Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Parting Remark

Jack covered his face with his hands, leaned into his elbows, and spent all the air in his lungs. "Shit."

Mark turned his head and looked at his friend. "Well, I wanted you to know."

Jack stared straight. Side by side, they sat on stools and faced the bar. "Don't talk to me for a minute. Okay?"

Mark put his hand on Jack's shoulder. "Okay." He removed his hand and repalmed his Diet Coke. He took a sip.

They sat in silence.

"I'm not surprised. It's not a surprise." Jack's voice broke. "Congratulations Marky. I'm proud of you."

Mark pivoted on the stool and looked at him. "We'll still be friends. We will be."

Jack turned his head away from Mark and stared at the flatscreen above Meg’s shoulder as she tended bar. "It won't be the same. You're not going to beer with me. We're not going to bullshit about women anymore. I'm not going to be able to talk to you throughout the day. It won't be the same."

"I know."

Jack straightened his stare and peered at the bottles behind the bar. "It's not so unexpected. I've thought about the end of our friendship before. You're a difficult guy to be friends with." He squinted his eyes and widened them. "I used to worry I'd say the wrong thing. Or that I'd offend you somehow. You are so fuckin' scorched earth!" His hurt heated his words. He inhaled and exhaled. "You know that. But ... um ... I figured we'd figure it out. Somehow. You know?"

"Yeah, but it's not the end of our friendship."

"I'm not against you being a priest. I'm not. Fuck dude. I pretty much think of you as my priest now. But you're making it official. You know?"

"It's time."

"I know." He turned on his stool and looked at Mark. "Listen to me. Are you listening?"

Mark turned his face. "I always listen to you."

"This is a death to me. Do you understand? I know how selfish I'm being. I do." He stared at Meg while she washed the bar. "I don't think you know how much I count on you."

"I know bro." Mark took off his cap and wiped the sweat off his scalp. He recapped. "I get it. It's harder giving you up than it was Brady. And you know how stupid I feel saying it. So shut up. But we're brothers. We know that. But I have to do this. No. It won't be the same. But you're not getting rid of me that easily. I'm not going into a monastery. I'm just going into a seminary."

"Yeah Mark, but I know you. I know you! You'll actually do it. You won't half-ass."

"I won't. I'll do it."

"You'd better. Don't disappoint me."

"Hey Jack?"

"I know you do."

"Good."

"Me too."

"I know. God made us friends. God did. What God has joined together."

"Mark?

"Yeah?"

"Get out of here. Will you? I'll call you later."

"Done bro." Mark stood up and drew his wallet out of his pocket and withdrew cash.

"No. I'll pay. Go." Jack watched Mark's retreat. He lengthened the space between his bent elbows and lowered his head until his chin rested on his clasped hands. A tear dribbled down his cheek. He closed his eyes and silently wept.