And yea, in the presence of my enemies, I faltered. In the heat of combat, faced with possible victory, my hand shuddered and my stomach tied a knot into itself. Not because I was afraid; not because I thought I would lose. But because, in slaying the other man, I signed my own death warrant as a hero. Because, should my opponent fall, it would only be a matter of time before I was the antagonist.
My fear would be realized. I am become Death.
So I stayed my hand, and lost the battle, lost the woman, lost the war. In turn, I saved a man, and let him cut my own throat.
I like to tell myself it was for the best.
I still remember the feeling of her lips, the curve of her neck. Her eyes. Blue, bright. Full of fire and light. I remember trying to drown her memory in whiskey and beer. I remember trying to burn her memory away with gasoline and tobacco. I remember the smell of the lubricant on the .357 in my mouth.
I remember everything. I will take it to the grave with me. But I will live a long, long life before I go to that grave. I will be dragged to that grave, kicking and howling like the Black Dog taught me.
The wound still aches. A heartache cannot be forgotten until someone has the kindness to warm your soul again. I’m not afraid, though. A death alone would be poetic, and familiar. A death with loved ones left behind would be poetic as well. I carry no regret; I saved a man from losing his daughter. I may have died, but for a greater good that I put at risk.
So I’m happy. Or so I tell myself.