The Last Time

I shoved my hands deep into my pockets, walking across the lot toward the brightly lit store, when a hoarse, unfamiliar voice called out.
“Hey, buddy!”
Looking around, I saw no one and did not care to, so I hastened my walk. Not fast enough.
I turned around. The older man stood at a distance, his face scruffy with beard growth.
“Hey, buddy. Come here, I want to shake your hand, I’m proud of ya.”
All the memories came flooding back. All the fear and pain. The rage.
He walked toward me, hand outstretched, and I looked down at the asphalt until I could smile.
“Hey, Stan.” I proffered my own hand.
Before he could take it, I grabbed his shirt and pulled him close, unbalancing him with the unexpected move. His breath was stale.
“Listen close.” I growled, “I am not your friend. I did not do what I did for you, or for her. I did it for myself. So stay – the – hell – away from me!”
I shoved him backward, he stumbled against a nearby car, a wordless gasp his only reply.
I left him there, without looking back.

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