Andrew G. Smith, a photographer and artist, put out a book titled Velo, which I admired for the way it evoked the chaotic perception and uncertain understanding racers have of any race they’re in. He asked me to write some text for a second edition of the book. I wanted to do in extended words a little of what he’d done with pictures and short bits of text. I gave it a dig. I don’t know where Delia came from, but I was really happy when she showed up.
Though it seems so almost always from the inside and at least sometimes from without, there is no sense saying a race makes no sense. Every race makes its own sense, every time from uncertainty producing that what could not have been any other way — yet as well dangling before us and behind us and above us and below and all around all that could have happened and almost happened and should have happened and next time better or else. What makes no sense in any sense is to call a race a race because every race is races, a multitude if not an infinity of versions. Yes, as anyone could surmise my race is not the same as yours but the middle of my race was not the same as the start and, what’s more, the middle that happened as it happened is not the middle that happened once the race ends and I begin to recall and reflect and retell, and not the middle that will have happened a day later and a week and a season and a lifetime later. There are moments of my middle that mattered to you and not to me, and what you did in those instants mattered to a racer who you never knew was there, just off your wheel, and who never knew why you were racing then as you did. I saw the break was going before it went, and I jumped and thought I had read the race when at most I had read not even a sentence but maybe just managed to somehow understand where a comma was needed. You never knew how I knew about even that little bit of punctuation. You knew only that I knew, and when in anguish I was brought back you watched me, and when I put my hands in the drops and fluttered my fingers you attacked in anticipation of the next attack but I was only stretching my back and soothing a knuckle I’d banged while wrenching out a pedal three days ago. In a sprint someone won who was disappointed at not going off solo, and second was a racer just getting past the remnant of a cold who the night previous had figured on abandoning and not counted on the money but now with it could after all get to next weekend’s big race, the one he’d been targeting all year, the one for which he had climbed to the peak of his peak, and out of which, he had no way of knowing, he would crash and for the rest of his days wish he’d taken the money and gone down the street for pizza and the red house-wine with Delia who by then would have finally admitted after all that she loved the overlooked racer who’d been on your wheel and jumped out of your jump creating the big split that stayed away and with his first-place money asked her that night out for pizza and red house-wine. I had seen Delia standing, watching us, as I’d drifted hacking snot back into the pack after that first failed break, and I had thought her beautiful, the mess her mouth made of her otherwise perfect balanced face an imperfection so astounding it defied my hypoxia. When I faded back beside you, I remembered she had been at a party you’d thrown once and that simple sole spark of cerebral function seemed like more coherence than I had experienced in minutes so I slotted into the pack right there and rode for awhile before stretching my back and flexing my fingers. After the finish someone asked me how the race had been. Someone asked all of us. We asked each other. We told it every time the best we could.