Driving the motorway, a needle’s flicker over fifty in the middle lane, vehicles flurry by to the left and right and I scan their windows for a glimpse of you. M6, M5, M42, M40, A34, M40, M42, M5, M6. I make a loop of the route you used to take. The route you might still. A squeeze of accelerator or tap of the brake pushes or pulls me along side cars I wish to double-take. Cars you might drive. A blue new model Fiesta. An original Beetle, green with a sunflower decal blooming over the rear left wheel arch. A Mini just like the one you used to drive back then, before we moved in, before you moved out.
You drove this route to see me, I drove it to see you. Sometimes we drove in convoy, me in my worse-for-wear Escort, taking two cars up to mine or down to yours, one of us needing to head off somewhere else at some point. Coffee and a pale pastie at Warwick services. Pulling faces at each other in the rear view mirror of whoever was in front.
I check behind me but you are not there. A sign next to the hard shoulder shouts ‘Tiredness can kill.’ I pull off at the next exit and follow the signs to the petrol station. 30 litres, a packet of crisps and a coke. I put the car in a proper parking space and stretch my legs while I eat and drink, watching the carriageways, hoping I don’t miss you.
Back in the car I do the usual and wait for you to pass me. The caffeine from the coke has me alert and watchful. I put on the CD I burnt for you, the one I plan to play when I find you, to make sure the songs are just right. As the music plays the odd tear blurs my vision and I have to wipe them away fast so as not to miss a glimpse.
Not for the first time I imagine you driving the opposite carriageway, heading in the opposite direction, destined to pass me and I’d never know because I’m the wrong side of the central reservation. In my head I stare down at the motorway, the six lanes of traffic flashing this way and that and I see us pass, just metres away from each other, never knowing.
At the next exit I turn off and find myself on a roundabout. I turn a complete circuit, passing the two feed on lanes, the two feed off lanes of the motorway. I turn another circuit and imagine you on your way south, heading down the country like you used to when we were together, like we used to when we were together, like you still might. I see the feed off lane for the south bound traffic and turn my steering wheel hard, swerving the car into the acute angle of the feed off lane. Someone hammers their horn behind me and I hear a screech of brakes but I am across and heading down the off ramp, heading the wrong way onto the motorway. I try to imagine the look on your face when you see me heading north on the southbound carriageway to meet you.
Image from geograph.org.uk