Monday, April 25, 2011

Oil & Hay - 19

I paced the strip of grass at the top of the hill beside the starting grid on the pale white afternoon of the race, the cars arrayed in threes and twos this time; there was mine in the middle of row one, between Checho's Hewitt-Clark on pole and Zé's Cavallo on the outside. Santiago Bragato sat nearby on the Armco. He gazed blankly at the pits across the track, muttering the Rosary, one hand in his pocket and the other on his knee. I knew he was done when he crossed himself.

"You are not very religious, Malcolm," he accused in his aristocratic accent, pulling taut his gloves. "You do not believe."

"I'm not superstitious. If that's what you mean."

Santiago raised an eyebrow before putting on his helmet.

"Is that what I am, Malcolm?" He chuckled. "Superstitious?"

I shrugged.

"What are you supposed to be, Malcolm? For church?"

"C. of E. That's what I was. And am supposed to be. I suppose."

"You think you fly above it all, don't you?" he said, shaking his head in disgust.

"Surely not above it all," I protested, goodnaturedly I hoped. I felt a hollowness in my chest.

He wagged a scolding finger at me. "It is better to believe a beautiful lie than to accept an ugly truth," he stated.

He seemed angry. About last night, still? Did he find me, in my apostasy, somehow responsible for Jean-Michel's death? For Lorenzo's? I felt a gnawing dread. A loneliness. A sensation–a condition–that, I now realised, had haunted me for weeks. I tried to lighten the mood.

"Argentine proverb, Santi?"

"I invent it right now. For you," he replied. He fastened his chinstrap and got up. I worried he'd take his leave without a word. Without a gesture, nor a glance.

But as he walked past he patted me twice, quickly, on the back.