What bugged Clyde about driving was how damn effortless some people managed to make it look.
Whenever he got behind the wheel, he was painfully aware of how much damage he could cause if he stopped concentrating, or looked in the wrong place at the wrong time, or let himself get distracted.
And he knew exactly how prone he was to being distracted.
So that terrified him.
The thing about Clyde was that, actually, he was just about one of the safest drivers on the roads. Once, he would often swear to people, he was able to drive for a full hour without blinking, so careful he was to pay attention.
Of course, that was his opinion. If someone really wanted to nit-pick, they might point out that he was always so concerned about what was going on in his mirrors that he sometimes missed what was happening right in front of him.
He knew it was a bad habit of his, but dwelling on it terrified him more. Especially because of that time he nearly clouted a low-flying pigeon on the M1.
Especially because of that time he nearly clouted a low-flying pigeon on the M1. He was taking in his mirrors, wide-eyed, when the bird flitted across his path from nowhere.
Well… The sky, obviously. But still.
It was partly because of his nervousness that Clyde had never really had people in his car before. It was also partly because he’d never really had much need to.
Knowing all this, he couldn’t help but ask himself why the hell had he agreed to pick her up as he pulled up outside her flat. Perhaps he was still feeling bad about the fake coin thing and wanted to somehow make amends. Giving her a lift was a small – but kind – gesture that would soothe his conscience without exposing a secret that he swore to take to his grave.
Besides, she didn’t drive. He couldn’t accept her invitation out and expect her to take a bus. Right? Clyde had Googled it to check.
No, he wanted to try and shut the tiny voices in his head up and make this night special. He’d always had a crush on her and now it could finally be the start of something wonderful, and he was determined to not let himself get distrac-
Oh God, he thought. I’m going to have another life in the car. One that I actually care about.
He started to panic. He should have parked around the corner or something and given himself time to compose… himself. He should have cancelled. He should have been born cooler.
But, no, here he was, a bundle of nerves, sat with the engine running outside her flat.
Why did she even ask me out? What did she see in me? He saw the lights come on in the stairwell, signalling her approach. Too late to back out now.
Be perfect, Clyde. Don’t ruin this. Be perfect. Be perfect.
He gripped the steering wheel tighter as she came out of the block’s front door. Even in the fading light he could see that she looked beautiful.
Be perfect. His knuckles went white.
Just as he was about to worry about his choice of clothing, the passenger door opened and she flopped into the car, nearly missing the seat – evidently not quite as cool as she might have been going for.
“Hi,” she smiled sheepishly as she made herself a little more comfortable. The look on her face nearly betrayed her frustration at not being a little more graceful. Clyde didn’t notice, and didn’t care; her voice had taken on a strange, lyrical quality Clyde had never noticed humans were capable of until he’d started speaking to her again in the shop.
All those years, and the old feelings were still there. He smiled, said a bashful hello, and – somehow – forgot what he had been thinking about.
And off they went.