MindReader and I are zipping along the motorway. The sun isn’t quite shining, but it’s not grey and raining either. I put my feet up on the dashboard. We’re on our way to MindReader’s 30th birthday meal and night out. The car is full of presents. My sunglasses are optimistically on my head.
“Ah, look,” MindReader says, pointing across the motorway to the hard shoulder. “That’s where our car lost its tyre last year…”
I remember the day well. It was blisteringly hot. We’d stayed over at a friend’s after a wedding, unexpectedly, and I’d thrown on my dress to come home in, unaware that an hour later I’d be standing by the side of the motorway watching MindReader change a tyre in his full suit (to date, one of the sexiest experiences I’ve had).
A grey cloud looms overhead, and I switch our music to mellow, rainy, David Gray. I turn it up and start singing along.
Between songs, I start to hear a kind of ticking. The kind of noise one knows precedes something bad. The car stalls; I feel its weightlessness, the back end go, and MindReader frowns, taking it out of gear and pushing it in again. And then, the judder, then the bang. The kind that, even to an untrained ear, signals the death of a car. Smoke blooms out of the bonnet.
Neither of us says anything as MindReader guides the car from the fast lane to the hard shoulder. We’re pros at Situations, having had quite a few of them (indeed, we used to bemoan, in 2008, during the period when MindReader and I were both ill, and poor, and living with our parents, and in debt, that we were cursed).
Cars rush past us while we sit in the silence of the car. I look at the clock. MindReader’s birthday ‘do starts in two hours, and we are on the side of the motorway 30 miles from the restaurant in a car which doesn’t work.
“Well,” MindReader says.
We quickly move from silence to mania. We strategise: should I go back with the car and MindReader go to his birthday meal? Should we get the car towed to our destination, an hour from home, and try to find a garage? Should we get someone to rescue us and leave the car here?
The roadside assistance turns up halfway through such discussions.
“D’you think…” MindReader says to him. “You could take the car back to our address, but without us?”
The roadside man blinks.
“We could…” MindReader says, and I think he is about to bribe him, slip him a crumpled twenty pound note hidden in a handshake, except then he says, “sign something.”