J. A. Dailey
My dearest Daisy,
Ah, from this window I can see my mistakes clearly. Mountains and hills in the distance. There’s one hill, emerald green and washed in sunlight. It’s in the far, far past—the greener because the land from my feet to it is colorless, unfocused, and from that hill stretching outward to the horizon is faded and hazy. It’s as though the only little bit of my life worth living was lived up on that hill. You don’t know what I’ve done to try to get back. That hill, low and broad, a large open field at its top. It is the hill I walked with you, Daisy. The hill I return to each night.
I write to you every evening and sleep just to dream of you, but this is my last letter and my last dream. Tomorrow, by the grace of God, we’ll be reunited at long last, my love. Since I left you on that hill, my days have been an all-consuming effort to return. I’ve traveled across this land and slept on roadsides and in bunkhouses when I could find work, in railroad cars and Daisy, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve spent a few nights in jail cells, but each night when I close my eyes, I open them again and I’m on that hill. I turn, and you’re there. Your store bought is dress white with yellow flowers, your hair is golden and curled. You smile a smile that flashes in your opal eyes. The field around us is full of flowers, and the sun shines where you walk, and a breeze cools the air and scents it with magnolia. To walk with you is to walk in the light of you. For a while that summer I walked in your light and became a better man for it.
I’m sorry I hurt you my Daisy. If I could go back, I would. If I could make it up to you somehow, I would, and believe me, I have tried to atone. I guess it was autumn coming on and I felt your light would dim and your love would cool. I couldn’t imagine a light that could continue to burn bright when the sun itself turned weary and the days grew short.
In my dreams, I try to stop just before our fight. If I could freeze time, there as we sat under the shade of the magnolia, everything would be all right. It was when you stood and said how them ranchers doted on you in town. I know now you were teasing me, trying to rile the jealousy that ladies like to see, but hadn’t I told you I couldn’t bear to think of you with another man? I could only be true to you. It was anger borne of desperate love and rage born of the fear you’d seen me for what I was, not as the man reflected in the light of your love and the mirror of your eyes. I held your hand, tiny, soft and warm in my large callused one. Your voice was laughter and music to me. How could you, even joking, question my love? I wanted that day to last. I tried to hold on, and I held your hand too tight. You were right to pull away, but I couldn’t see it then. I just wanted to wrap my arms around you and hold you to me. Tight enough to pull you into me forever. I’m sorry I held on too hard. I didn’t mean to make you holler. I just wanted you to stop playing mean and talk sweetly with laughter and music like you did. I didn’t want to hold your throat like that Daisy. I didn’t mean to squeeze. I cried for you when you lay there.
I buried you on that hill my Daisy. A stone cairn for a tomb and I covered it with flowers, and I lay there and wept. I cut a cross from Long Leaf Pine and marked your grave with it. Each night I hope I can stop before that moment. I hope I can tonight.
I hate myself for what I did to you Daisy, but I tried to make it right. I took the little bible you carried, and read it through. I studied on how God Almighty made a sacrifice of his son Jesus so we could atone for our sins. I made my own sacrifices to try to atone.
I’m fixing to finish this letter and burn it like I’ve burnt the hundreds of letters I’ve written. Tonight, again I’ll sleep, in a cell regrettably, but when I sleep I’ll be with you. In the morning I’ll hang on account of my atonement. They found the other crosses I left, eighteen of them anyhow. Just like sweet Jesus was sacrificed for our sins, those sweet women were sacrificed for mine. I’m not scared of the rope Daisy. I feel sure in death I will be back on that hill, with you forever, and I’ll be better.
I will love you always,
J. A. Dailey lives in coastal North Carolina. He has an MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Consequence Magazine, The Bitter Southerner, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and others.