Friday, July 16, 2010

Oil & Hay - 2

I was nervous as well. Not in the particularly expressive way Lorenzo Maldarelli was. But I must admit. I was acting calm but I was nervous.

I sat on a folding chair in the pits and gazed at the grid, aswarm with actors and mechanics, reporters, portly officials and women on the make. Lurking among them were the motor cars, arrayed in staggered pairs, a patchwork of reds, blues and greens, sun-dappled by a canopy of maritime pines.

The prince and princess peered down upon the scene from across the boulevard.

I closed my eyes and beheld my apprehension like a wearyingly familiar object. Like a pocket watch. A shoe. What did it look like today? The same.

I placed a cold-sweaty hand to my chest and felt my heart.

Melanie tried to teach me a mantra once. Om et cetera. I didn't take to it, I must confess. Fine, she said. (Just like an American girl.) Make up your own. Really? I asked. Can it be anything? It can be anything you like, she said. So I chose a verse from a popular song:

He's a real nowhere man,
Sitting in his nowhere land,
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

I thought my mantra three times through and felt a little better.

I'd soon be serene. This I knew. Once we snaked past St. Devote and were heading hopefully up the hill to Massenet I'd become exquisitely calm. Fall into that trance. Easy as pie. Hard to imagine it now, though.

In ordinary waking life my mind was perpetually cluttered by a thousand and one thoughts both frivolous and profound. I was distracted, fickle and forgetful. Inattentive. I'd read half a paragraph of an article in the morning paper only to be charmed by the next sensory event, regardless of importance: A birdsong. Burning toast. The untied laces of my shoes.

But when I raced my consciousness contracted. The world fell off the edges of the track. What remained? The tailpipes of the car ahead of me. And if by luck or merit none were present: the maddening unseen, ever vanishing around the bend or over the horizon. This is what I chased. Was it what I wanted?

Why were this and that so far apart?

Zo told me once, late one night, after we had copiously toasted one of his dominating performances in '63 - was it Monza? - that the entire race, every race in fact, was for him an occasion for hysterical, shrieking panic. He was terrified to the core that he'd die and he grew more certain that he would with each passing lap. He told me he often screamed out loud into the wind whilst downshifting into a particularly devious corner. Out loud? I asked. Si, Malcolm, he replied. Come una ragazza. He was desperately eager for the race to end. Always. How many more laps? Twelve? God forbid. Five? Two? When it was over and he'd bring his machine to a stop – in the winner's circle, often – he'd experience such an elation, such a burst of pure pleasure, that in his efforts to describe it he broke into sobs. I put my hand on his shoulder.

One thing was for certain: he was quick.