It was a dank, dastardly, absurdly dark and stormy London night. It would be comical if you weren't caught out in it in drag and drunk off your head. The cab ride to the Dorchester was a real fucker, all damp silk and, stale-tasting cigarettes, the pervasive smell of bodily fluids, the stereo playing tinned-cheese music from before her year of birth, and in the air the nervous electricity of thunderstorm and anticipation.
When Kaká opened his hotel room door, he was in pyjamas. Not shorts, not jeans, not naked except for a tee-shirt that extended a little way past his hipbones. Green and white stripes, like Maccabi Haifa. Like clove toothpaste.
"Erm." He was wearing his glasses. He had a finger inserted between two pages of The Purpose-Driven Life. "Can I help you?"
"Yes," she said. "I came to tell you that I am madly in love with you. And that – that although you are not like other footballers, I know that you will make an exception and cheat on your beautiful young wife for me. Because I promise you that I can make you very happy. With my mouth. In your pants. If you give me a chance, that is."
Kaká blinks. "Oh," he said. "But I am straight. And you are not even a woman."
"Cristina," she said. "My name is Cristina."
"Your name is Cristiano Ronaldo," Kaká said, gentle but firm. "You are very drunk. Someone has dressed you up in women's clothes and sent you to my room, I think, on some kind of dare."
"I make you feel good," she said, beginning to lose her grip on the assiduous purposefulness that had brought her to this moment. "So good, baby."
"Was it Deco?" Kaká asked. "It was Deco, wasn't it."
"It," said Cristina. "Could be whoever you want it to be?"
"Why do you say such things, Cristiano," Kaká asked anxiously. He clutched his book to his broad, leanly-muscled chest. "I think you had better come in."
Cristiano woke up to the pale February sun coming in on the wrong side of the window. It pierced right through the fur of the dead animals nestling against the walls of his mouth and the reverberating gong-and-tinkle striking each of his temples in turn. He unglued his eyelashes from each other with minimal help from his rubber fingers, turned about in bed, and confronted a head bowed in supplication.
"—we were lacklustre yesterday," Kaká was saying. "It wasn't worthy of you."
"Bleargh," Cristiano said.
"I confess, my heart wasn't in it," he continued. "I don't have to tell you what's been on my mind. You know everything. And you know that all I ask of you right now is courage, to face anything that comes my way. Anything that is asked of me."
Cristiano considered asking if he could go back to sleep and wake up at home in Manchester, and decided against it. These people could be humourless. It could well be like winking in the face of a (very thoroughly fairly) awarded penalty.
"You also know that Cristiano came to my room last night and offered to visit adulterous pleasures upon me," Kaká said, in the manner of one utterly engrossed in talking to himself. Cristiano's first impulse, which was to sit up and yelp, was successfully squashed by a base inability to move a single muscle in his well-blanketed body. "Now I am going to ask a favour for him. He is a nice boy. Misunderstood, and a little overrated in my opinion, but I cannot hold that against him, because of course, I am not in his shoes. And for that I will give thanks during a period of greater significance. But I would like for him to have peace of mind. And wisdom. If you will it, remove his insecurities, and let him see that he need not employ prostitutes, and cheat at games, and indulge his friends when they ask him to participate in wrongdoing, just to gain a sense of self. Make him aware of how beautiful the world is, and how beautiful he is."
"Holy mother," Cristiano mumbled, preparing to disengage from the proceedings by knocking himself out. Death by feather pillow could not be ruled totally out of the human condition, he was reasonably certain.
"Amen," Kaká said, and looked up. "Good morning, Cristiano."
"Why," Cristiano asked, of no one in particular, "do I feel as though I am wearing a thong?"
"You tried to take it off last night, but I was able to prevent you," Kaká said. "Are you uncomfortable?"
Cristiano considered a variety of responses. He settled for "No."
"Now that you are awake, you must drink water and shower. And eat breakfast. What would you like to have?"
"Little though I imagined myself saying this to you," Cristiano said, after a moment of consideration, "I find I have to remind you of the fact that I am in your hotel bed, wearing a thong. And possibly other incriminating clothing. Not to mention eyeliner, that has condensed with eye-grit to form a truly filthy weight on my eyelids. Do you not think it might, how to say it, compromise your honour to call room service?"
"My honour is safe in the hands of the one to whom I have committed it," Kaká said sagely. "Toast and eggs?"
