Written 2019-12-04. A short story about a man driving home.
Gracelessly, Hubert stumbled through the nearly empty parking lot towards his vehicle. Tired from a day sitting in the office, staring at a screen, he sat in the cab. Sighing, closing his eyes and allowing them to relax, he turned the radio on. Unfamiliar pop tunes oozed out of the radio, the sticky sweetness of the noises and familiar rhythms hypnotically took his mind’s hand and led it away from his aching back, the reverberations of the earlier board meetings, and the cold, stale air of the office.
Hubert had no time to relax, however- he had that light fixture to replace, and the power bill to pay. After a moment had passed, he placed his keys in the ignition and started his car, ready to head home. Another tune came on the radio, slightly more sultry than the last. Straining to turn his stiff neck, he allowed his car to roll backwards, and pulled out of the parkade.
His commute was proceeding as it normally would, as it had a thousand times before, when the radio stopped. Shocked, Hubert began to frantically push the power knob, with no results. The unit had died. Hubert’s face turned dour as he realized this was just one additional thing he had to do. The list never ended.
His car was eerily quiet without the pop tunes. Hubert had almost forgotten what the sound of pavement under tires at fifty kilometers an hour had sounded like. The rush of air against the exterior of his car was surprisingly relaxing. Hubert pondered why he didn’t do this more often? For a few moments, Hubert felt almost at peace, something that he hadn’t felt in a good, long time.
Almost immediately, his troubles washed over him like a chaotic wave. Mistakes he had made at work. Subtle actions made by his colleagues. The way his wife looked at him now. How difficult the kids had been as of late. What was he doing wrong? He certainly hadn’t changed, and in fact, he was trying harder than ever to keep everyone happy. What had he done that had turned everybody around him so sour and empty?
The road rushed by as Hubert continued his commute, his mind ablaze without the fire blanket of pop music to smother him into servile compliance. His mistakes and inactions, given the chance, gnawed at his guts like rats in a corpse.
For the first time in many years, Hubert felt the sharp knife of reality and remembered with gratitude why he consumed pop music. Hitting the power dial on the radio, tears streaming down his face, Hubert wailed the desperate cry of a drug user searching for a fix.
But there was no sound. No overwhelming force to drown out the tragedy that was Hubert’s life. Only the hum of rubber on roadway, and the rush of wind against the body of the car, and the soft sobbing of a man consumed with grief over the lifetime he had spent sacrificing his precious time in the name of mindless consumption.
Then, the radio came back to life, and everything was fine.