“What’s the most generic goodbye you can think of?” Eddie asked.
Moses plucked a long blade of grass and stuck it in his mouth. He thought for a moment, squinting out across the wide field toward the setting sun. “This is goodbye for now, but not forever.”
Eddie smiled. “That’s a good one.” He grabbed Moses’s arm tightly. “No matter what happens from here, know that I’ll always be with you… in here.” He poked Moses in the chest.
“Little dramatic for me.”
“There is a chance I could die.”
“At boot camp? Seems unlikely. Maybe after, but I’ll see you again before that.”
“Fine. What about our fellowship has ended?”
“What fellowship? It’s just the two of us.”
“A fellowship can’t be two people?”
Moses shook his head. “Na. Three at a minimum. I believe ideal fellowship size is around nine.”
“Ok. I got it. How about it’s been real, it’s been fun…”
Moses picked up the end of the sentence, finishing it with Eddie. “… it hasn’t been real fun.”
A quiet as long and deep and beautiful as the sunset they watched settled between them. Both lost in nostalgic thought, neither feeling the need to vocalize the memories. Moses looked down at Eddie’s hand. After Eddie had poked him in the chest he had let it drop to the ground near his own. Their fingers almost touched.
“It’s gonna be weird around here without you,” he said, after a while.
“You don’t know that,” Eddie replied. He leaned forward, moving his hand away from Moses’s to absent-mindedly touch the grass between his knees. “You’ll wake up tomorrow, shit, shower, and shave, go to work, come home, go to sleep, then do it all again the day after that. You won’t even notice I’m gone. And then in six months I’ll be back.”
Moses wondered if Eddie actually believed that. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Closest friend since the fifth grade and I won’t even notice he’s gone.”
Eddie smiled at him. “See? Told you.”
A strange frustration rose in Moses. This moment felt important but Eddie wasn’t treating it that way. What else would he expect? This is how Eddie dealt with everything uncomfortable. Jokes. Sarcasm. Deflection. Moses had learned to care about him so much despite that. Sometimes because of it. He reminded himself of that and felt his irritation melt away.
“Look,” Moses said, taking his turn to stare at the grass between his legs. “I’ll miss you, anyway.”
Eddie sighed. He hadn’t wanted to face those feelings. It was already hard enough to leave without them swelling up in his chest, giving him heartache. “I know, man. Same here.”
Nothing else needed to be said. When the sun was nearly swallowed by the horizon, Eddie checked his watch.
“I should head home. Still need to pack.”
“Army’s gonna break you of that procrastination bullshit.”
The two friends stood and faced one another. Without the sun the air had already begun to chill.
“You’ll come back, right?” Moses asked.
Eddie affected a thick Austrian accent. “I’ll be back.”
Eddie’s smile faded. Tears welled up in his eyes. He blinked them back as quickly as he could. “Yeah. Definitely. It’s only temporary, man. I’ll always come back.”
Moses knew it wasn’t true, but he chose to believe it, anyway.
“Alright. Good luck.”
They clasped hands and Eddie pulled Moses in for a hug. They held it for a long time, eventually sliding both arms around one another. Slowly pulling apart, their foreheads touched. Moses felt the anticipation in his stomach.
“Ok,” Eddie said, pulling away. “See you in six months.”
And then he was crossing the field. Moses saw him raise his arm to his eyes, wiping away tears. His own eyes watering, Moses watched Eddie until he disappeared over the curve of the hill, and then walked home himself.