By Jonathan Urban
Mike McCoy slammed his clenched fist on the steering wheel and a blaring horn sound emanated down the busy interstate. The morning rush hour was only topped by the evening rush hour and neither was too appealing. Mike was fifteen minutes late for work and everyone around him seemed to be driving like it was a Sunday afternoon. Why the hell does this always happen to me, he wondered. Mike was a respectful and careful driver, two qualities that were near nonexistent with many drivers and due to him being paranoid about insurance rates going up, he was always conscious of his and others driving.
Mike had a lot on his mind, as he knew he had to get a few projects at work done, but most importantly he had a big date that night with a woman named Susan, who he had met through a mutual friend. He was more than excited and during this moment of frustration with the traffic, he was glad to have such an event to look forward to later in the day. Susan was great; they had talked so much recently through emails and over the phone, that he felt they already were a couple. He smiled at that—right before slamming on his breaks.
A metallic silver Mitsubishi Eclipse cut right in front of him and immediately slammed on the breaks, forcing Mike to do so and pray to God that the driver behind him didn't rear end him. "What the hell!" Mike said as he hit the horn. Mike was driving a white Nissan Maxima that he always took exceptional care of. The driver of the other car looked up in his rear view mirror and that was the extent of his acknowledgement.
Mike was surprised. The guy nearly caused a multi-car pile up in the peak of rush hour and he didn't even wave to acknowledge he made a mistake. This was the problem with society these days—no personal responsibility for one's actions.
The traffic picked up and was moving at a pretty good speed when it all came to a grinding halt again. Mike looked around him and noticed the Mitsubishi was a few lanes over, the driver looked to be in his early twenties and he was looking around spastically as if he was about to pull out any moment due to his impatience. Sure enough, the guy jerked his car out in front of another one and floored it; the other car barely able to swerve out of the way.
"That guy is going to kill someone," Mike said to no one other than himself. He picked up his cell and called the highway patrol. "Yes—I'd like to report a dangerous driver who keeps cutting people off. One person just now had to swerve out of the way. Make? Yeah, it is a silver Mitsubishi—Eclipse—I think. No, couldn't see the license number. It is southbound in the far left lane on I-77. Oh okay, thanks."
The dispatcher told Mike they would alert the highway patrol in the area, but he knew this guy was likely to cause an accident before that. He was already late for work and frankly, the only important thing for the day was his date later that night, so he decided to work his way over a few lanes and pursue the Mitsubishi. It was going fast and Mike had to exceed the speed limit to keep up, hoping that he wasn't about to see a sea of red break lights.
Mike could see the driver of the Mitsubishi periodically checking his rear view mirror and it was apparent that he saw Mike following him. Mike was almost sure he saw the guy grin once or twice, almost beckoning him to keep up the chase. The speed dropped as much as it increased due to the stop and go morning traffic; that was good as it kept the distance between the two quite close.
The Mitsubishi crossed over two lanes and cut off yet another driver as Mike watched in horror; a sixteen wheeler hit its breaks and had mere feet in front of it and the car in front. This guy was going to get someone killed. Mike figured he would follow the guy to wherever he was going and have the highway patrol or local police come over and he was going to make some kind of formal complaint, hoping others had reported the car to the authorities too.
The pursuit continued for another fifteen minutes, as Mike stayed on the Mitsubishi like a fly on fly paper, until he realized this guy isn't going to stop anytime soon—it's almost like he is trying to match cars and race them, then go on to another driver, all the while violating all known traffic laws. Mike became more infuriated and tried to get parallel to the guy see what he looked like. The driver of the car saw Mike as they were next to each other and flipped Mike off. The rage built up inside Mike to the point where all rules were off the table; he was going to see this one to the end.
The Mitsubishi hopped two lanes over from Mike, towards the concrete interstate barrier wall, which placed Mike to the right of the Mitsubishi. Mike looked to his left, sped up and moved over one lane. Then he let rage take over as he cut in front of the Mitsubishi. However, Mike was no professional driver and cut too close forcing the Mitsubishi to jerk to its side; the only problem was there was no side to jerk to, only the barrier wall, which it hit with such tremendous impact, that debris littered the lanes. Several cars had to swerve to miss it and Mike could not believe what he had done. He did not stop as he knew he would be in serious trouble and he only hoped no one paid attention to his license number. He did check his mirror several times to make sure only that car was involved and that he didn't cause some devastating pile up—whatever comfort they might give him. The rest of the drive into work was one of self-contemplation and extreme paranoia.
That evening, after leaving work, Mike found himself looking every direction and in his rear view mirror—expecting a police car to show up at any time. He felt like a man on the run. During the course of the day, he had kept up with the news on the internet and saw a quick blurb about the accident, but very minor details—nothing about the condition of the man from the Mitsubishi other than he was rushed to the hospital and that no other cars, miraculously, were involved in the accident. Despite all of that, Mike was adamant about not letting it affect his date tonight; it was a special date, being that it was his first in over a year and he already had developed a close connection to Susan over the phone and internet, as they had not had a chance to really meet, as this was more a set up by mutual friends.
Mike parked in an end space as he was always protective of his car, though after the events earlier, he found this extremely ironic. He looked around to see if he saw a lone woman in her vehicle waiting on someone, but didn't see anyone so went on inside to the bar area. He saw a woman that fit Susan's description seated attentively on a bar stool, wearing a very nice blue evening dress; it was dressy enough for a first date, yet still casual enough to not be intimidating.
"Susan?" Mike asked as he made eye contact.
"Yes, you must be Mike," Susan said and outstretched her hand, which Mike shook gently.
"Have you been waiting long? I got caught in the construction traffic over on 4th. You know how they are building that new hotel and have most lanes blocked?" Mike said, rolling his eyes at the poor planning of the developers.
"Oh not long; I hope you don't mind me starting without you. It's been a bad day," Susan said, looking down at her drink.
Mike steadied himself on a stool next to Susan and ordered himself a stiff drink—a Jack on the rocks. He smiled at Susan, but saw her look down and her hands were trembling a bit. "Susan?"
"I almost called to cancel … I was too distraught," Susan said, and looked down at her hands.
Mike put his hands on hers and said, "What happened? Are you okay?"
"No, it was terrible. I was at work and got a phone call and …" Susan started to cry, uncontrollably. "I'm sorry …"
"For what? Susan, what happened?"
"The call … it was from the hospital. My brother got injured very badly in a car accident and they couldn't … save him."
Mike sat back in the chair and he felt a cold sweat form on his forehead. It couldn't be, could it? He waited for Susan to compose herself.
"Oh, Susan, I am so sorry. How did it happen?" Mike asked, softly.
"He was driving that damned Mitsubishi of his and … I always told him he was driving recklessly and he was all caught up in that street racing crowd … something bad was bound to happen and I told him … I told him!" Susan said, people at other tables looked at her with curious stares.
Mike couldn't say anything—he just sat there stunned. This was a first date with someone he thought he had a chance with; they certainly had similar interests. She was beautiful and kind, everything Mike wanted in a woman, but no words of consolation or any from the heart apology would change the fact that he was the man who caused her brother's death.