Pistols At Dawn

by Charlotte E. Wilde

The more I looked the more they seemed like love gone lorn; mirror images, backs turned, pistols at dawn.

I woke up sweat-soaked with a jolt and a mouthful of clichés at 3:32AM along with the full realization that in terms of sleep my cup runneth empty… and the secondary half-realization that so did my bed.

My most recent recurring mistake having seen fit to remove himself from morning-after-awkwardness struck me as a rather wondrous gift, but one I was in no mindset to fully enjoy. Last night, before giving into texted delusions, I’d turned bath water hot enough to scald in hopes of sweating out this jealousy like a sickness. An idea that ran fruitless in many ways but after this, impromptu sweat-bath number two, I would undoubtedly need more than a shower to revive me and wash you off, even though it wasn’t you who hovered on my skin. My ‘fever-dreams’ you call them, and as a snarl of cold air warned my shaking limbs not to stir, I knew you must be right. At 3AM my mind is less my own than ever; if bath one was purification this must be my purgatory. Yet, my thoughts began to quiet as memories sang soothing of how you’d held me steady, still in your arms, last time life found me bent in this direction. Reminiscence runs deep enough to dive but stolen time allotted to recollection is cheapened by my pillow having so thoughtlessly bartered your smell for the imprint of this stranger’s cheek.

I’ve tried time and again to sweep these feelings into something resembling a manageable pile, something I could dust-pan and throw away. At some point in the spiral of loneliness you find yourself so raving mad at the lament-worthy mental state of affairs that the only foreseeable recourse is to seize feelings by the hair and throw them out, issue a writ of death, challenge a duel. Yet, anger aside, if minds and bodies held like hands were any indication, I knew that once yours had wanted to find itself in mine, not hers. That, in the end, is somewhat of a solace… but lobes of both kinds have a way of knowing when they are no longer of any interest to anyone but the self. It’s a 6th sense, I suppose, reconcilable only in the feel of another’s skin: ‘it takes one to get over one,’ as the old college proverb says. And sure, sorority-girl aphorisms are useless when held up to the light but that never stopped hasty vending-machine decisions before, so why would this be any different? Fortunately for all hair-twirling-would-be-profits most poor decisions are made under the veil of night.

Words. They’re are such a handicap to me these days. They’ve become slippery and intangible, worthless. Blame it on inflation, perhaps, but given the time and inclination I’ve the uncanny ability to chip away at letters and re-arrange. The trouble with words is they can be strung up in any order to say whatever fits the moment or sigh, often sliding out of mouths or onto paper before we ourselves have even taken the chance to establish their merit (or lack thereof)— freed to the night without a collar or a by-your-leave-farewell. While actions can only hold to a lie for so long words are infinite in their ability to falsify. The sheer quantity of half-truths whispered to the dark equalizes the terrain to some degree, but momentary rejections of our own niggling doubt make them no more valid in the long run. Eventually sweetly divulged projects devolve to cheaply tensioned sexuality, green light’s false-alerts shine as pretend-offline, and inbox pings digress to dull thuds…

My bedroom door swinging open hit me with the rudeness of a smack, wrenching the stark realization that for once my alone was all in my head. One hot wave of annoyance concluded that the only forseeable reaction was to throw him out, so naturally I turned over with a fake mumble and feigned sleep instead. Willing my breathing still, I heard the clink of a water glass on a nightstand and felt a pang of jealousy at the whine and sigh issued from the mattress, a protest standing in for the one I didn’t have the courage to make. Still, as he pulled me into his arms my fevered thoughts stuttered; imagination, as always, afforded amazing potential. Eyes shut wide I realized the arms around me were warm enough to be yours… and like a soothsayer’s holy-water premonition my pillow too remembered your smell.