Gasoline by Navid Saedi
My father finished out his days except he wasn’t ready to finish out anything. In fact, that’s something his ex-girlfriend told me when I ran into her at a gas station in Corvallis. No, maybe it wasn’t Corvallis. It could have been Arizona or someplace more dry than that. I’m not sure.
The point is that he finished out his days except I wasn’t there to hear it or see it or feel his hand as the life leaked out of him like water from a dripping faucet. And what a horrible analogy that is. But that’s what he was and he was broken.
I arrived at the hospital about an hour after he died. They still had his body in the same room that he’d died in and in the same position, on his back with his mouth wide open and his eyes rolled into his skull. There was no color in his eyes. Just the white parts showed. I kissed him on his bloated face and got back into my car and drove down the coast until I found a place to eat.
That’s where I saw her. It was California. That’s where I saw his ex-girlfriend, the woman for whom he’d left my mother, whom he’d abandoned my mother, whom he’d betrayed my mother. This woman was nineteen at the time of the affair and not very attractive, but that was years ago and now she was older, almost twice that age and she was beautiful. I only knew it was her because she approached me.
Francis, she said to me. What are you doing here? All the way in California.
I told her my father had finished out his days except I felt he was not ready to. She said she found it ironic because he’d never finished anything except for the good things in his life. He’d finish them like a bulldozer finishes things. It was odd that she hadn’t asked how he died or how I was doing, even. No. She acted like she didn’t know him, like I’d told her about the death of some celebrity she’d never heard of.
Well that’s the way things happen, she said. Life is full of terrible things.
She gave me her number and told me to call her sometime. Not in a romantic way. In a specific way. She said, call me if you ever want to talk about things you don’t want to talk about. Then she left.
I stayed at the gas station and ate a tuna sandwich and watched the waves crash on the beach. A gas station overlooking the ocean. What a waste of space. The smell of gasoline mixed with sea salt makes for something nauseating. Or maybe it was the fact that my father finished out his days except for this day, this last day, which seems to me to be eternally unfinished.
Six or seven years later I did call her, this woman. I’d driven my car off the side of the coast highway, smashed through a barrier and tumbled down the cliffside. I was wasted. I woke up in a hospital with a cast around my leg and bruises on my face. I didn’t quit drinking after that. What was the point? I mean, I drove my car off a fucking cliff and survived so I don’t see how much worse it could get. But after I got out of the hospital and I could walk again, I called her. She invited me to her house in Venice Beach. One of those small houses on the boardwalk. We sat on her front porch and drank and watched the people walk by. I asked her how her life was going.
I never got married, she said. And I almost had a kid.
Then she asked me what I wanted to talk about.
I said, My father finished out his days except I wonder now if they finished him. Do you know what I mean?
I said, My hair is falling out in clumps.
I said, I wish I knew how to steal things.
I said, I’m so afraid of being in darkness, I have to turn off my house lights in increments. Never all at once.
I said, This leg of mine is useless now. I drove a Porsche two hundred, three hundred, I don’t know how many hundred feet off a cliff.
Then I asked her, How long will it take to heal?
© Navid Saedi, 2015
Navid was raised in West Hills, CA, and most of his writing comes from that place, in one way or another. He will be attending UCLA in the Fall, and would like to thank to his family and friends for their support.
Gasoline was read by Heather Lee Rogers on 5th August 2015 for Short & Sweet Flash Fiction