We’re in the car. It’s eleven-ish, wet, and we’re on the way home from the cinema or theatre or something. I’m driving, and Gail’s in the passenger seat looking out the window – she’s turned the radio off. The wipers are doing their thwack and rub on repeat, and I’m thinking not long now, not long.
The next day we’re doing the same, this time no rain, and it’s earlier, seven-ish or something like that. I overtake a caravan on the dual carriageway, but stay in the outside lane: there are some lorries and slow moving cars ahead. Gail looks at me and makes to say something, but changes her mind.
The day after, we’re on the way home again. I’m driving and in the outside lane, Gail’s fiddling with the radio. This time it’s six-ish, I think, and the weather’s kind of overcast. I’m about to move to the inside lane, the road’s clear ahead, when a car appears behind me, and flashes its lights and beeps its horn. I move out the way, mutter “Idiot,” and beep my horn back, but the car accelerates off. Gail says, “You shouldn’t’ve been in the outside lane anyway.”
“And why do you think I was moving?”
The next day we’re on the same road again, the dual carriageway bypass thing. I don’t know what time it is or what the weather’s like. I put my foot down to overtake a hatchback, but Gail tells me to slow down – “There are speed camera’s ahead.” I slow – “Don’t you think I know that? We’re on here every day” – but the moment I do the car on the inside lane speeds up and pulls in front of me. I break, beep the horn – “What the fuck?” – but the driver ignores me and drives off. I push the accelerator to follow, but Gail just says, “Chris,” and I slow down.
The following day a car overtakes me and I decide to follow it. It’s one of those Japanese-Korean models, black and sporty. I look at Gail and wait for her to say something – the radio’s off – but she’s tapping at her phone, and I’m not going too fast, so I pull into the outside lane – there’s a lorry ahead of me too – and go after it. It slows down and I pull in behind it. It speeds up a bit and I do too. Then it slows down and I follow. Gail puts her phone back into her bag and says, “I know what you’re doing, you know.” I say: “And what’s that?” She shakes her head and looks out the window.
The next day I stay in the inside lane and drive slow. Both lanes are full of cars. There’s been an accident. Gail puts the radio on and gets her phone out while I tap at the steering wheel, every so often nudging the car on. I’m saying, “We’re going to be here for ages,” and she’s saying, “Better get used to it then,” when I see a car in my side mirror come up on my inside, on the hard shoulder. It passes me and drives on. I say, “What’s he think he’s doing?”
“Don’t get any ideas.”
The day after, I’m back again. This time the road’s quiet, the accident’s been cleared up, and I’m driving bang on the speed limit – I’ve got cruise control – and the radio’s on loud. I’m tapping the steering wheel and passing lorries and caravans and hatchbacks and sporty Japanese-Korean things. The weather’s bright and it’s early, around midday. No one’s beeping or flashing at me or tapping at a phone. I look at the empty passenger seat and then out the window, and I think, this is great, I should’ve done this years ago.