Pretty empty tonight, he said to me
about our regular bar. Yeah, I guess
everybody’s back at school by now,
I answered. He nodded, stubbed out
his cigarette, and asked me if I wanted
a ride home. Sure, I sighed before finishing
my beer, this place is dead.
We had the windows down, enjoying
an early fall breeze, and Neil Young
on cassette singing about a heart of gold.
Sorry I won’t be able to make it
to your wedding, Donnie, I told him.
That’s OK, he replied. I understand.
He looked over at me and asked,
So, you’re really going to France?
Yeah, I replied almost as if I didn’t believe
it myself. Paris. Leaving on Tuesday.
Won’t be back until June. I’ll be gone
nine whole months. Holy, holy shit,
he said. That’s a long fucking time.
We rode in silence past the drive-in
that showed Star Wars all that summer
and closed on Labor Day, the bowling alley
and the Sunoco station. We when turned
to drive up my street he explained to me
his fiancee’s family owned orchards
across the river. I’m going to learn
how to grow goddamn apples, he said.
Nothin’ better to do around here, I guess.
Up the hill and into my driveway,
with Neil Young still singing,
he put the car in park. We shook hands,
told each other to take care, wished
each other good luck. I walked up
under the porch light, turned, and
waved good-bye to him, didn’t realize
then, for the last time. I don’t know
if he waved back, or even if saw me
at all; he was already driving away
in the dark.