Dustin's World

Chapter Ten - The Lonely Road

by Jeff Wilson

Dustin didn't make it very far down the road before he had to pull over because he couldn't see anymore. He convinced himself it was just the rain, but he knew it was something much worse. He pulled over, and there on the side of the road Dustin allowed himself to bawl. He leaned forward on the bike and allowed the emotions that he'd been trying so hard to hold back to finally let loose. With his head slumped into his arms, it may have looked to passers-by that he had fallen asleep. But the heaving of his shoulders would have given him away.

"I can't do it." Dustin said to himself in his moment of despair. "I can't deal with this."

A car drove past and hit a puddle in just the right place so that now not only was Dustin broken and dying inside, but now he was cold and wet as well. As if God himself had taken a bucket of icy dirty water and thrown it on him in one last insult.

"I hate life." Dustin said quietly to himself.

"You hear me? I hate it!!" He said a little louder, this time looking up to the sky.

"You hear me, God? I HATE LIFE!!!!!! I HATE IT!!!! I HATE IT!!! I HATE IT!!!!!! I hate everybody! I hate everything! I hate you too, you son of a bitch!!! What have you ever done for me, huh? I went to church for eighteen years! Every fucking Sunday I sat in that fucking pew next to that fucking bitch who didn't care about me until it was too late and next to that fucking asshole who raped me! Is this what life is supposed to be? Is this?"

Dustin jumped off his bike and then kicked it as hard as he could, knocking it over. "How do you like that? Huh, God? How the fuck do you like that?"

He reached down and grabbed a handful of rocks. Then he began tossing them up into the air as hard as he could. "How do you like that, huh? How's it feel? I hate you! You hear me? I fucking hate you!"

He reached down over and over again. Faster and faster until he was on his knees just tossing rocks in the air. "I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you!!!!!"

At last, Dustin was just laying there in the mud on the side of the road. Tears flowed as he just started grabbing the dirt and throwing it on himself. He clawed the dirt, feeling the mud squeeze between his fingers. He picked up a large rock and hit himself in the side of the head with it three or four times, causing him to start bleeding. He looked at the dark red liquid on his hands and wondered just how long it would be before his very own blood killed him. "I hate life..."

There lay the twenty-one year old Dustin Smith. There on the side of the road, cold and alone. If a car would have driven past, they may have thought he'd been in an accident. His motorcycle lay on its side near the road. All around, there lay rocks, picked up and scattered all over the place. And a few yards away, covered in mud and blood lay Dustin Dwayne Smith. "Why didn't you let me die, Billy?" He asked. "Why couldn't you just let me die?"

"I shouldn't even be here. Look at me. Look at this." He pulled back his jacket sleeve and showed his scarred wrist to the heavens. "Why didn't you let me die?"

"Do you like torturing me? Do you? Do you like to make my life a living hell? Well it is!! I wish I were dead! You hear me? I WISH I WAS DEAD!!!!!!"

Dustin stood up and kicked at the mud. "I'll bet you thought it was funny, didn't you? I'll bet you had a good laugh. Let the idiot think he's going to have a kid. Let the dummy think that his life was going to be worth something. It's pathetic! I'm never going to be anything. I'm worthless! My life hasn't been worth shit! Nobody will miss me. You didn't let me die and what has happened since then? Nothing! It's worthless! All I've done is fuck people. Like a stupid dumb animal!"

Dustin grabbed another handful of rocks and angrily tossed them across the road. "I fuck and fuck and fuck but nobody loves me, do they? Nobody cares! The only thing I've done is give myself AIDS and give it to other people! Way to go, you son of a bitch! You saved my existence so that I could go out and make people sick and then you killed my child."

"I'll show you. I'll show everybody. I'll show the whole goddamn world! You think you'll be able to keep me alive if I blow my head off? You think you'll be able to torture me if my brains are laying all over the place? Do you? I don't care if I live anymore. I don't want to live like this anymore. You should have let me die. Please just let me die."

In his ranting, he'd wandered into the middle of the road. "I wouldn't care if a car hit me right now. I wish it would. I wish a big old truck would come around that corner and just smash the fuck out of me."

It was then that Dustin realized that he'd kicked his bike over. "Great. Look what you made me do."

