Nick and I walked down Main Street after the movie let out. All the shops were closed, but it didn't matter. It was late summer, and the nights were warm, so I was ready to stay with him all night.
"That movie was bad ass!" I said.
"Yeah, it was okay."
"Come on? That chase at the end?"
"It got a little ridiculous—"
"Or when the robot attacked the police station?"
"You mean the cybernetic organism?"
I catch him smirking at me, and I elbow him.
"Yeah, it was alright."
We reach the gas station at the end of town.
"I should head home—" he said
"Nah, let's grab some slushies and chips."
"I got no money."
I dragged him inside before he could argue.
I bought a Coke slushie, and he grabbed a root beer. He didn't want chips, but I grabbed a bag of salt and vinegar, knowing they were his favourite.
We headed back onto Main Street.
"So you just gonna keep us walking up and down here all night."
He was right. I hadn't planned that far ahead.
"How's we head to the regional park?"
"You kidding me? That'll take an hour."
"Nah, like 45. And I know where the seniors hide their booze out there."
"We're going to walk all the way out there for a couple of beers?"
"They've got mickeys too."
"Look, I just wanna head home."
"And I wanna head out to the regional."
He held his slushie and chips and stared at me before shrugging. "Fine."
We walked to the end of Main and went down past the Beaver Lumber and Coop before turning at the scrap yard. We peered through the chain link at the wrecked cars.
"You can see Johno's at the back."
The truck was nearly a pancake.
"Jeezus, he's lucky to have survived," I say.
"You think that was luck?"
"Absolutely. Now he gets to spend another year being a dick to us in gym."
We walked out of town and down the road to the regional. It was dark, and we could see all the stars.
I had talked myself out. I'd almost said everything I wanted to say, but I still hadn't asked Nick why he was thinking what he was thinking. I was still a dumb kid and worried that saying the words would make him do it even more. So I said nothing, kept walking and listened to our shoes crunch on the gravel.
We got to the regional, and I took him to the lockbox in the trees where the seniors kept their stash. We pulled a mickey of rye out and went to the lookout over the river.
I cracked the bottle but gave it took Nick to take the first drink. He took a slug and coughed, then handed it to me. I never had drunk whiskey, so I didn't know what to expect. I sipped it, and it burned all the way down, and I fought to breathe.
I'd barely recovered when he started to laugh.
"What? You were no better."
"I know. We're a couple of lightweights."
I realized he was smiling. It was the first genuine smile he'd had all night. He realized it, too and turned it off.
I handed the bottle back to him, and he took another swallow. He tried to handle it, but he did no better. I reached for it again, but he took another swig before he handed it to me.
He'd been hanging over the railing, leaned back, and stared at the stars.
"I know what you've been up to all night."
"Whadda ya mean?" I asked, trying to sound dumb.
"You know what I mean. Not letting me go home."
I looked at him and said nothing.
He shrugged. "I appreciate it."
Again, I said nothing.
"Look, I can't promise anything, but I'm good for a little bit."
I watched him and tried to figure if he was telling the truth. I decided he was. "You know you can always talk to me."
He sighed. "Yeah, but this is just something I've gotta deal with."
I stared at him and didn't know what to say. I understood what he meant, but his words still scared me.
"Can we please head back to town?" he asked.
I nodded, and we made our way out of the park and down the dark road. We handed the bottle back and forth as we walked until we were drunk and tossed it half-full into the trees.
We parted ways on Main Street; he went his way, and I went mine. I was nervous about letting him go, but I knew I couldn't watch him forever.
Nick didn't do anything that week or the months afterwards, and then I lost touch with him a few years later.
Then last week, I was at the mall and saw him coming out of a movie theatre. He was with his wife and daughter, and he was smiling.
You never know how a night will go or the days afterwards. You never know what a person is going to find inside of themselves. But you can always hope and trust they'll find their way.
At least, that's what I think, anyways, but I'm still trying to figure things out.