He had never felt so disoriented with his hands on the wheel as on that fateful day in February 1981, when around seven o’clock in the evening, on his way to Valencia, Miguel turned on the radio in the brand new Volvo just went out to hear the gossip of a rally and found that instead a military march was playing. Above was a wake-up key. How is it possible that they play at the alarm clock, facing the night, – he thought – if in the barracks they are used to wake up the troops? Without knowing what had happened at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid, he changed post and at that moment the emphatic voice of a speaker read the announcement of Milan from BoschCaptain General of the Third Military Region, which provided:
Article 5: All public and private activities of all political parties are prohibited, also prohibiting meetings of more than four people, as well as their use of any means of social communication.
Article 6: The curfew is established from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., with a maximum of two people only being able to circulate during the aforementioned period on the public highway and all family groups spending the night in their respective accommodation.
Article 7: Only vehicles and public transport can circulate, as well as duly authorized persons. Will remain open only gas stations and refueling which are marked daily.
Long after, in any gathering, there was always a mandatory question. What did you do the afternoon of 23-F when the shot? Miguel said he was going to a Mediterranean town where the next day he was going to bury a friend who had died of smoking too much. In the middle of the road he had heard General Milans del Bosch’s proclamation of war without knowing that the government of the nation remained sequestered in Congress by Lieutenant Colonel Tejero, and when he arrived in Valencia, he found the city completely empty under an opaque silence. It was already past nine o’clock at night, so she was breaking curfew. If he had been shot, nothing would have happened, so he was at the mercy of any sniper whim like a red ptarmigan.
At the wheel of the anthracite Volvo he had used for the first time on this trip, Miguel entered the maze of deserted streets. He had to cross the city to look for an exit and, suddenly, he was surprised by a noise which seemed to come from the bottom of the earth. In a side street of Gran Vía he had to stop because several tanks were passing at that time. The military march sounded on Volvo radio Volunteers and despite the panic that enveloped him, Miguel remembered that this music was the one that closed, when he was a child, the end of the film The Alcazar does not give up with all the spectators waving their arms raised in the image of the leader who filled the screen. Now, inside the car, it seemed like time had passed. Was it another war or was it the same war his family had told him about by the fireplace when he was a child?
He was unaware that Lt. Col. Tejero’s coup in Madrid was about to fail, but in Valencia the coup had succeeded and Miguel saw himself as a puzzled ant, amid the silence of the city torn by the tracks of the tanks. Now he saw what was a real tank passing before his eyes with a shaggy tail like an iron scorpion.
Anyone can tell their life story through the cars they’ve owned and the places they’ve taken them. This Volvo would forever be linked to the memory of a coup that could turn the fate of his life black. Despite everything, this car accompanied him during the golden years when the country changed its coat. The eighties were our french maywhich instead of being a flame that was extinguished in a week, spread over several years in which Spain left behind the Iberian films and became a modern society.
In this car, Miguel crossed the whole of France, from the Porte de California on the Côte d’Azur where Picasso had lived to Aix-en-Provence and there he crossed Mont Victoria as if he had entered a painting by Cezanne; reached the territories of Gustave Flaubert in Rouen and in its streets, around the cathedral which Monet painted, all the ladies carrying their bags looked like Madame Bovary to him; continued the journey to Cabourg, staying at the Grand Hotel in search of the missing Albertine de Marcel Proust; then he arrived with Erik Satie in Deauville and Honfleur and, finally, Miguel, with this baggage on his back as his only armament, made his own landing on Omaha beach in Normandy aboard the Volvo and, to celebrate his triumph over the old dandruff, he took a Calvados made from Benedictine apples.
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