As Dustin walked off the road and back toward his bike a tractor trailer truck came around the curve, nearly hitting him, but managing to find the puddle which had made him muddy in the first place. Dustin watched as the mud flew high in the air and simply closed his eyes as it all rained down on top of him again. He opened his eyes and looked angrily toward the sky. "Keep laughing, you son of a bitch. Craig has a gun, you know. I will get it. It's only a matter of time."

He picked up his bike off the ground and observed the damage his knocking it over had caused. Covered with mud and blood, he started the bike and revved the engine as loudly as he could. Then, he pulled out onto the street and sped down the road. Since he was so close to his old neighborhood, he decided to pay a visit to see Dr. Reilly, Billy, and Brett. They would help him out. Out of the three of them, at least one would understand.

Dr. Reilly had been home for a few weeks. Dustin had been so preoccupied with his own life that he hadn't had a chance to stop in to see her. He'd meant to stop in. But something always came up. And he really didn't want to bother her with his problems while she was having so many problems of her own. But the way he felt, He had to talk to somebody who wasn't just going to use him.

He rode past his old house to Summit Road. The Reilly's house was on the left. Dustin parked in the driveway and noticed that there were more cars there than usual. He didn't think much about it, but he noticed one of the license plates was from New York. He hoped that he could somehow get one of the t hree of them alone so he could have a conversation with them.

He knocked on the door and waited. He wasn't sure how he was even going to begin to explain all that had happened to him. He just didn't know where to start. "Hey, I might have AIDS" or "Hey, Sarah just murdered my baby." Or even, "Hey, I'm thinking I might blow my head off."

The door opened, and Dustin was surprised that it was Billy's mom, Paula, who answered the door.

"Oh my word!" Paula gasped. "Dustin what in the world happened to you?"

"What?" Dustin asked. "Oh the mud... I got in an accident." Dustin lied.

"Billy!" Paula shouted. "Come here! Dustin's here."

After a few moments, Billy walked into the hallway from the living room.

"Wow, you look like shit." Billy said.

"William Aaron, watch your language!" Paula scolded her son.

"Sorry." Billy replied. "What the fuck happened to you?" Billy asked. Paula threw up her hands and walked back into the living room.

"Did you wreck on the way over here?" Billy asked.

"Sort of." Dustin said. "I was hoping I could talk to..."

"Well take your shoes off and come upstairs. You can take a shower. I'm glad you're here."

Dustin followed Billy up the stairs to the bathroom. Billy instructed him to get a shower while Billy found him some clothes that would fit him. Dustin was taller than Billy, but only by two inches, so he would surely be able to find something that would fit. As Dustin pulled off his shirt, Billy knocked on the door. He had handed Dustin a towel and some clothes.

As he stood under the warm water of the shower, Dustin felt much better. He watched as the mud disintegrated and washed away. It stung when the water hit the wound he'd given himself on the side of his head. For about five minutes, he just stood under the water and felt it massage and relax his aching back and shoulders. For a few brief minutes, he felt good inside his skin. It didn't feel good to be Dustin Smith too often, so he treasured the moment while he could.

After he dried off, he pulled on the underwear that Billy had left for him. It was loose around his hips. It reminded Dustin again that Billy had always ate better than he had. Billy was so lucky to have a mom who actually made sure that he was safe. He was so lucky that his dad treated him like a son, instead of an object. He was lucky that he never had to worry about if he was going to eat at night. He never had to worry about what was going to happen at night. As he pulled on Billy's pants and shirt, he wished that he really could have been Billy growing up, instead of just standing there looking at himself in Billy's clothes.

He looked down at his feet. The pants were about three inches too short. The waist was so loose that he had to tighten the belt Billy had given him to the last notch. The shirt looked like it was hung on a hanger draped over his shoulders. No matter how much people fed him, he still looked like a starved dog that had been left out in the cold for the winter. The years of neglect had left their scar on him. He wondered how he'd look in those clothes if he had never been hungry. He had once spoiled himself when he got out on his own and ate nothing but chocolate and cookies and ice cream for a week. All the things he'd never had available when he was growing up. It gave him a belly ache for two weeks.

From downstairs, he heard Billy's familiar and distinctive laugh. He sounded exactly like Mr. Roberts now. Dustin bet that if he found a picture of Mr. Roberts at age twenty-one and looked at Billy you'd have a hard time figuring out who was who. Well, Dustin would know. Billy was taller. Mr. Roberts' eyes were hazel, Billy's were green. They were always emerald green. Not many people could tell the difference in the color but Dustin could. He loved Billy's eyes. They were the most beautiful color he could think of. Brett was so lucky that he could just look at them and admire them anytime he wanted.

