The other man stopped short and whipped around.
The first speaker swallowed and considered whether to repeat himself.
“I can’t,” he said finally. “This is impossible.”
The other man’s face turned red, and the first one braced himself for an onslaught, either emotional or physical. He winced.
But instead, the other man sighed.
“OK,” he said. “You stay here. I’ll go on.”
“Bring me something, would you? I –”
“I’m not coming back.”
“Here’s the deal,” the other man said. “We’re going this way. It’s tough. Nobody said it would be easy, but you know what’s waiting out there. Here, this place, is where we were – we didn’t want to be here anymore. So here we go, or, I guess, here I go. You can stay here, but I’m not coming back this way again.”
“What will I do without you?”
The other man smiled.
“Anything you want. That’s the beauty of it,” he said. “Maybe I’ll see you over there someday.”
“Maybe you will. See you then.”
That was the last time either ever saw of each other. They remembered that day differently – one as the day he lost a friend, one as the last time he ever let himself say, “I can’t.”