A blurred, bluish, heartless Tuesday morning in Bucharest. It had rained throughout the night, and now the air was fuzzy with damp gusts and sirens. She smiled at a friend’s post on facebook: “In this city, people use their cars as umbrellas”; she shut down the computer, rechecked the watch lazily and finished tying her shoelaces. Let’s try and get ourselves to work, but how in the world do we manage that? She always talked to herself, and she had lots of fun during, too. I know: favorite hat and the red coat. And hot cocoa to go.
While entering her car she felt like a misanthropic cat, hastily closing the door and locking it instantly, as though the weather outside was contagious. Inside here everything was better: she was deeply in love with her car, it smelled like cocoa and vanilla and was a chaotic mess of crunchy leaves and cd covers on the floor, and spare clothes on the back seats. A bachelor’s car through and through, yeah. Once the music was on, a sudden feeling of comfort and liberty and sheer pleasure miraculously cured the day.
She navigated through the mad traffic and the absurdity of jams and aggressive horns with an unearthly serenity, as if she had grown wings or as if she belonged to another race, unaware of the little shortcomings of humans trapped in a grey labyrinth of impotent nerves. She was singing. She’d always been a car singer, loud and theatrical and talentless – thank God for talentless, otherwise she’d end up a cabaret singer, wandering the world from one gig to another in a long, tight black dress. So once again, thank You. Music was loud and life was in tune and love was mad and final in that song, so that it really didn’t matter humans were stuck in traffic at Piata Unirii.
Stuck. And it’s past 11, where do all these people go to? Meetings? On this weather? He would have cancelled almost any meeting on a day like this.
Not this one though. He had to be on time in the office for a presentation that could land them the client of this century. He drafted it brilliantly, all he had to do was be himself, poised and elegant and self sufficient. Only he felt quite hateful today, annoyed at the discomfort of having to leave his bed and act corporate and suck up to the client of the century, and having to drive more than one hour to and then fro for this. News on the radio was unacceptable, jokes on next channel even worse. He silenced his radio and that sounded a little better, but silence made room for a strange sense of isolation. Like a shell too shallow to completely insulate him from the annoying Mumbo jumbo outside, his Audi was also too familiar to ignore the mood set up inside. He felt dangerously un-engaged to the business of the day and alarmingly flat overall. Not sad, not worried, not even irritated any longer – just flat. With that attitude he wasn’t going to land anything.
He looked impassible at the red light, at the electronic display showing 176 range in km, 11 degrees temperature, then checked his phone for new emails and then fellow cars trapped in the same evil spell. The car in front was a BMW and had the break lights on and the inspired BMW reading on the plate. On the left there was an impulsive courier, on the right a taxi. In the car behind someone apparently spoke on the phone and had a huge fight. Ah wait! he went back and looked more attentively in the rear view mirror – that girl in the car behind gestured and spoke a lot, but it was more like a good humor pace, somehow playful and over energetic. She’s not talking, she’s singing, he smiled to himself in disbelief. He watched closely, eager for details: the girl was very red haired and very curly, her face seemed happy yet completely absorbed by the music she was hearing, while her lips moved on with the words and her white fingers kept the beat on the wheel. She may be the only happy person in this whole city right now, he grinned, advancing a mere 15 meters until next red light. The courier on the left was losing it, everything spelled bore and doom, yet this girl was scorning their platitude with her frisky ways. Someone either had a very good night or a marriage proposal. Or both, he thought, in a cynical state of mind. Over the next minutes, he found himself building various possible scenarios for the red fay in his mirror, while still keeping an eye on her. She almost seemed she was looking back at him, because her gaze was serene and fixed ahead, undoubtedly concentrating on the lyrics of her song and ignoring the surrounding mess. She was so beautiful and so lighthearted and so fucking intangible that her presence in his mirror was almost surreal, like a figment of his imagination, trying to deliver a message he couldn’t understand. She made him feel lonely.
Not that he cared for anyone’s company right now; he felt lonely as in alone-in-life, with no partner-in-crime, teamless. He wanted to feel how she felt, that extravagance, that rhythm, that singing-out-loud, that childish display of enjoyment. What’s your secret? He asked her. I need to know your secret. The face in the mirror answered back, her lips accentuating every syllable while the light red aura of her hair contrasted hypnotically with her pale face, yet he couldn’t hear her or read her.
Seven minutes later, after the traffic jam diluted somehow, he let her car pass him by and followed it. And when it stopped he stopped. And a few steps further, he held his breath until real life confirmed his fascination. She’s still perfect – he shrugged, paused a little, then went to land her.