two minutes. I suddenly remembered why I was captain of the third eleven after all. It was because the team only had one fixture in the whole year and it was regarded as a bit of a joke. It wasn't because I could play football particularly well, but because I was the only person who offered to assemble a team.
As the hour went by, I got progressively worse. You can tell when this is happening, because you receive fewer passes, people pretend they can't see you and even the opposition stops marking you. People learn that you are more likely to lose the ball than retain it. People realise that even with the hair of Carlos Valderama, you don't have his skills. Of course it doesn't help to laugh when your own player gets fouled, or for him to see you laughing. No, that was definitely a hindrance to the teambuilding.
I missed a couple of sitters, got confused by people barking at me in Spanish, but generally had a good time. This was cemented by the fact that the last kick of the game was me scoring a goal, on purpose. Marco obviously felt sorry for me, offering me a sympathetic high-five. I wanted to leave him hanging, to make him look like the fool. I know he was being nice, so I reluctantly slapped his palm. Then I remembered what was next, I lingered for as long as I could at the water fountain and then returned to the changing room.
Its funny, in these situations you are meant to try as much as you can, not to check out what other men are packing in penis land. But once you see one, you figure you might as well look at them all. A bit like popping Pringles, but with less salt (at least you hope less salt). I saw a few of the players leave the changing rooms without showering. Maybe I could just slip out with them? Wait for Marco and Matteo outside?
No, I was going to do this. I wasn't going to let those two children haunt me forever. Its always a relief when you see the first penis smaller than yours, then as you begin to ascend the penis ranks your confidence follows suit.
I'd like to take a moment to say that my Italian flatmates wear ridiculous pants.
I bit the bullet and pulled down my boxers, scanning the room to see who was a pervert. Turns out, I was the only one. I had a shower, did not shampoo. I made sure I was the last one to put my clothes back on. Some sort of endurance test or something, I don't really know why I did that actually, its a bit of a weird thing to do.
I managed to play football, even though I was the worst by a mile, as well as do a naked man-shower again. Not a bad day at the office. I guess I'll go back next week.
Now if only I could put as much effort into getting a job of some sort...