The sun-burnt boy fluttered like a bright red flag. The upper half of his body was the color of a chorizo on the barbeque, his ginger hair the sputtering fat. It hurt to look at his shoulders seared the bright crimson of chili peppers. It was a body that had been exposed to the flesh-destroying face of God.
It was a scene common enough for Barcelona’s city center: the guiri suffering from the mother of all hangovers. Floored by too much festa, he had received a prolonged blast of solar radiation before the pain woke him and he crawled free of the hurtful light. The night had robbed him of his shirt. The sun had lashed his body, dried his brain. Possessed and befuddled as Rick Moranis seeking the Gate Keeper, his directionless stumble had brought him to this scrap of shade.
But a sighting of this type, of the dazed foreign partygoer, was reason to stare in this outer neighborhood, so long an unknown island to Barcelona’s guests. Until now. There are signs that a new era is dawning over Sant Andreu. For this sun-burnt boy proved to be a harbinger of things to come. Like Hosea, commanded by Yahweh to marry a harlot and then preach fire and brimstone for Israel, this dude debauched like it was the last days and mortified his body into a sign of the apocalypse. He was The Message incarnate.
He certainly looked the part of the prophet. Minus the staff and stone tablets, he was as close to the biblical mold as one could get. His brush with the Maker was inscribed on his skin. As if, following a mind-blowing encounter with the divine, he had wandered out of the desert wilderness and straight onto la Rambla de Fabra i Puig.
There, on Sant Andreu’s quiet pedestrian street, he stood rocking side to side near the entrance to a bar. Maybe he was confused by the bar’s African safari theme, complete with a life-size rhinoceros statue that has always seemed out of place here but would have fit right in with the tourist-targeting joints of the Gòtic? Alas, no. For his coming was pregnant with meaning. His coming broke a secret seal. It revealed the future.
Because ever since he made his series of visitations, always shirtless, always singed to a crisp, over several weeks this summer, evidence of the approaching devastation only mounts. Jugs of sangria sweating onto tables. Sushi to go. A band of map-clinging, slow-moving innocents clogging the sidewalk. There are even rumors of a food festival run by a super-hip independent magazine that is a virtual Babel of tongues, rife with devilishly delicious temptations.
The judgement of the sun-burnt boy was clear: the sound preceding The End won’t be the thunderous gallop of horsemen. It will be the rat-a-tat-tat of luggage hauled over pavement.