You look after me, dear, he says, and squeezes my hand tight.
At the end of the table behind a vase of flowers are a pile of his maps. I reach out for the one on the top, a smaller study. The circular impression of Piccadilly Circus on the bottom right and the busy lines of streets winding out from it. That’s my latest one, he says. A work in progress.
He takes it from me and lays it flat on the table.
Piccadilly, Leicester, Trafalgar, he says. We go to Trafalgar on a Sunday after church. To feed the pigeons, sabes? Pepe and Mamá and me. And there’s a man there with a trolley. He sells hot salty peanuts.
I was there last month, Abuelo, I say to him. I went to the National Gallery. Ah, he says, but that’s closed! All the paintings, they have them somewhere safe in case a bomb
Abuelo, I reply, there’s no bombs. Not anymore. And there’s no pigeons anymore. The gallery is open. Maybe…you could come and visit me soon?
Ah dear, he says, you have to be careful. You think there’s no bombs, but they come when you least expect them. I don’t think I can travel by ship for so long again. Better you visit me when you can. When it’s safe.
You can come by plane, I say.
He laughs and stands up. He takes the dishes and puts them in the sink. He kisses me on the forehead and says,
Goodnight, dear; sleep tight.
He takes the torch out of his pocket, and he walks out of the kitchen. I hear him checking the doors again.
I study his map. A small alley that connects Regent Street to Piccadilly is labelled Calle Del Aire instead of Air Street. Buildings that don’t exist anymore are drawn in detail. Other streets and landmarks are erased completely. Trafalgar Square takes up half the page. Nelson’s Column so tall, Abuelo has run out of space to draw the statue of the admiral. Little scribbles engulf the pillar in their hundreds, taking the crude form of pigeons in flight.