Billy was happier than Mr. Roberts had been, too. After Dustin had his problems, he had become very close to Billy's dad. For a very brief time in his life, he had a father he could look up to and who really seemed to love him. He learned that Mr. Roberts had grown up in a way that was very similar to Dustin. He wasn't molested, but he knew what it was like to go to bed hungry. He knew what it was like to never be good enough. He learned so much from Mr. Roberts. And then he just died one day out of the blue. And Dustin never forgave him for abandoning him like that. Just another guy who could have made him feel good for a change who walked into and out of his life in a moment.

A knock at the door brought him back to reality. He opened the door, and to his surprise there was a young brown-haired little boy who looked about eight or nine.

"I have to pee." The little boy told Dustin.

"Oh... Okay." Dustin said, vacating the bathroom for the kid. He stood outside the door for a moment, wondering just where the kid had come from. He could hear the tinkle from behind the door that told him that the boy was telling him the truth.

Dustin started to walk down the stairs and was almost run over by the boy as he squeezed past Dustin and rumbled down the stairs and back to the living room.

"He didn't even wash his hands." Dustin thought to himself as he followed the boy into the living room. He was surprised that there were people there who he didn't know. He knew Billy's mom and her new husband Dave. They'd been married for almost four years, but he was still the new husband. Brett was sitting in a chair, with Billy sitting on the arm of the chair beside him. He felt the familiar little surge of jealousy that he had always felt when he saw the two of them together. He loved Billy. He liked Brett. He always felt guilty that he wasn't as happy for them as he pretended to be. On the other couch, there was that little kid again, next to some guy he'd never seen before but looked familiar.

Then he noticed that somebody was missing. He knew instantly. He knew that Dr. Reilly had died. He knew that the boy who had nearly knocked him down the steps was Brett's little brother. The man on the couch must have been Brett's dad. Paula and David were there because they were there to comfort the guys. Brett looked up from the book that he had been rummaging through and gave Dustin a half-hearted smile. Dustin was surprised that no one seemed to realize that he was just finding out on his own and no one had told him. He wondered how they thought he had just happened to stop in.

"I'm glad you came." Billy said. "I was hoping you got my message."

"Oh... Yeah. Yeah I did." Dustin lied. Well, that answered that question. Dustin sat next to Paula on the couch and for a long while he just sat and listened. Brett's priest stopped in and they discussed arrangements for the funeral mass and all of that stuff. Dustin got to know Brett's dad and brother more. He was amazed that Brett's mother had just died that morning and he didn't look any different than usual. He was calm and collected. Well, he wasn't joking around like he usually did. That was maybe the only difference. Brett was a notorious jokester. That was one of the things that always made him such a popular kid in school. Yet another thing that Dustin was jealous about.

After about an hour or so, Dustin walked out to the kitchen. He just needed some time to think. His head felt heavy. He felt like he was getting a cold after wallowing around in the mud earlier. The good feelings he'd felt in the shower were now gone and replaced with nothing but sadness and anger. He wanted to scream. He wished he could throw rocks at God again. Why had he let someone so good like Dr. Reilly suffer so much and then die at age forty-four? Why had he taken away the one person who Dustin felt like he could talk to?

"This day just can't be real." He said to himself.

He tried to think, but he couldn't for more than a few seconds before his mind jumped to something else. There was an overwhelming feeling of hatred that kept swelling through him. He wanted to kill. He wanted to maim. He wanted to hurt somebody. But then a minute later, he wanted to cry. He wanted to mourn. He wanted to mourn the loss he felt on that day. He'd lost his child. He'd lost his mentor. He'd lost his health.

He was going to get sick. He couldn't do one of the things he loved to do anymore without making other people sick. He would never have a normal life. He would never be a father. He would never leave the Mon Valley like Billy and Brett would. They were just a year or so away from breaking out of the black hole that was the Mon Valley. They would graduate, Billy would go to law school and become a great a ttorney just like he'd always wanted. Brett would graduate and... What the hell had Brett gone to school for? Dustin laughed. He knew so much about Billy, but he didn't know what his husband had even gone to school for. It just didn't matter to Dustin. He liked Brett and all, but he wasn't Billy.

