Trigger warning: contains sensitive language
"Okay, keep calm," said Melanie, my best friend, in the seat next to me. "You won't get faster if you're angry."
"No but I can show this motherf***r what happens when you mess with me." I tap rapidly my fingers on the wheel, trying to shake off the anxiety. "I mean, why does he cut in like that?"
"Seriously, Maddy, we talked about this. It's called having an episode of rage. You have to at least pretend to be normal around others."
"And the f***ing policeman does nothing?" I honked my horn three more times as the traffic remained at a standstill for at least ten minutes, but my noise was drowned out by the cacophony of the entire road.
We were supposed to go left toward the ODEON Edinburgh chain cinema, the only cinema in the city premiering the new movie "Oppenheimer", my actual favorite movie. We were on the royal mile, where the number of cars and pedestrians could break international records and earn a spot in the Guinness World Records. Two cars were locked in a dispute about who should proceed through South Bridge, blocking the passage for the entire block. None of them wanted to give the upper hand to the other.
It was one of the busiest days of the year. The fringe only comes once a year in Edinburgh and attracts a lot of tourists, clogging the roads with cars, performers and fans are flooding in the roads, and thus creating one of the heaviest traffic jams in history. For tourists, it is something to see in a lifetime but for us locals, we prefer to avoid it as far as possible.
The day my best friend and I decided to get see a movie because my job has caused me too much stress lately and everyone choose that day to go out of their house? How convenient.
"It's the same thing every year," I muttered as I stopped the car for the millionth time.
"Relaaaaax, we're gonna be fine. It's still in twenty minutes."
"Oh, come on." Another car from the right lane cut in front of us, jamming the traffic even more than it already was.
The policeman tried as best he could to entangle the mess as two cars tried to pass through the same lane.
"We're gonna be late for our movie," I complained.
"Like I've said before, keep calm."
As another car tried to cut my lane again, I put my gear on drive and cut his lane just the millisecond I needed to outrun him. "Oh, not this time."
That little stunt caused me a heinous smirk from the driver, as if he saw my move as a challenge and was ready to accept it.
"Hey, we're not going that way," exclaimed Melanie.
"No," I replied bluntly, "but I just need a win for today." I glanced at the car I had just overtaken. It was filled with students, blasting music from huge speakers and wearing shirts so thin they might as well have been shirtless. Clearly, they were headed for a party or something. Sometimes I forget how wild people can get during this time of the year. The driver looked at me and I couldn't help but feel butterflies in my stomach. He had a cute smile, one that could melt my heart if I was in the right mood. I simply mouthed a mid-apologetic "sorry" toward him.
My mind drifted from its daydream when Melanie spoke. "Maddy, it's not a race."
"At least we're moving." In fact, the left lane finally started moving and the line of cars queuing went on one by one, clearing their way out of this maze of cars.
I pulled into a silent lane, lit by few streetlamps and barely anything moving except for cars. "Now what?" asked Melanie. She slumped back in her chair, knowing fully well that when I'm in my rage stage, I couldn't be reasoned with.
"Now, we find another way to the cinema. We can make it. You said it yourself, we still have twenty minutes."
She grumbled in silence but stopped making comments. Instead, she scrolled through her phone as if nothing had happened.
The road was dark and silent at this time of the night but at least we were moving. I couldn't wait to have my well-deserved hour of peace in a cinema.
Suddenly, the roar of a fast vehicle behind me startled me and before I could fully process what was happening, it overtook me with the speed of a sports car with a turbo. It was a white Bentley with a classic design and grille that gave it a traditional look, but the Betty Boop sticker on the back made me think of a mid-life crisis. A little boy in the body of an eighty years old.
"Wow," exclaimed Melanie who turned up from her phone to see what that was, "that guy must be really late."
"Jerk." I didn't answer more. I didn't have the energy to deal with a reckless driver for now.
I turned into the main road again. This time, the traffic was moderate. A lot of cars passing but still nothing to compare with the more than heavy one we had earlier.
"Did you know that Oppenheimer was ranked higher than Barbie on IMDb?"
"Yes, I'm telling you. I'm looking at it right now."
But I wasn't listening to a word she said. My eyes were glued to the road. "What the –"
Three cars in front of us, the white Bentley with a Betty Boop sticker was going not more than 30km/h.
I couldn't believe it. The Betty Boop Bentley just outrun us, and for what? Fun?
Melanie looked up once again and took two minutes to figure what I was talking about. She followed my gaze before she understood what's wrong. "Is that the jerk from earlier?"
"Don't worry. He's gonna taste the Maddy bite," I said in a smirk.
"Are you gonna –?"
"Yes." She didn't have to continue her sentence because she already knew what's coming up.
