I met them at 6:30 p.m. and by 6:45 we were screaming down the highway. It was dark out, rush hour traffic while weaving through cars. We had agreed Butch would go first, and as par his tradition he insisted on being stoned. The windows were rolled up. Butch held the steering wheel with his knees while he lit a joint. It went around clockwise – Butch, me, Sunshine, Allie-Lee and Sparks.
The cars on the highway, each one was dark, dark and identical to the car before it. The drivers weren’t happy. Identical hundreds of faces, cheap suits and ties and baggy eyes, scowls frozen on their faces. Inside the dark cars dim circles of light illuminated only frustrated frowning faces.
The car was stuffy, hot, filled with drifting wisps of smoke. Butch passed me the joint. ‘You ready?’ I asked him. He exhaled a lingering cloud, wreath of smoke around his head.
‘Wait for the music.’ He said.
Traffic wasn’t heavy, but, at 90 MPH the cars came up quick, most unexpectedly. The tires echoed going through cold overpass. Tension rising in the music. I could see Butch mentally noting pattern of the cars in front of us, how they spaced out. The engine humming faster, deeper, I could see the speedometer, 95…100, and at 110 Butch applied the cruise control, cranked the music blaring simultaneously yelling Go! … as he squeezed his eyes shut and I hit the timer…
Flying blindly down dark highway passing cars on right and left, Butch gently guiding roaring missile round the bend– a car! coming up quick but we don’t tell him, we can’t spoil the fun – quickly coming close to taillights bumper stickers in our sights – and Butch yanked the wheel to the right, changing lanes in just the time. He knew the car was there the whole time. Highway now into a straight-away, Butch blindly feels it out, gets the car straight and keeps it there, a car to the right holds the horn swerving to the other lane, Butch in reaction begins drifting, drifting to the left, eyes shut and drifting into traffic on the left…
‘Open!’ I yelled. Butch opened his eyes, saw where we were too close to the car and brought us back to the lane, away from the cars so close to our left. Butch smiled wide, thrilling me with his bursting eyes.
‘What—a—rush.’ The music was winding down. ‘How long?’
‘Pah! Who’s next?’
‘I’ll go!’ said Sunshine. She passed Allie-Lee a plastic pint of vodka and positioned herself to climb into the front. I held the wheel while Sunshine and Butch switched. Every 50 feet, on both sides of the highway huge billboards stood. ‘We sell this! So buy it!’ said one. Another, ‘You aren’t happy, without this!’ ‘Be yourself. Be, Glamore!’ proclaimed a still-life, a woman modeling basic red t-shirt and plastic smile.
‘I hate those things,’ said Sunshine. She settled in behind the wheel. ‘Be different! Buy Glimmore!’ proclaimed a still-life, a woman modeling basic off-red t-shirt and unctuous smile. Sunshine complained, yet she knew, she knew there wasn’t a road to take without them looming. The engine hummed to 95 and cruise-control was then applied.
‘Ready?’ I asked. Sunshine grinning flicked the headlights out, drew a deep breath, shutting her eyes and shouting Go! …
Dark missile coming blind round gentle curve, a car in front of us Sunshine swerved, over a lane – wait a moment – and back again, narrowly missing the other car’s front-end. The car she cut off blew a horn. A bullet in the dark, she quickly pulled ahead of them.
‘Oh! She passed!’ went Sparks, sitting forward in his seat. We were all sitting forward in our seats. This was the only reason we ever had.
The highway straightened, Sunshine smoothing out along with it, dark missile hidden in the night, fleeing between unknowing cars. The lane ahead of us empty of taillights, up ahead a car to right – Sunshine jerked the wheel into the lane behind the car going going going closer to the car and was inches from the bumper before jerking to the left again, opening her eyes. Big beaming smile and her excitement-glowing eyes. ‘Did I get close?’
‘Yes!’ chorused the rest of us, laughingly.
‘23 seconds,’ I said.
‘Personal best.’ Sunshine dancing in the driver seat.
‘I’m next,’ I said. Me and Sunshine switched. ‘What if we turn into a burning flaming wreck tonight?’
‘What, is there suddenly some importance to your life you’re worried about?’ Allie-Lee gibed, sounding intentionally pathetic.
‘Good. I’m going one-fifteen, thirty seconds. Ready?’ I flicked the headlights on. Deep breath, shook out my arms. Stomach sick, filled with thick-blood nervousness. Go! …
Roaring blind through midnight void, seeing nothing feeling all, vibrations of an engine churning burning down the highway blind and guessing, barely knowing where the other cars may lie, hoping, not knowing – possibly I’ll steer us by. Gently straighten out the wheel, drift left a lane and keep it straight, hold it straight…
… A pressure behind my eyes wanting to burst, wanting me to open them but the burn, the burn builds with the pressure in my heart and stomach the longer I keep them shut – heart thumping echoes in my chest – rising rising rising in my throat with the tension and numbing fear of not knowing not seeing what is coming and the pure thrill of tempting the unknown for that moment of escape, this moment of escape – barreling into uncertainty because it’s only there where you might chance to free yourself from imposed order and begin anew. To choose your future. Flying madly through the dark because everyone else lives in the daytime. Plunging forward through lovely chaos hoping to come out alive. For a moment to feel alive – I didn’t know where I was going and it thrilled me filled me with the feeling of living ecstacy barreling madly through the darkness hands gripping sweaty the wheel and tempting lust of keeping my eyes shut longer, knowing I need to look but swept up in the surge and the increasing thrill of keeping my eyes shut longer, just a little bit longer to feel the anxiousness building in my heart my chest shaking not giving a fuck, the rush of not knowing, not caring, the anxiousness, the skin-tingling – I realized I couldn’t remember the pattern of the cars. It’s okay, they’ll let me know if I’m close….
I opened my eyes.
‘It’s beautiful,’ said Butch.
The billboards had disappeared. The road was empty. A one-lane, empty road. On the right side dark and wet woods, crickets and the gentle rustle of leaves as the car rolled slowly along. On the left was a beach, white sand drenched in the silver-bluish light of the full moon. Waves breaking softly at the bottom. The windows were down and we could hear the waves breaking; smell of the cold salt air and the gentle breeze damp on our skin.
‘Where are we?’ asked Sunshine.
‘I don’t know,’ I replied.
‘ – ‘cus I like it.’
‘Let’s stay here awhile,’ said Butch. ‘We’ll be alright. We don’t need to go back.’
Copyright, 2012 — had to, don’t like it but had to. it’s business, ya know?