Dear Sarah,

I really was intending to come to your party, had psyched myself up for it, steeled my mind for the experience. I had the route all planned, timed to ensure arrival "fashionably late," the labyrinth of streets around your house all sussed out in advance.

And I did actually set out! That was the amazing thing. It was a horrible night, bucketing down with rain, the car all misted up inside and visibility down almost to nothing ...

But then, as I got to the motorway on-ramp, a car which had been crowding me all down the street, screeched up alongside and started to honk its horn. I wound down the window to confront the hoon.

"You don't have any rear lights, mate!" the guy inside shouted across at me.

"Thanks," I sputtered, as the traffic lights turned green.

There was nothing for it but to go on. No u-turns or backing up possible in such a situation!

I tried to go as slowly as possible on the motorway, hugging the left lane, clicking on the interior light so at least I could be seen. The other cars were flashing past, honking and catcalling (or so it seemed - perhaps I was imagining that).

Till finally a turn-off came up on the left, and I was able to get off, park in the nearest service station, take stock of the situation.

What had been a simple party invitation, dreaded more than looked forward to, perhaps, had suddenly morphed into a life-or-death emergency. How was I to get home?

The first traffic cop who saw me would pull me over and impound my car, I felt sure. Was there any way of creeping back which still involved lighted streets and some degree of safety? I had no desire to be rear-ended down some cul-de-sac.

As I write to you, Sarah, I feel myself still there, alone on a concrete forecourt, marooned in an island of light, with the city spread out around me like a storm-tossed sea.


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