The Year of the Saint

Dec 20, 2021

I first heard about Saint Benito in a hairdresser parlour in Buenos Aires. At the beginning, I nodded politely, then I laughed. And, because I didn’t want to disappoint my hairdresser, I ended up taking the little picture of the saint home with me. Little did I know then about the events to come, how the saint and I would become acquainted over the years and how much gratitude I would eventually come to owe him.

But here’s how it started (fragment from my book “A Horse Called Bicycle”):

“Roxy! Qué pasó? What happened? How can you do this again?” Sol freezes in the doorway of the hair salon and her face moves quickly through a whole range of emotions—pity, anger, shock, concern, disbelief. I wonder how she can carry all of these emotions at once. Her big blue eyes, carefully contoured with black liner, look at me in accusation, and judging from her tone of voice I’m not sure whether she feels sorry for me or wants to strangle me.

Sol knows very well what’s happened. I made sure I sent her a message telling her the whole story, precisely because I didn’t want her to react like this when she saw me with my arm in a sling. “Come in.” She decides to move away from the door and let me pass.

“Sit down. Not there. Here.” She points to the chair in front of the big mirror. “I’ll make you linda, but before that you have to tell me what happened. Everything!” Her voice rises again and for a second I think she’ll go back to screaming at me.

I tell her all of it—the fall, the surgery, the verdict of the doctors. There’s nothing I can do but wait, I say. And all I need right now is clean hair.

But I can’t have my hair done until I answer all her questions, and a lot more get asked. Sol, Madri, and a couple of clients all want to know what happened. When it happened. How exactly it happened. Which hospital I went to. What did they do? How much have I paid? You should be careful not to be ripped off. They will try to rip you off because you are a foreigner. How come I broke a bone again? How come I got on a horse again? How come—

“Roxy, I tell you what’s happening.” Sol takes a deep breath in. “It’s that guy.”

“Which guy?”

“The guy you dated.”

“Rodrigo?”

“Yes.”

“He has nothing to do with this. He wasn’t even there. He doesn’t know about it.”

“It’s him, I tell you,” Sol says, with that look of certainty on her face that won’t be defeated.

“What do you mean?”

“He’s sucked your energy. Like a vampire.”

“Sol, this is crazy.”

“No, it’s not. I know it. I’ve seen a movie about it. (…)

I’m laughing out loud by this time. “So, you think he’s a vampire and he stole my soul?”

“Exactly. He stole your energy,” she corrects me. “What’s going on with you isn’t normal stuff. Say what you want, but this isn’t normal.”

An old lady with short white hair who is waiting for her turn wants to know more about the situation. Sol gives her a full update on my love story with the energy vampire and why she’s sure he’s sucked all my energy, which now results in me breaking bones. The client nods her head in approval.

Madri comes up with a solution. “You need to go to church. Go pray. Sol is right. You’ve had black magic set on you. Don’t take these things lightly. More could happen.”

Madri sounds convinced. Everybody agrees with Sol’s explanations. The conversation moves on from why this happened to what I can do to stop it from happening again. I’m starting to get chills down my spine. I’m not sure where this is going and I really only want my hair done.

“What church? The church isn’t enough. I’ll take her to a witch.” Sol turns around to Madri, motioning me to move towards the washbasin. Oh good, at least something is now going to be done about my hair.

“Roxy, you need a witch, a white witch, to unlock this curse that’s on you. Maybe church too, but the witch first. Definitely,” she tells me, bringing the shower head over my hair.

Talking of churches with water pouring down my head makes me feel like I’m being baptised. I tell her the water is a bit too hot, but she ignores me as her mind is occupied with solving this mystery.

“And this family. This family you’re always with when you break a bone. Is this not weird?” Madri continues watching Sol as she shampoos my hair.

“Boluda, they’re the good ones,” Sol answers. “They look after her. They’re the guardian angels. They’re not the ones with the black magic. The guy she dated, he’s the one who stole her soul.”

Her hands, full of shampoo, come up in the air, and she gesticulates animatedly.

“Yes, but why do you break bones with them every time?” Madri asks. “Can’t you break bones somewhere else?”

“I broke bones in England, too,” I say from the washbasin, but they ignore me.

“Maybe they have something to do with this, too,” Madri continues.

Oh great, now my Argentine family will go to meet Rodrigo in the land of black magic.

I take a deep breath and think of a rational explanation.

“I ride horses when I’m with them and when I fall from horses I break bones, so maybe that’s why I break bones when they’re around,” I say quickly before they can launch down this new path.

This convinces Madri and she’s quiet for a little while, just enough to give Sol the chance to finish washing my hair.

“You’re so lucky we did the colour last time you were here.” Sol moves on to more down-to-earth subjects as I retake my place in front of the big mirror. “We couldn’t have done it with your arm in the sling. At least like this you can face everything with your hair in order.” She says this as if it’s the most important thing in the world.

I smile. Thank God there’s no more mention of black magic. I don’t want to think about anything any longer. No more reasons why, black magic, energy vampires or guardian angels. I want to put them all on hold.

But I can’t just yet. Before I leave the shop, Sol produces a picture of a saint from her pocket.

“What’s this?”

“San Benito. He fights off black magic,” she says, with a serious look in her eyes. She turns the picture around to show me a small prayer printed on the back of the card. “Say this prayer every day. It takes only one minute. And on the twenty-first of every month spend some time praying to him. It’s his day on the twenty-first. He’ll protect you.”

I nod and take the picture. She watches me critically, trying to assess whether I’ll do as instructed.

I did it. It took some time, but the saint and I became good friends eventually. I went home and placed him on the shelf in the living room. He watched me from there as I changed my life completely in a matter of days: I decided to give up polo, leave Argentina, travel all the way to India and start a healing journey that lasted two years, took me around the world and eventually back to England where I met my husband. The saint came with me wherever I went and, just as Sol instructed me, I talked to him on the 21st of every month. That’s because 21 is his number, Sol said.

And this means 2021 was his year. The saint went even further in his miracles... I can’t tell you more, as my conversations with the saint are private. But I do urge you to give it a try. Find him or rather let him – or any other saint for that matter – find you. They will, in the most unusual of circumstances. Let them reach you. Take them home with you. Let them guide you. Let them help you. After all, this is what they are here for.

And you? Well, you’re here to learn. And be grateful for the beauty that comes up in your life, as it comes, how it comes.

And me? Well, I’m here to learn too. And I’ll stick with my saint. We’re just beginning our journey together and there are many more miracles to come. 

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