"Sunny side up," Cristiano said, and went back to sleep, where his surreal dreams of being chased by an elephant with legs like Deco's, wearing the gaffer's glasses, beckoned in comparative benevolence. The sun was even more oppressive on his reawakening, but at least the gong had stopped announcing the time of day on the second to London.
He brushed his teeth with his fingers, since he wasn't sure if the dental kits had been used, and divested himself of the pink silk corset and black sheer stockings without beating himself too badly around the head with his garters. The eyeliner was harder to contend with, but in a fit of mean-spiritedness, he used the toothbrush on the washstand to liberate himself of the worst of it.
It was time to look in the mirror.
Here he was, a fine figure of a young man. His highlighted hair was thick and voluminous, and just the right length for a largely heterosexual male. His skin was tanned. His nose was straight. His strong, masculine jaw flowed, in sharp graceful angles, down to the lines of his young, strong, well worked-out body. Had it not been for his expression, which was that of someone who has been caught extracting his dick from inside a herbivore, there might have been very little, on the whole, to distinguish Cristiano Ronaldo from a Greek god with buck teeth and a prominent Adam's apple.
He was fairly certain he had had a date last night.
"You neglected your breakfast," Kaká, neat, still bespectacled, said when he came out of the bathroom. "I had it cleared away."
He cocked his head and frowned
"You seem to require something to wear," he said, looking politely at Cristiano's bared navel.
"Yes, it turned out I put a ladder in one of the stockings," Cristiano said, directing his gaze at the bridge of Kaká's nose.
"You certainly cannot go out like that," Kaká said. "I have spare clothing."
The spare clothing turned out to be Milan's training shirt and a pair of D&G jeans that Cristiano had to fold up around the ankles.
"Now you are un rossonero, si?" Kaká smiles as he pulls the black tee over his head. It's a much better cut than the United kit.
"You don't have to talk fake Italian to me," Cristiano said. "We have at least two other languages in common, although your accents in both are truly terrible."
"It is true, I am very ignorant in some matters," Kaká said, not sounding very sorry about it at all. "Shall we have lunch? I am a little hungry. And I would like to get to know you better before I leave."
"You would like to," Cristiano started, and stopped. He cracked his first non-inebriated smile in twenty-four hours. "I'm going to leave now."
"Yes," said Kaká. "We should go to that Japanese restaurant where the Spice Girls always go. Word of their seaweed ice cream has even reached Milan."
Cristiano began to protest, and then thought better of it. He'd never tried escaping out of moving cars, but he was sure he could accomplish such a task with the right mental application.
Kaká's oversized bag took up all the space between them in the car. If it hadn't been a beat-up old Samsonite backpack, Cristiano would have cracked one about Victoria Beckham, for sure.
"I don't hire prostitutes," he said. "FYI and all that."
"Oh?" Kaká said, annoyingly non committal.
"Yeah," said Cristiano. "I don't have to pay people to sleep with me."
Kaká did not pursue the so-you-just-have-to-convince-them-you're-a-girl-instead train of thought in his comeback. He merely smiled, a smile of astonishing width and smuggery and sweetness, and said, "Neither do I."
He said grace over sushi, while Cristiano sank into his seat and watched bitterly as the establishment's professionally snobbish waiters hovered all around them, just a little misty-eyed.
"You forgot to thank the Blessed Virgin," he said, meaning to be sarcastic, as Kaká picked up his fork.
"Virtue alone does not make a woman divine," Kaká said. "But of course you may include her in your prayer. I am completely okay at sharing a table with people of other beliefs, Cristiano."
"I," said Cristiano, and exhaled. "Alright then."
"This sushi is really very good."
"I have no words," Cristiano said fervently.
Kaká smiled again, alike at the fish and the religion. "It is not something that requires comment."
Cristiano reflected on what, exactly, he would have liked to do to Kaká as they sat across from each other. Punching him in the mouth seemed like a fair option, but it was a cosmetic, classless act. It lacked for true catharsis. No, the ideal thing would be to fall at his feet and kiss his long, soft, exceedingly white fingers. I recommend myself into thy hands, father. Feel free to place them against my private parts.
