fuel

The most pivotal, absolutely crucial moments in your life? The ones that you find your mind drifting to, no matter how much time passes?

They’re so inconsequential.

The window was open, translucent white curtains flowing in the breeze. One kicked more wildly than the other, curling and twisting into the moonlit room. Rowland sat, pressed against the windowsill. The cool prickled his skin, scattering it with goosebumps. Across from him — but certainly not close, never close — sat Sarah. Occasionally she’d meet his gaze, but mostly she was lost in thought. Same place he was, likely.

There was a weight in the air. It’d been that way, lately. It’d been over. They both knew it. They’d both talked about it. It was mutual, and that was fine.

Yet, neither of them was really there.

Rowland, if he was honest, never really was. If you looked back, honestly, at the five years they’d spend together — well, what was he doing? What had he done? It all seemed so distant. At one time, she’d captivated him, completely reworked his mind, it seemed like. And now, she sat, a statue — a cold representation of something once so important, so crucial, that you had to build something to remember it. But soon, the thing itself is lost, and all you’ve got is a chunk of rock.

And so that’s all that was there.

Not that he was any better.

“I think this is good for you,” she said. She was certain. “I think things are really going to work out.”

Rowland nodded, looking away from her. Instead, he choose to look out the window at the street below. His eyes bounced between the post-midnight cars.

It wasn’t that she was wrong. It hurt, but not for the reasons you’d think. In a way, this was giving up. He knew it was always going to come to this, there was no doubt of that. For the past year he’d known it, never really doubted it. Yet, nevertheless, when the time finally came to admit that out loud, he felt empty. Not sad. Just empty.

He slowly inhaled, counting without really noting a beat. Exhale. His breath felt warm as it slid out his nostrils.

“You’re right,” he said.

“You’ll meet someone.”

“I will.”

He could see her smile. It was genuine, but empty.

*        *        *

His body was crushed against the seat, the deafening rasp of the exhaust screaming over the radio. He held on to the steering wheel, foot never lifting from the gas. His tires squealed, dancing on the edge of control. He could feel his pulse against his collar, that stupid grin dancing across his face.

He reached the end of the on ramp, and just buried his foot. A surge of air sucked into the hood of his car, swallowed by a spooling turbo. His hand grabbed for third. Immediately, he found the middle lane. His eyes kept to the road, the yellow dashes his blinders. They snapped by faster and faster, an outline at the edge of his perception.

He didn’t dare look down. He didn’t need to. The wind howling by his windows told him how fast he was going. His engine demanded fourth, fifth.

Maybe he shouldn’t be doing this. There were a lot of good reasons not to. His senses told him to stop. Warned him. Normally he’d care, pull back and be done with it.But he never could. Once he stopped, he had to see it through. He started it, sure. And he could stop. But he wasn’t going to. Not until oblivion tickled him.

Eventually, the care started to shake. That was his cue. He’d reached the end.

And just like that, there was his exit. He took the corner hard, letting the back hang out.

Eventually he made it to a light. As he slowed, the acrid — but strangely pleasing — stench of burnt rubber filled his cabin. He inhaled deeply. Probably not the wisest move, truthfully. His engine burbled, a bit more lively for the experience.

The light turned green. His foot met the floor.

He was just driving home — a few miles, if that.

But he’d never forget them.

 

 

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