I was sure if there was another safety belt she could wear, she would. Instead, she gripped tightly on the thing above the door frame she called commonly "oh-shit handle" whenever I have my rage episode. Yes, you guessed it, because it happened a lot.
I pressed the accelerator, taking the speedometer from 30km/h to forty, to fifty and rapidly, I overtook two cars in one go, placing me just behind the Betty Boop Bentley. I tailgated him, leaving less than a normal waist distance from my car to his.
Thank God there were no policemen on the streets. Maybe there were all busy arranging the roads in the festival but that made this battle of ours much easier.
I was about to go right to overtake him, but he blocked my way to not let me pass.
"Oh, you wanna play like that, huh? Well, two can play this game."
He was good, but me and my Audi R8 were better. I sped and went to the opposite way to take enough place to overtake me. In front of us, a bus within twenty meters made a beacon call. I returned back in line last minute, just in time to avoid an imminent crash.
"Maddie, you're gonna get us killed," Melanie scowled, her eyes looking, back to the bus that almost hit us.
But I didn't listen. My heart beat faster in my chest, I could feel it about to explode. The hair on the back of my hand stood to a level I've never seen before. For the first time during this trip, I smiled. It felt like my life was coming back to me, and all the hopes I'd lost during my nine-to-five job suddenly came back.
The road stretched out before us, a dark ribbon through the night, as we continued our high-speed chase. We definitely weren't heading to the cinema anymore. We reached to the highway and the number of vehicles on the road was same as nothing. As a driver, I've never taken this road because it was highly dangerous, but tonight, I was about to change history.
The white Bentley maintained its lead, but I wasn't about to let it stay that way. The thrill of the chase had ignited a fire within me, and I was determined to give him a run for his money.
Melanie shot me an anxious glance. She didn't touch her phone again. Her hands gripped hardly on the side of the door. "Maddy, are you sure about this? We could just let him go."
"No way. He's the one who started it."
The Bentley's driver seemed to relish the challenge. He expertly maneuvered through the moderate traffic, zigzagging with a confidence that both impressed and frustrated me. It was as if he had an intimate knowledge of every twist and turn of the road.
He was not bad. I could even say a worthy adversary if we weren't competing against each other. But I wasn't about to give up now.
The road ahead split into two lanes, and the Bentley made its move, swiftly darting to the left lane and overtaking a slower-moving vehicle. Without hesitation, I followed suit, matching his every move. We were now side by side, our cars racing in parallel.
The world around me reduced to a blur of streetlights and the roar of engines. Only the road ahead of me made sense. We were now surrounding the 120km/h but it felt like nothing. I just felt light, surreal. Next to me, Melanie was also giving in to the excitement of it all. She rose from her seat and put her head out of the window, her hair brushed to the wind and her arms stretched out in a titanic way before she screamed of ecstasy to the other car.
In turn, the Betty Boop driver rolled down his window and revealed several faces. Young faces. The face of boys with shirtless shirt, sunglasses and blaring speaker. They too seemed excited by the whole trip. But the driver had the cutest of smiles. It all came rushing back to me. When I cut his lane back in Royal Mile, he got furious and wanted revenge, which then lead to this impromptu race. It all made sense. I felt a little sorry for him. All of this, in the end, was my fault.
He accelerated once more, attempting to outrun me with his turbo power but I continued to stay out next to him. Just like that, all the sorrow I might have disappeared and turned into rivalry again.
The road ahead twisted and turned, and I saw my opportunity. With a surge of determination, I pressed the accelerator, inching ahead ever so slightly and proceed to do what my brother taught me. I disabled the traction control and used the throttle to increase the power into the rear wheels. The air was filled with the squeal of tires as I turned rapidly the steering wheel, saying I successfully proceed my drift. Before we knew it, we were head-to-head in front of Betty Boop, when I was driving in reverse and forcing him to reduce his power. From where I was, I could clearly see the driver's face now. He still wore this cute smile of his with a "not bad" but with a touch of I'm impressed.
From my rearview glass, I could see an open wasteland and decided to stop there. I put my indicator on and carefully parked to the left side of the road. I could see the Betty Boop Bentley also did the same and we were once again side by side, my window inches from his.
I heaved a deep sigh, my hands resting heavily on the steering wheel as I allowed the adrenaline to go down. My heart beat slowed down little by little until I couldn't hear it pounding in my ears anymore. With a quick swipe, I brushed away the sweat beading on my forehead. That was fun.
Inside the Betty Boop car, animated conversations filled the air as they relished the exhilaration of the race. The driver's playful smile remained firmly in place as he turned his attention to me. "Nice job, but I can do better. Ready for round two?"