Nobu would probably fail to turn a collective hair if Cristiano pulled Kaká up by the collar, swept away the chrysanthemums and the seafood and wrestled them both on to the tablecloth. It would just gather evidence and make a heap of money selling the story into tomorrow's papers. The Sun would be able to tell the world that Cristiano's expertise at opening jeans one-handed had to be seen to be believed, so here, have the cameraphone pictures that the middle-aged businessmen two tables away took, all the while pretending to look at their wasabi! The bigger penis would be Kaká's, because he was Kaká, and Cristiano would 'display his talent for diving enthusiastically in places other than the pitch,' because journalists were dickheads like that, and also, perverts. And afterwards, Kaká would hang limply off the table, his toes trailing on the carpet, and Cristiano would mash his face into his chest and wipe them off with the tablecloth and charge the whole fucking bill for damages to Silvio Berlusconi. Who would probably want a repeat performance in private. And then they would have to flee. Portugal was beautiful at this time of the year.
Instead, they went to Trafalgar Square. "I have been here several times, but never once fed the pigeons. Unbelievable, isn't it?"
"Pathetic," Cristiano said miserably. "We could have packed some sushi."
"I asked the maitre d' for some rice," Kaká said. "He was very obliging." He pulled a paper napkin out of his pockets and began cooing at the gibbering idiots.
"Here, kitty kitty," Cristiano said, and stamped his foot close to a particularly stupid one.
"At Milanello we have some very good anger management programs," Kaká said.
"Oh, is that why Pirlo's like that?" Cristiano said. "In England they just call it Valium."
"Really, Cristiano," Kaká said absently. A pigeon hopped on to his outstretched palm and pecked at his finger. The petrol residue on the damp cobbles of this shopworn corner of England suddenly shifted into scattered slices of rainbow as the clouds parted briefly and glinted off the discreet diamond ARMANI on Kaká's spectacles frame, diffusing into the air around him, a ring of clear light around the dark-golden blur of his hair. Suddenly it felt like a new day had begun, in a way that had nothing to do with Cristiano's sudden yearning for his lost toast and eggs.
Then the clouds shifted back. The heavens opened up and began to pour buckets of freezing February rain upon them.
Back in the car, Kaká stopped at a department store and came back with two raincoats. Cristiano shook his open. It was a standard, free-sized colourless transparent plastic one, without a label in sight.
"Please consider that my gift to you."
"You know," Cristiano said. "People will still be able to see what I'm wearing underneath it."
"Good joke," Kaká said. "But at least you will be impervious."
"Kaká," Cristiano said. "Ricardo. Ricky. Ricky Kaká. Why?"
"Is it because we beat you last night? Are you trying to lay some kind of death trap for me?" Cristiano asked. "If it's about the drunken mistake with the, ah, lace and stuff, I've said I'm sorry."
"I don't recall this," Kaká said.
"Holy mother, I am," Cristiano replied. "I beg your forgiveness. Believe me. Please."
"Alright," said Kaká. "Don't worry. It could happen to anyone."
"I don't think so."
"It could happen to anyone in Milan."
Cristiano failed to respond.
"It is okay to have desires," Kaká said to him. "It does not mean you are unworthy of love."
"Oh, so I'm worthy of your love?"
"My love," Kaká smiled. "My love is a drop in the ocean."
"And the ocean is," Cristiano said with a sinking feeling.
"Wayne Rooney," said Kaká, and broke out a grin. "I am just joking, Cristiano, forgive me. Of course I meant God."
"If your god's anything like Wayne Rooney, I think you'd better come back to being a Catholic," mumbled poor Cristiano.
"Naturally you are worthy of my love. Or anyone's love. Just don't be such a – a, what is that English word? Twat."
Cristiano grunted. Kaká gave him the backpack, a truly filthy creature with his clothes in it, at a taxi stand.
"It'll all fit under your raincoat," Kaká said. "It's a duckback."
"This was fun," said Cristiano. "Let's do it again never."
Kaká smiled and pulled the window down all the way, leaned out and kissed him lingeringly on his sodden forehead.
"I'll pray for you, Cristiano," he said. "Thank you for the lovely afternoon."
"Okay," Cristiano said.
The taxi ride back home was uneventful, since Cristiano had a chance to nip into a loo before flagging one down. The driver played a single Black Sabbath CD all the way up, perhaps to counter the effect of a six-foot-something transvestite in his backseat. Cristiano sang along under his breath, all the way up to Manchester, warmer than he liked, perhaps in his raincoat, but feeling rather waterproof.