We stopped at a gas station just outside of Constanta because Dragoş wanted to wipe the windscreen clean. Hmm, I wonder why he’s not topping up the tank.
I kept dozing off on our way to the highway back home, prompting Dragoş to open the windows and pinch me on the nose every time he saw my eyes closing. Before long, we were on Autostrada Soarelui again. That’s the same ‘Soare’ that routinely sets fire to the fields near the road, creating thick clouds of smoke that cause horrific accidents, prompting the 5’o clock news folk to go for a new, zestier name: “The Highway of Death.”
A fool in a Mercedes flashed us off the fast lane and zoomed past as we were forced to pull in behind a slow truck – the Highway of Death only has two lanes on each side.
“You know what? I don’t think I’ve showed you how fast this thing can go,” an indignant Dragoş said.
“Catch that mothafucka!”
Back in the fast lane, Dragoş shifted down into fourth to get some power to the wheels, and we started flying. 5th gear…6th…215 km/h. We caught up with the fool in the Mercedes, overtook him on the right side and set our course for home.
Our initial elation dissipated quickly when we realized we were dangerously low on fuel. For reasons that will forever remain a mystery, Dragoş failed to fill up the tank when we left Constanta, and now our little race had cost us heavily. Back in fifth gear (our most fuel-efficient gear), we carried on cautiously, waiting for our blue mare of the night to give up her last gasp. I took a few swigs from what was left of the fire water.
And then the engine stopped. We pulled on to the shoulder and said “Fuck!” Chilling on the side of a Romanian highway at five in the morning is insanely dangerous. When the night is darkest, right before the crack of dawn, the line between living human being and roadkill is as blurry as a drunk Romanian driver’s vision. We were rightly scared. We got out of the car and started running towards the nearest “emergency phone booth,” ready to jump into the ditch at the slightest sign of trouble. Not that we’d see it coming. The fool in the Mercedes zoomed past again, and I’m sure I saw him smiling. We got to the booth, panting, scared we’d get hit by the daredevil truck drivers that were flying past us, and pressed the emergency button on the emergency phone. Nothing. We tried again. Nothing. The button obviously didn’t do anything. And the phone wasn’t really a phone. It was actually a metal box with a speaker and that huge, obnoxious, orange button that didn’t do anything. Stupid country.