Johnny snorted out loud and rolled his eyes. It was the middle of the day and he was ensconced in the back of his favorite dive bar. Just himself, a booth and a beer to keep him company. Across the room the object of his derision desperately tried to convince the waitress to pass along her telephone number.
Dressed in painter’s clothing in dire need of a shave and a haircut the guy continued to plead his case. A short time earlier he had followed Johnny into the men’s room and babbled something about being the ultimate ladies man.
Johnny appreciated bravado but had heard far too many stories from men about their exploits and experiences with women. It wasn’t particularly interesting to him. Nor was he interested in hearing suggestions about the best place to get a lap dance either. Johnny didn’t like strip clubs.
It wasn’t because he didn’t like women or had some moral objection to it.Â The way he saw it as long as the women who worked there were doing so because they had a choice there was no problem with it. His real issue was that he didn’t see a need to pay to be teased by a woman who didn’t care about him. What was the point.
So he couldn’t help but laugh a bit watching the little dutch boy flail around wildly trying to get her attention. If nothing else it helped distract him from his own problems with women.
It had been months since he and June had a real conversation about anything of substance and longer since he had seen her. Some of that was by choice and some by circumstance.
At first it had been exceptionally difficult to stay away. Each day had been long, but he forced himself to keep walking. Every step away from her was one step closer to not missing her or so he told himself. For a while it worked and he wondered what that meant, if anything.
How could two people who had been so close and so very in love just fade away. It made him question it all and he began to wonder if maybe he had fooled himself. Maybe it hadn’t been what he had thought it was.
But life has a way of keeping people off balance and forcing them to reevaluate things. One morning he woke up and read a story about a terror attack that had been thwarted. The target was walking distance from June’s home.
It stopped him in his tracks. Walking distance from June. Had it been successful she might have been a victim. It was chilling. For a moment he stared in the wall and thought about it. It was one thing not to be with June, but another not to because she was gone.
And that was when Johnny realized that the feelings had never really disappeared. He had just buried them because it was easier that way. The flames hadn’t been quenched, they were just turned down.
The news and realization made him angry, frustrated and scared. Scared because he realized that he couldn’t imagine life without June. He didn’t really know what that meant, but it was enough to fuel the anger and frustration that followed.
Anger with the man who had tried to do this. Johnny remembered telling June that he would always be her hero. Whenever she needed him he would be there, her knight, her champion. He remembered blushing deeply as he said it. It has sounded so silly and so melodramatic. She smiled at him and kissed him.
That was part of what made him fall so deeply in love with her, she accepted him for who he was.
Back in the present Johnny realized that his jaw and fists ached from being clenched. He hadn’t had any contact with June in quite some time, but he knew that he had to reach out to her now. It didn’t matter whether she wanted the contact or not, call him selfish, he knew that he couldn’t rest until he did.
So he sent her a short note and she sent him one in kind. They went back and forth making a bit of small talk until he couldn’t restrain himself any longer and told her how relieved he was. He wanted to remind her of that day when he had promised to be her hero. He wanted to say it so that she would feel safe and remember that what was could be again and that was it.
But he couldn’t quite bring himself to that place. He wasn’t ready to be that vulnerable with her again. And besides his gut told him that she knew. And really knowing that she knew was enough. For now he had plenty of other responsibilities and things to take care of. For now he’d keep doing what it was that he had to do.
Still, there was more than one night where he stood under a moonlit sky and whispered into the wind the things that he wished for. Sometimes while he stood there staring upwards at the sky he thought that he could hear her whisper back.
It might not have been anything more than his imagination, but it made him smile. Maybe those nights long ago where they talked about how one kiss could change everything were out there waiting. He didn’t know for certain. He just knew that sometimes heroes fail and sometimes they succeed, only time would tell.