Sunday, October 14, 2012

Missing Her Tonight

Abilene, Kansas
October 1871
Jimmy, and that’s how he still thought of himself although he’d long since given up trying to get people to call him anything but Wild Bill, stared in disbelief as his friend and deputy slumped to the ground, his belly full of Jimmy’s lead.  But he had no time to grieve or even try to understand what had just happened. 
His old nemesis Phil Coe still had his guns drawn and raised.  Without pausing, Jimmy lifted his pistols again and fired twice more, sending two bullets into Coe’s belly.  The man dropped to the ground, if not dead, then the next best thing to it.  Jimmy didn’t wait to find out.
He swung around to glare at the rest of the drunken brawlers in the street behind him. 
And now, do any of you fellows want the rest of these bullets?” he growled.  A ringing silence was his only answer.
I can usually drink you right off of my mind
But I miss you tonight
I can normally push you right out of my heart
But I'm too tired to fight
The tall Marshal sat on his regular stool inside The Alamo Saloon.  He’d hardly moved in a week.  The only time he’d left had been to attend his deputy, Mike William’s, funeral and then, later, to ascertain that Phil Coe actually had died of his wounds.  Even the saloon girls he usually enjoyed spending so much of his time with couldn’t rouse his interest.  They weren’t her.
Why was it, anytime something went wrong he had to learn how to forget her all over again?
He hadn’t seen her in years, yet it felt as if she were right there, standing next to him.  She was the only one who could convince him right now that he wasn’t a bad man, not really, not deep down inside.
Normally, if she dared raise her head in his memories, he’d shove her away with a whiskey in one hand and a pretty girl in the other.  But tonight it just wasn’t working.  He was too damned tired, tired of life, tired of death, tired of fighting to be something better than he really was just so he wouldn’t be too ashamed the next time he saw her.
Yeah the whole thing begins
And I let you sink into my veins
And I feel the pain like it's new
Everything that we were,
Everything that you said,
Everything that I did and that I couldn't do
Plays through tonight
He could hear her voice in his head, chiding him even as he downed yet another glass of whiskey, trying to burn her out.
“You’re a good man, James Hickok,” she’d say.  “Someday you’ll find the right woman for you.”
He had found her.  But he wasn’t good enough, not to be hers.  Her friend?  Sure.  But nothing more.  As the liquor spread fire through his veins, he remembered the fire in her eyes.  How it had set his own blood ablaze with a longing the likes of which he’d never felt again.
They’d been good together.  They’d been good for each other.  But evidently not good enough.  He’d had his chance, but hadn’t been able to follow through.
“Coward!” he muttered, cursing himself yet again, as he lay his head down on his arm and watched her dance through the half-emptied whiskey bottle on the bar in front of him.
Tonight your memory burns like a fire
With every one it grows higher and higher
And I can't get over it, I just can't put out this love
I just sit in these flames and pray that you'll come back
Close my eyes tightly, hold on and hope that I'm dreaming
He didn’t even have to close his eyes to see her gliding down the stairs in front of him, looking oh, so pretty in that dress.  He felt the punch to his gut as if it were the first time.
With painful determination, he once again rifled through each memory, holding it up to the light, forcing himself to live through it again, hoping that if he let the pain burn bright enough, hot enough it would eventually burn itself out.
Why he kept trying, he didn’t know.  The technique had never worked before.  His love for her was something everlasting, something brighter and purer than anything else in his life.  That’s why he’d let her go.  Hell, that’s why he’d pushed her away.  He wasn’t worthy.
But if he closed his eyes tightly and listened to the sounds of the room around him he could almost hear her there.  So he kept trying, thinking of all the things they’d been through together.  If he tried hard enough, maybe the dream might come true.
I know that you're movin' on
I know I should give you up
The last time he’d seen her, she’d been happy as a clam.  They’d built a beautiful house.  Had a wonderful family, still growing by the evidence of her belly. 
“Who gives this woman away to be wed?”  That question rang in his head over and over again with an echo that turned his stomach to ashes.  Why had he done it?  Because that’s exactly what he’d done.  He’d given her away.  Wed her to another man.
He’d never know what might have been, because he’d never really let her have a choice.  If she didn’t have a choice, then her not choosing him couldn’t hurt as bad.  That’s what he’d told himself when he’d said, “We do.”
But he’d been wrong.  Because not knowing, never knowing if she might have chosen him was killing him, faster than the liquor he drank by the gallon trying to kill her memory.
He knew he should give her up now as he had then.  But he couldn’t.  Not quite.  With a swing of his arm, he reached out and grabbed the bottle of whiskey, now nearly empty, and upended the last dregs into his mouth.
Standing, not quite steadily, he moved over to where the new girl, young, petitte, with short brown hair and big brown eyes, was hosting a game of blackjack.  Holding out his hand, he said, “Come on.  You’ll do.”
She smiled and giggled and followed him up the stairs, her small hand tucked in his much larger one.  All the while he tried to hear another voice from another time and another life.
Close my eyes tightly, hold on and hope that I'm dreaming

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