William Chapel Reynolds and Gale Newcomb
Wallace's drive-in was a beer joint called the Starlite Restaurant. And most nights Wallace and I sat outside under its rusting neon sign and drank and talked about the things that neither of us could say to other people. We'd smoke cigarettes and look up at what was left of the sign and say whatever it was we had to say.
The Starlite sign, even now, is the tallest one in the county. It was the pride of Darlington in the early sixties when Wallace's parents built the place, and teenagers from Hartsville and Florence came to the drive-in to hear the music blast from big horn speakers mounted on the roof, and to kiss and make-out in their cars.
The letters on the sign, the ones that hadn't burned out, arched over Wallace and me late at night. The soft blue and red neon colors gave us what light we needed to pour our drinks without spilling, and to light our cigarettes with dignity, and to say what needed to be said. The "i" in STARLITE was dotted by a spraying comet, if you can picture that, and all the letters in RESTAURANT were burned out, except for a couple of A's, a U, and an R. And it was between their soft red and blue light that we drank and talked.
Sometimes when it was really late and I was about to pass out, I'd be aware of myself, almost as if I was outside myself, watching.
I know that sounds crazy, but that's what happens when I know I'm about to go under. I see myself-like at the very end of a movie as the camera slowly pulls back-staring up at the STARLITE AURA with the black night behind it and the real stars way off. I feel myself lifted up. Then I'm gone.