TRACKSIDED

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FAST CARS

JANE

Mona is annoyed, she probably thinks I’m playing the damsel in distress to steal more attention from Brad, but the truth is I’m scared like one is afraid of drowning or frightened of snakes.

I guess they believe me now. After ten minutes of debate, I got in the car, but what followed freaked both of them out.

Brad had not even started the engine that my hair dripped with sweat as though they fished me out of a well. I caressed the door handle as he drove to reassure myself while the feeling of being trapped closed in on me.

Thank goodness Brad used his smart lock; otherwise, I would have thrown myself out. Brad speeded up; it’s obvious he didn’t do it intentionally or to impress me.

I know how Brad feels when he drives because I used to feel that way.

My car was my getaway; the sensation of invincibility while driving was natural. For a woman, I had great reflexes. With a bit of training, someone could have cast me for the Tokyo drift remake.

That’s how brilliant I was.

I loved the speed, shifting gears, the sound of the roaring engine, the adrenaline it produced was fabulous, and when I was high, it was even better. I cruised and touched the sky.

One of my all-time favorite songs was Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car; I lived the lyrics, representing freedom in the purest of forms.

Wild and carelessness are the words to define how I was at the wheel. Not only was I a reckless driver, but civility won’t my forte.

Parking sideways or on restricted areas that Jane didn’t give a shit about anything or anyone, I would use my horns excessively and my middle finger, well, it blew like a candle in the wind every three seconds.

That was then, and now, Brad has to pull up to let me out to vomit.

I sit on the sidewalk next to him while Mona goes across the street to buy water at a G20.

The roads are vast here, like in the States, and nobody wastes time when crossing. Everyone always in a hurry here in the institutional 빨리빨리 [palri palri=quick quick] mode and so are the cars, with drivers who are also quick to get angry at the lingering pedestrian.

These broad streets like highways provide the tracks you desire for speeding. One can quickly be tempted in the silence of the night to rip roar through the city as though the streets were a red carpet for them to strut on.

Goddamnit Jane.

I hate when I have thoughts like that and where my mind tries to divert the responsibility. The streets are too broad; the car was too powerful; the night was too dark.

My mind sometimes seeks subterfuges, I guess it’s a defense mechanism supposed to help me cope, but it doesn’t because the facts are there, and these petty thoughts can’t contain the guilt.

In response, I have an immediate physical reaction to such concerns; it’s not just about being in the car. It’s an ensemble of factors that cause my breakdown.

“I’m sorry, Brad.”

“Nah, it’s okay; it’s my fault, I insisted.”

“I’m such a wreck; I’m not like I used to be I’mㅡ.”

“It’s okay; Jane,” Brad says, pulling back my hair as I dip my head down for another round. The brunch doesn’t look as good as it did when the food went in, and I’m a total zombie.

Brad takes out a tissue and wipes the contours of my mouth. Now, I’m not a love guru, but my perception classifies the gesture in the the-someone-who-cares file.

How many people do you know will wipe your mouth after having watched you vomit, supporting the stench?

Of course, Mona has to get back now.

To bypass the usual eye-rolling, she innovates with the blasé combo of slit eyes and straight ruler lips.

She’s pissed.

That is another one of my hidden talents. I can piss off people like no one and without effort.

“So, what do we do now?” Mona says, handing the bottle of water to Brad whose crouched down beside me.

“Here, Jane, drink some water,” Brad urges as he passes the bottle that I grip with both hands.

“You guys go ahead, I’ll take the tube,” I say after taking a few gulps.

“Oh, Jane, come on, don’t be ridiculous, you’re not going to take the metro in this state when we’re in a car,” Mona says as she throws a stare for support at Brad.

“I’ll drive carefully, I swear,” Brad adds.

They don’t know, but their plea alone is smothering me with guilt.

“Jane, you think you can sit in the car again?”

They both seem desperate, and I crave to get in the vehicle with them, but the victims are there in an overturned frame of what’s left, burning. Mona speaks, but her voice is a scribble in the wind. All I see are flames, wild, angry, and threatening.

The accident is what I see every single time I’m in a vehicle. Some doctors say it’s post-traumatic. I’ve been on SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), but I stopped, people might not consider this, but I got the sense they stimulated dark thoughts. I read it was one of the side effects.

I sunk deeper into depression. The treatment seemed to boil the dark matter into a stew of thoughts, which kept pushing me to harm myself, and then one day, I attempted suicide.

The Austen HQ in Seoul told Abby to sue the doctor because, of course, it had to be someone else’s fault, and I changed the therapist.

I tried more natural methods hoping they would relieve me, but right now, I would need a massive dose to calm the psychosis for what I see are hands trying to reach out to me from the flames.

Despite my angsty trip, I prefer to imagine I’ve progressed in four years, but it isn’t effortless.

Jane, you aren’t the same girl. It’s just a car, means of transportation that will take you from point A to point B.

You’re with Mona and Brad, people who care about you.

The mental pep talk is imperative; I repeat it like a mantra.

Brad and Mona are still talking; instead of them, I see Aidan and Abby. Calamity Jane that should be my name because I seem to be an omen of misfortune.

“Okay, let’s try again.”

Brad and Mona harbor a dumbfounded expression as they watch me get up and walk to the car in a determined step. I hope my show is convincing because I’m shitting myself.

Phew, they follow.

This scene reminds me of how it was with Abby and Aidan. Unlike Brad and Mona, they would quarrel.

Abby would defend me and tell Aidan to let me take the tube. Aidan would shout, saying her overprotective stance wasn’t doing anything for me, and perhaps I was young, but in the eyes of the law, I was an adult who had to get over whatever fright I had.

It hurts to say this, but Aidan was right. I must surpass my fears. Yes, it’s easier said than done.

In those situations, I usually got back in the car. Abby would sit with me and hold my hand, while Aidan would complain about how he felt like a chauffeur.

Gosh, I almost ruined my sister’s marriage.

Abby, forgive me.

So I reboot my behavior, and I climb in to sit in the back this time with Mona, who takes my hand and talks to me.

Mona tries her best to divert my attention, which is much appreciated because she’s not asking questions to determine why I’ve turned into such a freak, and it’s comforting.

It’s horrible when people try to wring answers out of you when you haven’t dealt with your issues because you don’t know what to say, and it’s disheartening.

Cars, vibrant and powerful, beasts we claim as ours. We believe we are in command, but like a predator, it waits for us to taunt it as we shift gears and push the paddles.

It seems harmless, but all a car needs is a fool of my caliber for disaster to strike.

I fear them because I know cars are just coffins on wheels.

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