Welcome To My World
Gael is in the middle of making beer, shoveling wet, steamy hops from a steel keg to a plastic bucket.
“This will go to my friend’s chickens,” he says.
“Will they get drunk?” I ask.
All four of us chuckle.
Santi and Pablo begin to act it out. Pok-pok-bleeargh-pok-hiccup! Cock-a-doodle-twerk! Haha! They dance, a silly chicken dance, like the one we all did when we were kids, and everyone laughs, until Gael gets a buzz on his phone — which none of us notice but him. He stops shoveling, lights a cigarette, and gets real quiet. We idiots keep on giggling for a while, and then we all notice, sort of at the same time, that Gael’s become dead silent, fixated on his screen.
For a second Santi’s face hints there’s something wrong. He inches closer to Gael. Pablo and I haven’t totally clued in, though, so he invites me into the studio to show me his newest paintings, and some actual garbage he’s repurposing as art. He’s the most financially successful of all of us artists, and yet also the one who cares the least. We’re wrapped up in art talk when Santi enters, what a nasty business it can be.
“You should go in there and congratulate G,” he says to me. “He just won a contest. They’re going to publish his book.”
I run out to the back patio, because holy shit, in the middle of a pandemic, yeah! And I high-five him.
“Congratu-fucking-lations!” I cheer, and he smiles, but something about him is blurry, like he hasn’t digested the information.
“Yeah,” I pat him on the back. “Yeah.”
I’m genuinely happy to see him speechless, because I know what he must be feeling — years of hard work and disbelief, of bouts of crippling self-doubt, precious moments of stubborn faith… years of war, really, all culminating in a moment of pure victory.
The smell of hops lingers in the air.
“Welcome to my world,” Pablo says, and he shakes his brother’s hand.
Gael hits his cigarette. His eyes are shiny. “Yeah,” he says, nodding. His lip curls up on one side. “Yeah.”