The Cliffs of Montenegro

In Montenegro on June 9, 2009 at 1:00 am

Archipelagos 117

The driver is irritable, and there’s nothing we can do about it. When orange construction cones stall our progress, he slams the brakes and curses to himself. Mopeds weave around us; tiny Volkswagens play chicken in the left-lane, trying to speed past, then fall behind at the last second to make way for oncoming traffic. We’re flying down the angular road, hugging the jagged walls of cliff and narrowly missing the cars and vans that hurtle in the opposite direction. In every sense, we are risking cataclysm — raking against the mountain, crashing through the guardrail, headbutting another vehicle, trampling a motorcyclist, crushing a construction worker, jackknifing over the edge of the cliff and plummeting into the Adriatic Sea. As the driver reddens with road-rage, I pray he isn’t suicidal.

A bus speeds towards us, careening around a corner. The road is so narrow. No shoulder. No passing lane. I nearly close my eyes, but I’m riveted by the sight of the rapidly growing grille. The “ISUZU” logo looms large. Strange faces appear beyond the enemy windshield. I imagine a nimbus of exploding glass, a wall of fire. I brace myself. One more second—

The other bus flashes past. Faster than eyes or brain can process. Gone. As if these two buses have passed through each other, poltergeists playing games. I catch a single breath, disbelieving, before a tunnel swallows us whole, and everything goes black.


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