“He ended his days in a homeless shelter in Budapest” was how Dustin thought it would end for him, but he was wrong. It occurred to him just moments before his actual end, as he had a bit of time to himself to collect his thoughts before it all went to black.
It had been Christmas Day and was continuing to be so when Dustin, thirty and mild-mannered, lost it. Like, just fucking lost it. He’d had quite enough of trying to be the best person he could be in order to impress his wife, Hannah. It hadn’t worked. She had moved out anyway, she had decided to see other people anyway, and she had dismissed in her own, special, silent way the idea of ever coming back. Dustin insisted on counselling, which they attended with little success; Dustin made plans to see her, which never went quite as planned. On their last outing ever together, they ate lunch at a local chain bar and had a pleasant chat about nothing important. They could do that rather well. It was the important stuff they could never quite work through.
There was a lot of back and forth, very little up and down, and a slight bit of side to side. It was driving Dustin nuts—Brazil nuts, banana nut bread nuts, all the nuts—but he kept doing his best to stay cool and collected in hopes that patience would rule the day. (It wouldn’t.)
After their final lunch together, Hannah went away for the holidays. She did that last year, too, leaving Dustin all by himself. This year, she didn’t even wait for the holidays to leave him all by himself. She had rented a room month-to-month somewhere nearby. She didn’t want to reveal her secret location, but it was a small town and he’d stumbled across her car before—compact, black, sleek except for a dented fender, with a stupid yellow antenna ball which begged everyone to know that the person inside the car shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
And so, Christmas Day. Dustin, having gone through all his usual morning bleakness with the added discomfort of being without a family for the holiday, decided to take a walk. It being a holiday, he took a great swig of Hannah’s favorite rum, which she was saving for a special occasion that never occurred. He loaded his pockets with all manner of keys and his wallet, for identification. He used a red marker to leave a note on the beige carpet in the middle of the living room floor—“It’s all yours”—just in case he didn’t get back. He might have simply burned the place down, but in the end, Dustin was frightened of making too much of a scene. Instead, he put his sunglasses on and walked out the door, not taking great care to close it after. Yeah, that’ll get her, he thought.
At this point, his feet took over, his brain having checked out long ago. He was sweating. Every sidewalk led uphill, and the sun was roasting him. He turned a corner off the main road and was in a little patch of suburbia with imported trees and absurd green lawns. Cars lined the street, but he spotted a familiar one in an instant—a little black thing with a dented fender and that stupid fucking yellow antenna ball. Time passed. He stared at the car; the car just sat there, because that’s what parked cars do. He approached it; it glowed to life. He glanced around, but there was no one. He placed his hand on the door handle and heard the click of the unlocking door. He opened it quickly and slid inside. In a moment, he precisely adjusted the seat and mirrors for himself, which was like second nature to him he had performed the action so often, but as if in a previous life. The old Dustin was gone; a new Dustin had begun. He pushed a button and an obscure Christmas album began playing. He moved to turn it off, but thought better of it. It’s Christmas fucking Day.
Now, through a series of small but impactful events, Dustin was driving Hannah’s car around town. He wasn't quite sure where to go. Maybe he should just park it somewhere else, as a practical joke. But what message was he trying to send, anyway? A bit of the morning fogginess was seeping away. The sun blazed out in the big open sky as weird Christmas music blared at him. An on-ramp appeared, and thus he turned onto the freeway—just to drive around a bit, he told himself, to sort things out. Something about the high speed would help bring him to a semblance of peace which would allow him to figure out the next phase of his life, his new life, Dustin two-point-oh. At eighty miles-per-hour, he looked around the untidy car, Hannah’s untidy car. Seeing all those bits of Hannah he missed so greatly brought him profound grief. She was gone. This—all of this—was no longer his to enjoy or to nag about or to help clean out or add to. Suddenly, he felt guilty for having taken Hannah’s car at all. Suddenly, he felt angry about the affair she’d carried on for a month which took her three fucking months to tell him about fully. Suddenly, he was ashamed, broken, lost, confused—
Well, never mind. Flying off the freeway and into a fiery wreck seems to have taken care of it.