Disclaimer: Oh, by the way, I DO NOT own the song lyrics. All credit goes to Tim McGraw.
It was an eight-hour drive to the lake from Roanoke. Back when I was a kid, I'd made the drive at least twice a year with my uncle, so I was used to it. Granted, it was still a long drive, even back then, but we passed the time joking around, having cheerful conversations about nothing, and jamming out to his country CDs. So the hours flew by and before I knew it, we'd pull up to the cabin, just in time to sit back on the hood of his Jeep and watch the sun go down. We'd stare, amazed at the different shades of orange, red, blue, and violet displayed together so perfectly above us.
I remember asking him once if we could take a picture of the lake to bring home. He shook his head, saying that a picture wouldn't do it justice. I look back now and I couldn't agree more. A picture wouldn't do the memory justice. It wouldn't capture the way the evening sun's rays had filled me with warmth, or the way that sunset's reflection on the water's glassy surface made my breath catch in my throat. A mere image couldn't replicate the comfort and reassurance I felt at a gesture as simple as my uncle resting his hand on my shoulder on that warm Friday afternoon all those years ago, and promising me that he was coming home, that his goodbye wasn't permanent.
Even years later, I carried those moments with me, as proof that pure and utter perfection can, indeed, exist in this world. On the other hand, everything just seemed so much easier that it just felt like another life entirely. The memories were almost surreal, as if I were trying to recall and hold on to the details of a really good dream. When I was in these nostalgic moods, a majority of the time I'd find myself thinking, "How could that have been my life? How could things have been so simple?" Then again, so much had happened since then that it just didn't seem possible that it was truly my life I was remembering…
It was the fourth Sunday of June, a few weeks after I'd turned eighteen, when I'd decided to make the long trip down to the cabin. I made sure to take the car early that morning before my dad woke, so he wouldn't freak out and try to stop me. Granted, he wouldn't have been able to, but an exchange like that wouldn't be pretty, especially with how on edge we'd been with each other recently.
I pulled up to the cabin just as the sun was setting, and as I studied the familiar surroundings, I couldn't help but think back to all those good times my uncle and I shared together all those years ago. I felt a sad smile tugging at my lips when I heard a favorite song of ours, Tim McGraw's My Old Friend, come on the radio. Before I knew it, I began singing along the best I could, my voice breaking every so often.
"My old friend, I recall
The times we had hangin' on my wall
I wouldn't trade them for gold"
I was halfway through the next line when I noticed a pamphlet sitting on the dash. It read ARMY STRONG on the front in bold white letters. Feeling a pang in my chest, I reached for it, opened the flaps delicately, and without bothering to read the words, furiously ripped at the paper until it was all but confetti in my lap.
"Cause they laugh and they cry me
Somehow sanctify me
They're woven in the stories I have told
And tell again."
Angry tears burned the corners of my eyes. I knew I had to do this. I had to. For him…no…for them now. Besides, it was…too late to back out anyway. There was no way out. Not now. "Unless…" I muttered aloud. My eyes darted to the passenger's seat, and my gaze lingered there for a moment. So easy, I thought. So simple, but…I bit my lip anxiously and turned away, momentarily forgetting how to breathe.
"My old friend, I apologize
For the years that have passed
Since the last time you and I
Have dusted off those memories"
I buried my face in my hands. Was I seriously considering this? What would they say, I thought, feeling myself starting to shake. I felt a familiar crushing sensation in my chest at the thought. I lifted my head and wiped my eyes, the comforting feeling from the song all but forgotten.
"But the runnin' and the races,
The people and the places
There's always somewhere else I had to be
And time gets thin, my old friend."
Gritting my teeth, I focused my gaze on a small black handgun sitting on the empty passenger's seat. With shaking hands, I reached over and closed my fingers on the cold metal of the handle.
"Don't know why, don't know why,
Don't know why, don't know why."
I studied the gun closely. This was it. This was my way out. No more pain, no more grief. Just the gift of eternal peace. God knows peace was the one thing I needed, I craved. Tears ran down my face in torrents as I switched off the safety and slowly slid the barrel into my mouth.
"My old friend, this song's for you
Cause a few simple verses
Was the least that I could do
To tell the world that you were here,"
Taking one last look at the cabin, I could almost see the three of us loading our fishing poles into my uncle's boat, or almost smell the sizzling burgers as they cooked on the grill, and if I listened just hard enough, I could hear the sound of our laughter at my uncle's stories, stories I'd never hear again.
"Cause the love and the laughter
Will live on long after
All of the sadness and the tears,
We'll meet again, my old friend."
I shook the thought from my head and closed my eyes tightly, picturing that last time we watched the sun as it sunk beneath the horizon. I remembered the way he ruffled my hair, pulled me into his arms and held me tight. I'd felt so safe that even though I was shaking with fear at what was to come, I found myself thinking that everything was gonna be okay.
And as I was taken back to that moment, that one special moment, when it was just me and him, all the pain, all the grief, all the fear, and all the anger that'd plagued me for so long just melted away, and for the first time in years, I felt at peace. 'Cause when it was just me and him, nothing could touch me; I was invincible.
"My old friend, my old friend
Subconsciously, though, I knew this newfound peace was only temporary…and that just wasn't enough for me anymore. I was tired, tired of loss, of pain, just tired period. I smiled, knowing everything would finally all be over and done with, and as a numb feeling washed over me, I took one last, long shuddering breath of fresh air, exhaled slowly through my nose, and...
A/N: So, I realize I haven't updated this story on this site in a while, but it looked as if no one was reading it, but to the person who followed me and this story, I'll post it on this site whenever I have a new chapter finished. Hope you like the edits I made. Also, if you are reading this, I'd love some feedback. Thanks, guys. Also, if there's anything you all want me to look at, I'd be happy to do so, just Private Message me what you'd like me to read and I'll be sure to help out.