A Ride to Bucharest
Jeremy Allan Hawkins & Brian Oliu
from Have Fun in Romania
Just as there are different sizes of infinity, there are different degrees of going too fast. A boy can slide his hand too far up a girl’s leg. A woman can drink three shots of tuica in succession. You can drive 100 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone. You can agree without analyzing, you can accept immediately, “of course, we would love a ride to the city,” and pass on the trains. Slow rail, oh no. Going too fast you will still have time to analyze it later, as you hang on to the door handles, as you cinch your belt. You will think kindly of trains while the car cuts corners on a switchback road up the mountain and down. You will imagine the finer points of a stroll. On a straight-away, the needle will creep above 180 km/hr; there is too fast and there is the too fast that makes you wonder by what criteria did our driver say of his friends, These guys are suicidal. It must have been the cobra-headed stick shift, or the spoiler on the back, or the racing decals—all to trick out a standard issue Dacia Logan taxi cab (the meter is regulated, so the excitement is free). Or maybe there is too fast and there is suicidal and we haven’t yet crossed the threshold, and we won’t, not even passing five cars at a time on the flat road past Ploiești. Just because we fear death and pray to the gods of automotive safety to deliver us alive doesn’t mean we know the taste of it. The man in the passenger seat drinking coffee despite his ulcer. He tastes it better. He switches out the Jay-Z for techno, advises the driver of when it’s safe to pass.
In Mihai’s Skoda
I am introduced and I shake hands, and I am offered a cigarette, and I decline, and I sit behind the driver’s seat which is behind the wheel and I look out the window as we twist and I don’t know the word for slow in Romanian, although if I did, it would be pushed back into my throat by wind resistance somehow generated with the windows up and the stereo up and the gauge up and when I was younger I had a similar drive, except we drove down mountains instead of up them, and instead of snow it was summer, and instead of Sinaia it was Vic, north of Girona, but the feeling was the same, head splintered, spirit rattled, and when I returned years later, years after this drive, it was to run, slowly, to get from one point to another on foot, but I got the math all wrong and I was forced to compute in my head, 0.62 multiplied by the markers held up at water stands by the daughters of cousins to signify the end of the race, 0.62 multiplied by the number fluctuating on the dial to get a handle on how fast we are going at this particular moment and I am offered a coffee and I decline and I realize that it is nothing like that time in a taxi cab in Catalunya but more like a dream that I had as a child where I was locked in the back of my father’s Buick with the grey cloth seats that smelled like something I can still remember and no one was driving the car as I looked out the window and saw my house pass by me on the left, though here we pass cars on the left until we look down and see a train that we could have been on many feet below us and it reminds me of a dream where I am falling, except I never had that dream, that feeling of weightlessness that is associated with dreams and then we stop and I shake hands and I am offered a glass of water and I say yes.
JEREMY ALLAN HAWKINS was born in New York City and raised in the Hudson Valley. A US Fulbright award granted him the opportunity to teach and write for a year in Romania at Transilvania University in Brasov. His work has appeared or is forthcoming at Harvard Review, Tin House, Ninth Letter, Waxwing, Salamander, and other journals. He is a regular contributor to The Hairsplitter and the blog at Michigan Quarterly Review. He currently lives in France.
His favorite road to travel on is the A9 in Scotland.
BRIAN OLIU is originally from New Jersey and currently teaches at the University of Alabama, where he is the Associate Director of the Slash Pine Press internship. He is the author of So You Know It’s Me (Tiny Hardcore Press, 2011) a series of Craigslist Missed Connections, Level End (Origami Zoo Press, 2012), a chapbook based on videogame boss battles, Leave Luck to Heaven, an ode to 8-bit videogames, and i/o (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2015), a memoir in the form of a computer virus. He is working on a memoir about translating his late grandfather’s book on long-distance running.
His favorite road to travel on is County Road 629 in Hunterdon County, NJ near the Round Valley Reservoir.