THE LAST GOOD-BYE
You scrape together enough money to fly out to San Francisco for a brief visit before his Marine unit ships out to Vietnam.
He drives you down the coast to see the sights: Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, Steinbeck country.
On Highway 1, he's chugging beers. Your hands shake and stomach flips. You're sure he's going to veer off the tight shoulder, slip over the cliffs, and plunge you to your death in the churning surf below.
That night he wants to catch some topless acts on Broadway. The surly bouncers refuse to let you in. "I'll be your girlie show," you promise.
He books a room, but, before you head inside, he hauls you across the street, buys a gallon jug of cheap, red Gallo.
Once in the moldy room you want to wash up, so you trek to the community, urine-soaked bathroom down the hall.
Back, behind closed doors, his sobs sear your heart, as fear flames in your belly. "Don't cry," you whisper, then throw yourself into his trained-killer arms. Sex is rough and quick and you say: "Talk to me! Please talk to me!"
He's moaning now, tears staining his handsome cheeks, and words shoot out like bullets: dirty gooks, jungles, landmines, leeches, rats as big as dogs, returning home in a body bag.
You fall to the floor, helpless, confused. After all, he's the one who quit school, signed up, left you.
Next morning, farewells are cool. As the airport walkway pulls you away, you turn around once to wave goodbye, only to watch his strong shoulders retreat into the crowd.
Once home, you join protest groups, march to the capitol building with new friends. Sometime later you write a "Dear John" letter you wish you'd never sent.
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"The Last Good-Bye" was first published in Fewer Than 500 Words (Feb. 26, 2019).
Dianne Moritz writes poetry and children’s books from her home in Southampton, NY. Her book, 1, 2, 3 BY THE SEA, was on Bank Street College’s “best book list of 2014.” Adult pieces have appeared The Drabble, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Haikuniverse, The Haiku Foundation, 101 Words, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, and others. She is a frequent contributor to Highlights Magazines for kids.