Chapter 6

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As he ambles back into the classroom, no apparent care in the world, it is as if time has come to a stop. Everything looks totally and utterly unchanged. The blackboard is still as unwiped as it was when they left the room, familiar quick scribbles carelessly spread over its perfectly flat, dark surface. The same white cups spread helter-skelter over the tables, containing random remains of the bitter black liquid that makes miserable mornings bearable, now hesitantly staining the cheap porcelain. Like a boy of six timidly kissing his high school babysitter goodnight. Both of them firmly committed to the mutual understanding that the next day, in school, he'd better not throw even the slightest of glances at her. As everything would again be as it had always been, before that kiss inspired by nothing but a shallow awareness of parental expectations. Just like every little thing is still standing at exactly the same spot in this classroom in this forgotten part of Spain. Untouched. Unaffected. Unloved.

The world might as well have stopped turning and those ten laps out there on the track just have been a silly daydream. The kind that always ends too soon, shattered by the blind ruthlessness of living daylight.

Timo feels a sharp reluctance rising at the utter lack of change in the classroom. But then, there is this strange whispering in his ear. There it is again – a creamy voice that he has never heard before, gently breathing soft words into his mind. He eagerly struggles to grasp the message the voice is trying to convey.

"There is more to life than mere daydreams."

The courting murmuring awakens a new instinct within him. It simmers through his bones; a hollow nagging desire, stealthily sneaking into the darkest inner parts of his gut. An almost desperate longing to be back behind the wheel of that ramshackle Clio. Dauntlessly steer it onto the circuit. Storm down the front straight towards Hay at terrifying speed. And always that tiny glimpse of panic when entering the corner, with the crushing awareness that putting the steering wheel wrong, even for just an inch, might result in calamity.

His initial anticipation for driving the car has not yet entirely vanished. But it is quickly receding, making room for something else. Something new. Something that feels like nothing Timo has ever experienced before. Even if deep down, he understands that this is what has fueled his fantasies during those many long years. And yet, he can neither clearly identify its nature nor its origin. There indeed seems to be no rational explanation for the pleasure that driving the white Clio has provided him. For the sheer thrill of balancing a car on that ragged edge between brilliance and total disaster.

The boring classroom suddenly appears a tad less sad. A brighter tinge of pale cautiously and timidly casts a hint of cheerfulness over the dreary walls and sullen floors. A fickle sparkle of joy slips in through the ajar window. It all conspires to cunningly allure a feeble yet frivolous smile on Timo's lips. It is faint, but undeniable. He tries to suppress it and his rapidly increasing good spirits with a sense of weary seriousness. But there is no succeeding.

Despite his grandmother's many lectures on the absolute necessity to always maintain an even strain, Timo had on several occasions succumbed to emotions simply too overwhelming for him to contain within the secluded boundaries of his inner being. Causing great discomfort to his grandmother and triggering her severe disapproval.

"And so what," Timo mumbles to himself, "where's the harm in failing one more expectation? Now that I have come this far."

---

Marcelo stands at the front of the classroom, two feet firmly planted on the dais, lower arms resting on the shabby lectern. His facial expression still reveals nothing but the same barely suppressed mockery that he has reflected through his every movement of the entire morning. The scalding undertone in his voice nevertheless appears to have softened a little. As if it is gradually changing into an endless sadness at the pointlessness of his existence. He casually slants his deeply sunburned limbs and body backwards against a low table, as if being fiercely and irresistibly seduced by a gorgeously tantalizing woman.

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