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The Cocoon: "The Fast Lane"

I’m in Idaho. When am I going to get this lucky again?

I press my foot on the accelerator. My ride — my whip — my hard-charging stallion, kicks into gear.  I can’t remember what music I’m playing on my stereo, but let’s say it’s a pounding bassline. Sexy and alluring. I swap my prescription eyeglasses for my prescription sunglasses and grip the steering wheel like Ryan Gosling in Drive .  This is it.

I’ve only purchased my VW Jetta a month before. It’s brand new. And like any new toy, you always want to test its limits — see how far you can bend it before it breaks.

So my plan, barreling through a flat empty expanse of Idaho, 80% through a cross-country drive, was to floor it, and see how fast the YOLOMobile could go.

But just as I was about to give the accelerator the heavy foot, my cool broke, and I began to sweat. Nothing had changed — it was still a perfectly flat, empty, stretch of rural highway. Not a living thing in sight, deputized by the law or otherwise.

Here’s the thing though: I am the bipolar product of two distinct stereotypes of Asian driver.

My mother drives exactly how you think my mother drives. She’s a sweet tiny Vietnamese woman who has to sit on a couch cushion to see over the dashboard. On a charged day, she’ll drive like 34 or 35...  in a 60 mph zone.

Every road, in her mind, is a death trap. And they really are, if you think about it. We strap ourselves into 3,000 pound metal coffins that fart explosions and hope everything will go alright. It’s positively primitive, if you think about it.

But on the other hand — there’s my dad. He’s not from Tokyo, but if he was, he would drift. He was born to drive on the Autobahn. He’s got a need for speed, no matter how many children are in the back seat.

And to my dad’s credit, he’s right too. Driving very, very fast is very, very fun. It’s a primal, dangerous kind of fun. Like sex, or paying for parking using foreign coins.

But here I was, in Idaho, on a road trip from coast to coast with my two best friends. If not now, when?

70 miles per hour.

I remember driving lessons with my dad. He would be the more active teacher, while my mom was more often the passenger when I would practice to log hours. I learned confidence on the road from him; I learned terror from her.

80 miles per hour.

I signalled left and changed lanes. Even though there was no other car on the road, it just felt like the right thing to do. If I’m going to break the law, I might as well break fewer laws, right?

90 miles per hour.

When I’m tearing down a highway, I’ll maybe hit 80. Hell, even the Delorean will start time traveling at 88, so this was totally uncharted territory. The car was handling well, and I felt full of life. My friends were both passed out and remained undisturbed. Smooth sailing, YOLOmobile, smooth sailing.

100 miles per hour.

WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING? This is needlessly reckless. What is that sound?? Is the rubber tearing off my tires? What would happen if a tire burst right now? What if we hit a pebble at this speed? Would it flip the car and cause it to explode? Do cars explode? What happens if —

110 miles per hour.

I am a goddamn immortal traveling faster than the speed of light! My vehicle and I are one, like rider and steed, breaking the laws of man and thermodynamics with joyful abandon!

120 miles per hour.

Ok, that’s enough.

I let off the gas and let the car coast back to a comfortable 65. My friend in the passenger seat stirred and opened one eye to see me, inexplicably, profusely sweaty and breathing heavily. He groaned, shifted to his other side, and went back to sleep, unaware that we’d just tasted the unbridled fury and power of 170 horses. 170 German horses.

I felt changed, after that. Like Icarus, I touched the sky. And just like Icarus, nothing bad happened after that. But I didn’t belong there, speeding along with my father in the Fast Lane. Nor did I belong with my mother, puttering along the shoulder with her hazard lights on. I belonged... in the passenger seat, taking a nap, so I pulled over and got my friend to start driving.

William Tran