I leave the office at 9. I answer the last call tonight, while warming up the car. I’m calm and relaxed, but this time, there’s something there, heating up the boiler, eating me. I cannot listen to the house & trance station I had this morning. I switch to the classical music station. It’s Saint Saens – The Swan, for cello. I close my eyes for a second and wait for a pause, to start the engine. Then I drive slowly to the intersection, wait for the green light, and turn, just as the first drops of rain hit the windshield.
There’s nobody behind, so I can slow down. I can, for once, watch people, lights, signs, rain reflections. A red light. I stop the car and my right hand touches the right seat, involuntarily – because it used to like doing so. Because a red light always meant a kiss. Because there was a hand there, waiting for mine. Because there was once a way home different from this one, and my hand remembered.
One winter ago, on that other way home, it started to snow. The first snow that year. And I kissed her at the red light, on Victoria Boulevard crossing the river bed. Suddenly I heard a knock on the left window. I rolled down the glass and there was this lady from the car to my left, smiling and offering us a flower, because she just felt she had to do so. Because she thought we looked fine together. Because a chain of events had sent her there to do just that, to cross our lives, our way home.
I am angry with myself. I should not dwell in the past. There’s nothing there. If there’s nothing there, then why am I angry?
The University Square is crowded. I drive to the right lane and stop to another red light. I’m the first on this lane, with a clear road ahead to the underground tunnel. Caprice 24, Paganini. This is how my mind looks like right now. I’m dancing with a grin on my face. An evil grin. A grin that says I’ve nothing to lose.
Green. I step on the accelerator and the car spears ahead leaving a small cloud of pulverized rain drops behind. I hit the clutch at 5000 RPM and shift into third in a split second.
Don’t matter what car you drive. Don’t matter which city you’re in. Don’t matter what made you hit the clutch at 5000 RPM.
The feeling is the same. The blood rushes to the same places, fills the same veins, brings the same oxygen to the brain.
My record in the University tunnel is 135km/h. That’s 4300 RPM in fifth gear, in an early autumn night. It was supposed to be the magic night in which all would be right again. The magic night in which I, the fool, would cheat destiny and run away with another woman, breaking all spells, against all odds, just as they had announced „les jeux sont faits!” I left with her at 11:20 pm, from the Athenaeum. She kissed me and I told her, with a hopeful smile, that back in primary school, being with a girl at midnight meant she was your girlfriend, in that childish, innocent set of „oracle rules”. She said she’d rather get home quickly.
Yeah, she had her wish granted alright I guess. I accelerated, all the way down the gas pedal – so that maybe she wouldn’t notice the tears in my eyes, the way my hands where squeezing the wheel. I accelerated so my heart would find something else to beat for.
When the applause ends on Paganini’s Caprice, I exit the tunnel and take the right lane again.
I can smell home from here. The cherry trees from father John’s garden. The lilac in my yard. The rain falling on the dusty street. The empty room with a box of lavender on the window.
Brahms. The Hungarian Dance #4. Can I dream for a second? I’m stopped at the red light. I touch the wheel with gentleness, as I would touch the violin. As I would touch the woman I love.
Flashes from behind. It’s green. Other people are impatient to be on their way. On their chaotic, sinuous paths – which, just this once, cross my way. The way home.