They sat in a secluded booth in the shadowy bar, speaking in low voices. The one had an average height, sandy blonde hair, and the color of a rainy sky. The other was darker, a bit taller, and the dark growth of a new beard covered his chin and cheeks. The one was sipping hard liquor from a small glass, the bottle on the table between them- the other nursing a red-colored drink, fruity with a bit of tang.
They were talking about old times, of people they'd known, of things they'd done. They were old friends, and had been through both good and bad together. They had gone to school together, years before; they should have been roommates, but circumstances never played fair. The first one, the one with sandy hair, had a faraway look in his eyes; the other seemed concerned.
"Remember being young, Captain? Back when things were simple… back when we thought we were gods?” Said the first, his voice soft and a little slurred by drink. “Back when we were going to ‘change the world’?” He smiled ruefully, and his friend nodded, chuckling. “What happened to them?”
"We grew up, Eric.” The other replied, shaking his head a little and sipping his drink. “We found out the gods were dead, and that the world was changing without us.” He grinned a little more. “Jesus, I sound morbid. What’s in this thing?” Eric didn’t seem to notice the joke, lost in his own thoughts. He sighed, shifting in his seat, and produced a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. Flicking on a lighter, he looked back at his friend.
"I miss those days." It may have been a trick of the flickering light produced by the battered lighter, but the blonde man almost seemed to be blinking back tears. The other guy wondered which memory was plaguing Eric... there were a lot to choose from. He shifted again, glanced down at his half-filled drink… noticed Eric’s glass was empty. He did love his Jack. "I mean, Hal, I... I miss a lot, you know? Too much, it seems like."
"Me too, man. Me too."
"Do you ever watch the moon, Cap’n?" Eric blinked again, his eyes clear again… the same steady, rainy blue they’d always been; in their depths, his cigarette’s reflected cherry gleaming bright red in the dim bar.
"It's been so long... or maybe I never have. But, if I could, I would..." Hal was growing uncomfortable. Eric’s questions were unusually probing tonight… something was bothering the blonde man.
"The moon... the moon helps keep me alive. I used to watch it from my dorm room, and it… it felt like it would give me strength, when I could see it. It comforted me. The same thing, back in my first apartment.” His voice was rising a little now, an energy leaking into it that wasn’t there before… almost a fever, a maniac heat. “But now I live in a room with no windows, and I have nothing. Hell, the only reason I get up in the morning is because I don’t know what else to do. It’s not like I have a choice, you know what I mean? Not a choice a man can make.” Hal nodded in reply, concern obvious in his own brown eyes, but unsure what to say. He cast around a moment, mentally, searching for words.
"The moon… it is beautiful, Eric. A wonder. I remember.." He paused suddenly, his own memories flickering back to him… hot nights in the south, long beaches… Antonia. Oh, Antonia. He remembered… He who strives to touch a star…
"I remember, Eric. I remember by the ocean, down at the shore… the moonlight forming a path out over the water. A path of pure, pure white… it’s… breathtaking. Majestic. And if there’s no one to stop me…”
“You might try to walk it.” Hal nodded, lost in the past. He remembered the moonlight… soft skin… that treacherous path. Regret froze his face, but Eric wasn’t looking. He was savoring the taste of his cigarette, and contemplating the bottle in the middle of the table… and contemplating his own thoughts. "I think I’ve been walking that path for a long time.” He did pour his drink, now, and took a sip of the red-brown liquid. Sweet fire… fire for his throat and belly, and in his fingers sweet fire for his lungs. “It’s a dangerous road. Moonlight’s a treacherous thing… one second it’s there, and then a cloud passes or the light shifts, and suddenly it’s gone. You look down, and you’ve no more road to walk on… it’s disappeared like it was never there.”
Hal looked at Eric, Eric looked at Hal. They communicated that way old friends do; without words, but with memories. They were silent for a long time. Eric finished his cigarette, putting it out in the small ashtray. He held his whiskey a moment, looking into it, studying the nectar held within the glass. Then he looked back at Hal, the old sorrow back in his eyes… that grim smile twisting cracked lips. "I'm looking down now."
Hal nodded, and as one, they finished their drinks and went their separate ways.
It was a long walk home that night. It always was. The dark of the Autumn night had settled over the city's streets, and despite the myriad barflies passing by, Eric still felt alone. These streets were his streets; he had walked them a hundred times, he would walk them a hundred more. The path back to his apartment was lodged in his physical memory; he walked it almost without conscious decision.
His mind was somewhere else. He was thinking about the conversation with Hal. He was thinking of his youth. My youth. Heh, he thought. You're hardly old, Eric. Just four-and-twenty last week, and you think you're an ancient one. Prick. The wind picked up a little, and his blonde hair (grown out to just below his shoulders, now), wafted a little in the breeze. It was bitterly cold for early November- unusually so.
When he got home, it was colder still, and the way upstairs was hard. Why the hell did I get an apartment so high up? With quivering hands, he fiddled with his keys a moment, unlocked the door. He walked in, looked around; turned on the heat. Sat in his chair.It was a simple apartment, sparsely decorated. A few walls, a few chairs. His kitchen. A poster of Jim Morrison on one of the walls. A picture of Eric, Hal, Antonia, and Rose on the other. His bed; his closet full of clothes. He lived a simple life, here. He rose from his chair, opened the refrigerator. Got out a bottle of