The car was like a sauna, the heat so thick it pressed against me. I wanted to push it away, but instead it filled my lungs as I took a deep breath and continued to heat me from the inside. I cranked the a/c, which did little to relieve my discomfort because it started as hot wind blowing directly onto my face. I shifted into gear and began to drive. The steering wheel didn’t allow much contact without searing pain, so my fingertips became our navigator.
I looked over at my sister, who had her mouth open and her tongue stuck out as though that would bring the relief she desired. I tried it, just in case it was working. It wasn’t. We both laughed.
After a few minutes the a/c brought us salvation and we settled in for the ride. This day we were to visit the town in which my books take place. A one-hour car ride would take us to the high school. I was ecstatic.
On the freeway, my hands now able to fully grip the steering wheel, I pulled into the fast lane. Coming up quickly behind me, a large white van crowded against my bumper, too close for comfort. I changed lanes to let it pass. Instead of passing by, it stayed even with me. Sensing the driver of the van trying to get my attention, I kept my focus straight in front of me, grateful for the visor that I had earlier moved to the side window to block the sun and that now provided a perfect block for the crazy man next to me.
Three possible explanations raced through my mind as to why this driver was behaving in such a manner. One, road rage, for some reason he thought I cut him off and now he wanted to give me a piece of his mind (I tried to look as penitent as possible to diffuse his rage). Two, freeway flirting, he was trying to pick up on me and thought somehow he could communicate his unwanted phone number through two rolled up windows (I moved my wedding ring laden hand higher on the steering wheel). Or three, I was overreacting and he was just trying to drive.
As I hoped for the third explanation, the van slowed down suddenly and moved behind me. Now the likelihood of the first possibility (road rage) caused my heart to pick up speed. Next he moved into the lane to our right. My sister and I both looked over as the van inched its way forward. If he wanted to yell at me, I decided to give him the opportunity so that he could drive on and leave us alone.
What came into view as our windows finally met, caused the tension in the car to melt into laughter. A man, wearing a red and black devil mask, held up a rocker sign and nodded his head a few times before he sped away. Apparently the devil thrived in the Arizona heat.
“Awesome,” my sister said in a low voice.
“This is going to be a great day,” I added.
We laughed again, turned up the radio and sang our way to the high school.