By Kashana Cauley
We drive down the county road at sunset towards the other car because he and his best friend don’t think thirty is too old to play chicken. We start at thirty-five miles an hour, a speed I feel like I could outrun if I wanted. A swerve at thirty-five miles an hour is as soft as flour folding into creamed butter and sugar for cookies. His right hand is flour-soft when it pulls on mine after we cross the center line and I scream. Swerving at thirty-five miles an hour is not a scary enough act to merit a scream, but I scream anyway to get warmed up. The scream is like taking down a bowl full of hot peppers. All that sting in the throat.
The county road is two lanes and nobody other than the two of us and his best friend and his best friend’s girl, who screams as loud as I do. All the windows are down in both cars. The summer heat rushes in to squeeze us. We take our cars up to fifty. My sweat is my panic is my terror is the eighty-seven degree slap of wind on my face. We cross the center line and nearly do it, nearly hit each other, that word nearly hanging in my ear with a screech attached to it just like the tires when everybody stops.
We u-turn and begin again at sixty. Same song, different verse. I don’t want to sing anymore but he won’t stop the car because he’s not chicken. Our cars slide towards each other in what’s left of the light. He stops us before we can hit them, but our car goes spinning, spinning, spinning toward the cornfields. Rubber burns and my eyes burn and my mouth gets into it, spits down my shirt. I turn to tell him to stop but what comes out of my mouth is more growl than word and he responds to the primal nature of it by u-turning again and kicking the gas up until we reach seventy.
Seventy is the center line marker that sparks white heat into my eyes. Seventy is not eighty is not ninety is not a hundred is all those speeds at once. Seventy is pain rifling through my head like I rifle through his hair after we’re done and we’ve separated to flop onto his bed sheets and let out satisfied sighs. Seventy is a bang, a flash, a thousand points of light.
Kashana Cauley lives and works in New York City. She can be found online at kashanacauley.com and on Twitter @kashanacauley.