The Mission

by Monim Wains

[CW: mild offensive language]

There was a red hatchback on the motorway, almost standing still.

It was sticky-hot in the driver’s seat. I had turned on the fan, but there isn’t much that it can do when the air it blows in is even hotter.

The traffic wasn’t helping, inching along bit by bit.

I bet there was nothing at the end either. This was just another one of those phantom traffic jams designed to piss me off.

Ah well. I sighed, trying to push out the frustration.
My breath felt even hotter than the car.

Sometimes I would try to appreciate moments like this.
They were meditative, almost.

But there was too much going on in my head today.
I racked my brain.

The kids were getting antsy at home. I was on vomit duty last week when everyone dealt with a stomach bug.

Work too, crunch time.

What was that meeting even about today? It should have been an email.
Everything should be an email I can shove into junk and forget about!

I blinked and looked out to the city.

Three massive cranes stuck up into the sky. That would be the building works next to my house…

I hadn’t slept all week because of them…

The light at the junction some distance ahead turned green.

Finally! Movement.

A glimmer of hope that I wasn’t going to spend my entire life being dry-roasted on tarmac.

The traffic stopped again.

I leaned back, resting my head on the seat.

Two weeks left to go. Two weeks before this ridiculous project would be finished.

It had been a pain in my ass for three months.

Almost done though.

My manager would be happy. I would get a bonus. And then I would sod off on a holiday for three weeks.

Wait, no. 

Sigh, one week.

The kids only had one week of half-term.

I leaned forward, resting my head on the steering wheel as if that was a better pillow.

The traffic moved again, but the red car stayed still.
Immediately, a clarion of car horns blared out.

Jesus! Fine, I’m going! It’s not like we’re moving a million miles anyway.

Someone had spotted my momentary pause.

In that LITERALLY TWO SECONDS, they had shoved the face of their car in front of me.

LITERALLY LIKE TWO SECONDS.

Breeeathe.

A grey car moved into the lane in front of the red car.
There was ample space between them.

Eventually, the stop-and-start lake of vehicles disappeared in front of me, and I was first at the light.

I sat forever, tapping my finger on the rim hoping that it would speed things up.

I looked at the clock on the dashboard, 4:23pm.

Shit, that was later than expected. I only had until 5!

How long had I been here?!

I tapped even harder on the wheel, starting to sweat from the tension now.

Time decided to move even slower.

The traffic light turned green.

Off to the races! 

Well, 30 miles an hour. But it felt like that at this point!

I looked at the clock again.

No. I needed to rush.

Left mirror, right mirror, rear.

Cars were moving, but the road wasn’t empty.

I pressed down into my seat, hands gripping the wheel.

If I didn’t get there in time, there would be hell to pay at home.

The red car sped up, overtaking several others.

I didn’t need that after such a long week.

I just wanted to get into bed, on my own, without any noise or crying or mess.

Ahh, that didn’t help.

All I could think of was the scene at home.

If only I could stop.

Just park at the side of the road and let everything out in one go.
Have a moment to myself to loosen up.

I almost did. My hand reached for the indicator.

Just a little rest.

But that would take even more time – I didn’t have time!

I shook myself out of it. 

I had to keep going, eyes forward. Focus.

The car carried on.

Just a few more roads to go. 

4:34pm.

Just enough time to dash in and get out.

I was almost there.

Wait, wrong lane – I was in the wrong lane!

I slapped the handle, left lights blinking bright yellow.

I barely even looked in the mirrors before committing.

I didn’t really care at this point.

The car made a smooth left turn.

Damnit, more traffic! Stupid roundabouts.

There were two cars in front of the red one.

I stopped as close to the car in front of me as I could, breathing down its back.

Waiting.

Waiting.

It didn’t help.

Finally, it went.

My right hand was on the steering wheel, knuckles white.

The left was hovering over the gear stick, ready to shift.

As soon as I saw the gap, I went for it.

My hand rolled the wheel as fast as it could, lurching the car around.

The gear stick was stuck – what the hell?

I tugged again, pushing with my shoulder, making it move with force.

It worked, as I wove my way around the bend.

The car took the first exit on the roundabout.

Okay, this is busy.

I didn’t have time to look for too long, I needed a space.

There! Found one!

My eyes latched onto the gap, eyes, feet and hands working in a medley.

I looked over my shoulders. Left and right.

All clear.

In front of me?

Yeah, the space was still there.

Both feet balanced the speed, slowing down to a smooth stop.

I liked this about driving.

All angles covered, I manoeuvred into position. And stopped.

I looked at the clock.

4:41pm. 

Success!

The car had rolled into the parking bay at Tesco.
His son at home had asked for cake.
It was a Tuesday.

The Poor Print

The Oriel College Student Newspaper. Run by students, with contributions from the JCR, MCR, SCR, Staff. Current Executive Editors: Fanxi Liu, Monim Wains and Martin Yip

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