But the point was that they were going to live. They were going to escape. They would leave the hell hole that Dustin was stuck in and they would forget about him. Dustin was born here. And now he would die here, just like he'd hoped to do five years before. He had killed himself, just like he'd wanted. He just didn't expect that it would take so long to do.

Drugs. That was what their solution always was. He remembered when he woke up in the hospital and they told him what Prozac and Zoloft and Ritalin were. How they would help him... How they would make him feel better. They told him that there would be side-effects. Drugs were the answer. Take a few pills and you won't want to kill yourself anymore. Take a few pills and you won't worry about how your dad almost fucked you to death. Take a few pills and you won't have to worry anymore. There will just be a few side effects.

Dr. Reilly didn't want him to be on drugs. She talked with him. She tried to convince his mom not to start him, that therapy and counseling would do more than drugs. But he ended up on them anyway. For a summer, he had been sent away. He loved the people he'd met at that school that summer. He felt special and loved for the first time in his life when he was there. They let him talk about his feelings and the actually listened to him. They didn't tell him he was stupid. They didn't tell him he was bad. They let him talk. Just like Dr. Reilly let him talk.

But now she was gone. And soon, he would be too.

He was free now. They couldn't control him anymore. Ever since he'd stopped letting them drug him, he was his own man. You can't make a twenty-one year old take a drug if he doesn't want to. He could feel again. He felt more alive than he had in five years. It was as if a cloudy day had become clear. The clouds lifted in his mind. They couldn't control him anymore. They couldn't stop him from feeling like a person again. He could love. He could hate. He could hurt. He could be hurt... And that was the hard part.

"You okay, Dustin?" Brett asked, waking him from his thoughts.

"Huh?" Dustin asked. "Oh... Yeah. Yeah. I'm fine. What about you?"

"I need to get out of here." Brett replied. "Is your bike out there?"

Dustin looked at Brett strangely. "Yeah... But I thought you were afraid of..."

"I just need some time to myself."

"The keys are in my coat pocket." Dustin said. "Take all the time you want."

"Thanks." Brett said. Dustin watched as he walked out of the kitchen. Unless you knew what to look for you would never notice the hiccup in his step from the last time he'd rode one of Dustin's bikes. If he was wearing jeans, you wouldn't know there was a brace on his knee holding him up. He'd spent a long time rehabbing to get almost back to normal. If you didn't know his past, if you weren't close enough, you'd never know that he was injured.

Dustin sat quietly and heard his bike fire up and then the sound of the engine going off into the distance. Soon after that, Billy walked into the kitchen.

"Did Dustin leave?" He asked. Then he saw Dustin sitting there. "Oh... Then who..."

"Brett said he wanted to be alone for a while." Dustin replied.

"And he went on the Dustin-mobile? He's taking this harder than I thought."

"He looks fine to me. Sad, but not like you were with your dad."

"But that's the thing, Dustin. I just feel like he's trying to be brave. But why? It's not like anyone would blame him if he..."

"Brett's not a guy who lets his emotions out all over the place, Billy. He's always been that way."

"But not with me." Billy replied.

"Well, have you been alone today?" Dustin asked.

"I guess not." Billy replied.

"Relax. He'll mourn in his own way. He's had a long time to get used to the idea that his mom was going to die."

Billy sat down at the table with Dustin and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one. He just sat there absent-mindedly puffing away for a while until he noticed Dustin was staring at him.

"What?" He asked.

"You're smoking?" Dustin asked.


"You're smoking!!" Dustin said again.

"I'm just really stressed out right now, okay. This is just to calm my nerves down."

"All the times you got on my case about smoking..."

"Shut up, Dustin." Billy said laughing. "Here, put this in your mouth and be quiet." He said, handing Dustin a cigarette.

For a long time, the two sat there at the table just smoking and thinking. Dustin thought about telling Billy everything that had happened that day. He didn't want to tell him about what had happened on the way over. That would just make Billy ask him a bunch of questions and worry. But he had to talk to somebody. He wanted somebody to know what was happening to him.

"I talked to Sarah." Dustin said, feeling his emotions swelling within him. This wasn't going to be easy.

"Oh?" Billy said.

"She... She's not going to have the baby." Dustin said, trying very hard to convince himself that it was the smoke that was making his eyes burn.

"Huh?" Billy asked.

"She killed it." Dustin replied.

Billy stared at Dustin until his cigarette slipped out of his mouth and fell in his lap.

