The Promise


In my rear view a Hyundai Accent ’98. The classic, silver one that everyone and their mother owned in the 2000’s. The guy driving is 35, give or take, the kind of shitface that could grant him pass to a Mexican Cartel no problem. Straight away I know he’s gonna tailgate me for no reason. I’m already going 90 miles on a road that’s up to 60.

No cars ahead on our lane. The opposite lane is full of cars returning from summer holidays. Families with happy, stuffed faces, their pets along. They keep coming and coming. He can’t get past me without a head-on collision.

Instinctively, I touch my jeans’ right pocket. The heavy duty padlock tied to a bandana is there. It’s always there. The concealed melee weapon I learned from German Hell’s Angels a few years back. But the knife is not where it used to be, under my seat. I promised her that I’ll be different. No more wrath, no more road rage. No more NASCAR style driving. The end with volatility.
And she’s sitting next to me. And she hasn’t realized what’s going on ‘cause I’m cool.

She’s talking about our booked trip to Berlin, four months from now, while looking out the window. It’s been about two minutes since I last said something in response. She’s happy, I’m happy. I try to keep my head straight. I breathe from the nose and I try to only look ahead.

But I fear this time it’s not going to work. I can feel the pre fight heat, the adrenaline rush I’m familiar with. I want to put him in the hospital. We ‘re headed for some nasty turns at high speed, with the guy stuck on my back. He’s cursing, the sound of his exhaust meant for another car getting uglier. He tries to overtake me from the right and I cut him off. I hit the brakes and he almost crashes upon us. He knows I’m fucking with him. His ego against my ego. She awakes from daydreaming. I tell her it’s ok, I’m calm, that’s it. And she believes me.

There are no cars on the opposite lane but I step on the gas pedal and I don’t let him pass. Left, right, I cut him off. He is foaming at the mouth. And I’m starting to feel the violence itch. More and more. He attempts a suicidal overtaking with a double decker bus closing in on the other side. All the while he’s cursing, lowered window, giving me the middle finger.

She’s getting afraid, I speed up until the very last second till he almost crashes with the bus. A school bus. She starts yelling at me, what are you doing, you gave me your word. That’s true. I gave her my word. Or else she leaves. Five years together, we ‘re going to get married. The word “word” snapped the reset in me.

I let him overtake and he disappears in the distance. I tell her I’m sorry, her hand in mine.

A few minutes later, the motherfucker is waiting in his car, stopped next to a barley field. I’m at a much lower speed now and he’s only 150 yards ahead. I try to think fast. He waves to me, come, come. He gets out. She asks me what he wants.

For a moment he bends over to the passenger seat and I know it in my guts that he’s reaching for a gun. It was a sawed-off shotgun.

broken glass your chest the deepest crimson

your parents my parents I lower my sight

Panagiotis Kentikelenis

The Promise

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