At mid day something came over Billy. Something unexpected. A feeling, a feeling like an old memory that suddenly surfaced – a pleasant memory. He dialed a number and listened to the ring.
There was an answer. “Hello.”
“Marti,” Billy said.
“The name is Billy now,” Billy said and went on to explain what happened in Chicago.
“I’m struggling with something and you are the only one I can talk to about it,” Billy said.
“I’m listening,” Marti said understandingly.
“Wilson Gentry and Bill Smith love you,” Billy said, “but Charles Arnold has a wife and two children.”
“It’s whoever you are,” Marti said, “and you’ve been Charles Arnold longer than anyone else.”
“But Charles no longer exists,” Billy said passionately.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Marti said and paused. “When you are done searching that will be the time to talk.”
“Yeah,” Billy said, “I left you once before. I visited a friend right after I got out of the Army. I was coming back and something happened. I just forgot who I was. No, no it’s more complicated than that. I suppose I ran away from who I was and never looked back. It wasn’t intentional. It hand nothing to do with you. What was in my mind was too unbearable.”
“I know,” Marti said. “I believe you. I want you well no matter what the outcome. I don’t have to have you in my life. I’ve done okay till now.”
“Yeah,” Billy said. “Maybe it’s best I get rid of my feelings.”
“That is best,” Marti said. “It’s too late to pick-up now. You will learn to develop feeling for your wife. Charles Arnold is still inside you.”
“But, he’s like an actor,” Billy said. “I think all the time I loved Gayle I thought it was you.”
“You didn’t know I existed,” Marti said, “and lets leave it at that.”
“I’m sorry, Marti,” Billy said, “sometimes things just come over me and I have nowhere to turn.”
“Try turning to your wife,” Marti said.
“I can’t,” Billy said. “I just can’t and I don’t know why.”
There was silence and Billy finally said goodbye and hung up.
Billy began to sing, “By the time I get to Phoenix…” He stopped and said, “Hell I ain’t even gonna go near Phoenix.”