"Ow! Ow!" Billy yelped. "What do you mean? She aborted it?" He asked, angrily.

"She made it clear that she didn't want to have my baby." Dustin said.

"Holy shit... What a fucking bitch!" Billy snapped.

"Yeah..." Dustin replied, wiping his left eye.

"What's that fucking cunt's number?"

"Please don't start anything Billy. It's over."

"Like hell it is. She's... She killed your kid. It was as much yours as hers. She had no right!"

"You know as well as I do that she did have the right." Dustin replied.

"But that doesn't make it right!" Billy replied. "Women can get abortions all they want, I don't care. But to just go and do it without talking to you first? God, I fucking hate that bitch. Why did you even get involved with her in the first place?"

"I don't know." Dustin moped. "All I know is that I fucked up and I guess I deserved it."

"You didn't deserve to have your baby get killed!" Billy replied.

"Why not? What did I ever do to earn the right to be a father? I fucked a bitch who got pregnant. Who the fuck cares?"

"A lot of people care, Dustin! You do!"

"Oh come on! What the fuck do I matter, huh?"

"You matter a lot!" Billy replied.

"Why?" Dustin asked. "Why do I matter?"

"Because you do!" Billy replied.

"What kind of stupid answer is that?"

"You're a human being, aren't you? That's reason enough as it is. People do love you, you know!"

"Why couldn't my mom have aborted me? I would have been better off if I never would have been born."

"Dustin! Don't start that again! You scare the crap out of me when you talk like that."

"It's too late anyway... You said I was going to kill myself with my dick and I did." Dustin said.

"What?" Billy asked.

"I told you about Pastor Steven's son, right? Well, he's got HIV."

"Oh my god..." Billy gasped.

"Yeah. So, you know what that means."

"You need to get tested, then." Billy replied.

"Tested? What do I need to get tested for? I fucked him bareback, Billy."

"That doesn't mean you got infected, Dustin. It just means that you increased your chances of getting it."

"Billy, I've fucked over a hundred guys! Almost every single one of them with no protection. And with each one I had the choice. And with each one I said fuck it and in I went. Nobody made me fuck them. If I didn't get it from Nate then I most likely got it from somebody else. What are the chances that I fucked a hundred guys and didn't get it?"

"Well you're never the bottom guy. The chances are less for the top."

"One in a hundred?"

"No. But not as bad as you're making it out to be."

"Forget it. I'm going to die. There's nothing that can stop that from happening. I don't even care really. My life is falling apart. My baby is dead. And now I'm going to get sick and die."

"You don't know that, Dustin! God, quit being so negative! You might not have it!"

"But I..."

"Dammit, you don't have HIV, you hear me! You can't have it!" Billy said angrily. "You don't deserve it! You've survived hell."

"My whole fucking life is hell, Billy. I don't care if I die. I'll be better off dead."

Just at that moment, Brett walked back into the kitchen. "What do you mean by that?" He asked.

"Dustin thinks he's got HIV." Billy explained.

"Did you get tested?" Brett asked.

"No." Dustin admitted.

"Then you don't know. Why don't we go tomorrow morning before all the viewing and stuff?" Brett suggested.

"You're going to go with me?" Dustin asked.

"Sure. Mom seemed to think you were worth saving. And if you have it, at least you'll know. But I'm not going to have all the work my mom did to help you go down the toilet. Now, no more of that 'better off dead' shit if you don't mind. My mother just fucking died and I don't need to hear you talking about throwing your fucking life away because you think you got sick. You understand me, Dustin?"

"Yeah... Yeah, I understand. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."

"My mom never gave up trying to help you. Don't you give up either. And I swear if you try to hurt yourself again I'll never forgive you." Brett warned.

After a while, Dustin left the Reilly house. The sense of loss that he felt on that day was unmatched in his young life. So much had been taken from him in the short span of about four hours. His child, his advisor, his health, and quite possibly his sanity had all been stolen from him. He would go with Brett. He arranged to meet him early in the morning. It would be one last thing for Dr. Reilly that he would do. The test would take a few days to get the results, and that was all that Dustin would need. A plan was forming in his mind. He knew what he would do. His fate would be determined by his very own blood. There were a few pieces to put into place. But when those results came back...

"If I'm negative, which I highly doubt, then I promise that I'll change my life." Dustin promised.

"But if I'm positive, I'm going to blow my head off."

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