Summer Buddy Holly (3)

“It’s all about death,” he says quietly, to nobody in particular. 

“Perhaps,” says Saint Rufina, for it is she, wrapped in a robe of vermillion, who is contained within the fresco, she who is offering up her floral tribute. “Although—

when you stop and think about it,” she says, “isn’t everything about death? The flowers in the green glass vase that you bought on that vacación in Sitges in, when was it, Jay, 2005? their edges crisping, the heads bowed as if in prayer, standing among an eiderdown nest of themselves on the table. The latest box-set, the detective and the forensics team revelling in the nature of a grisly murder and passing itself off as entertainment. Isn’t everything about death? When you take the flowers to la cucina to eventually dispose of them, don’t their remaining petals strew themselves across the floor into a self-constructed cortège? They lay there, curled and benign, and you sweep up them up and then they are gone. Why, Jay,” she says, “just ask my sister.”

She inclines her head and gestures a little way along the wall, which belongs to one of the many ancient churches that punctuate Seville’s winding streets like asterisks, solid reminders that absolution is always close at hand. Saint Justa, swathed in a robe akin to that of Saint Rufina but in gold rather than red and offering a similar bouquet and, colours aside, identical to her sibling, smiles down at him from a matching fresco. There is that flash of recognition once more before it crawls away.

“Hola, Jay,” she says, her voice not unlike that of Penélope Cruz (although Jay is inclined to hear Penélope Cruz in the accents of many Spanish women), “of course, I agree with my sister. It is all about death.”

Jay slides one uncertain Birkenstock-sandaled foot to the right of the other like a man on a highwire and edges two metres to his right. Saint Justa is, like her saintly sister, surrounded by a script that seems to flow like a stream, offering itself in Spanish interspersed with ribbons of languages past. This time he relaxes into the tickertape scroll, letting his eyes adjust and settle. And presently he reads I loved you like a distant star.

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