I was driving through the night from Jacksonville to St. Louis to propose to my college girlfriend when my car started melting. I thought I had a flat tire so I stopped at a gas station but when I looked it wasn’t flat, just melted. The rear bumper of my wine red Saturn Ion was dripping like ice cream. I touched it. My hand left an impression. Still soft.
There was a man standing outside the gas station in coveralls. Do you work here? I asked him. He nodded. My car is melting, I told him. I looked back at it. Melted, I corrected myself.
That’s what it looks like to me, he said.
Ever seen this before? I asked him.
He closed his eyes, remembering. Once, he said.
Am I still in Georgia? I asked.
Yes, he said. Just barely.
Not even out of Georgia. That’s how far I got before the car started melting. Perfect. Maybe I can kind of mush it back in place, I said out loud. I tried, but it was sticky and getting all over my hands. Jesus Christ, I thought. This fucking car. Brand new and I didn’t even like it. First car at the first lot I went to. The salesman had been this sad sack, kept calling me, texting me. This was a hard year for him, he told me. His family hated him. His wife laughed at him. If you buy this car, I can turn things around, he texted. Just needed one good month.
Serves me right for being a sucker, I thought, shaking my head at the melted car. Was it still melting? I couldn’t decide.
I called my college girlfriend, who, let’s be honest, was never really going to marry me anyway.
You’re not going to believe this, I started.
It’s always something with you, she said.
What is that supposed to mean, I said. The man in coveralls was waving at me. I put the phone down.
It’s getting worse, he said. He was right. The car was melting again. Faster this time. The bumper was a puddle, the rear windshield not far behind. I told my college girlfriend I would have to call her back.
Should I get a bucket or something, I asked the man in coveralls.
That’s an idea, he said. But neither of us moved. We just stood there watching. I mean, what could we do? In the end, we grabbed some big shop brooms and pushed the molten sedan toward the drain where it dribbled into the pipes below.
Gotta be some kind of tax write-off at least, I told the man in coveralls.
That’s a good way to think about it, he said.
What happened to the other guy, I asked.
Who? he said.
The other guy whose car melted.
Oh, he said. I might’ve told you that to make you feel better.
Oh, I said sadly.
Sorry, he said. I called my college girlfriend again.
Well, the car’s gone, I reported.
She sighed. This is really it for me, Kyle, she said. This feels like my last straw.
What could I say in my defense? If that time wasn’t my fault then there were a million others that were. That night at the gas station in Georgia, she really let me have it. All the greatest hits: how I was irresponsible, how that made her not want to be a mother because it felt like she was always having to take care of me. She said I would never grow up because I was in love with failure, how her brother always knew there was something wrong with me, that I would only become a fat high school English teacher if I was lucky. I listened. It was the least I could do.
I called a cab to take me to a motel. The driver asked me how my night was going and I told him—the melted car, my college girlfriend, everything. He listened quietly, thinking.
Could be worse, he said when I finished.
How, I said, could it possibly be worse?
Well, he said. I might’ve told you that to make you feel better.
Kyle Seibel is 36 years old and lives in Santa Barbara, CA. He works as a copywriter and is a Navy veteran. His stories have appeared in The Masters Review, Drunk Monkeys, and The Wrath-Bearing Tree.
image: Lindsay Hargrave