I learned a long time ago that I couldn’t save you. It wasn’t until much more recently that I realized I really didn’t want to. For so many years, I spent my nights coming to your rescue and rushing to your side, only to be a moment too late to prevent some self-inflicted tragedy. I did everything I could to protect you, and yet somehow, all your problems were my fault. Things I could not control become my responsibility, and things I could not influence became my shame. Yet I never stopped trying to be your champion. You beat me down and pushed me away, but every time I heard the call, I responded.
When I was younger, I had such hope for you; hope that you could change, hope that you could be better, and hope that you would make everything I did worth it. Unfortunately, my hopes in you were unfounded. From the day I found you, you have only ever gotten worse; darker, crueler, more distant. For a while, I still believed I could bring you back. In time, however, I realized that wasn’t my job. My responsibility is simply to be there when you call; nothing more, nothing less. I am not your guardian or your hero. I am simply your fighter; I fight your battles with you. More often than not, that meant that I lost your battles alongside you, but regardless of the outcome, I knew I had done my duties.
There were times I felt that everything I did for you was in vain, and that nothing mattered. In my youthful naivety, I assumed my fulfillment was based on your progress and success. It took quite a bit of time, but I finally came to understand that what I did mattered, and it had nothing to do with you. What made my vigilance worthwhile was not your response or your improvement (or lack thereof.) My actions were important because of the effect they had on me; by trying to help you be better, I became better. I improved, and that was something to be proud of.
At some point, I did come to bemoan my duties. Not that they were duties, really. Self-imposed responsibilities maybe; no one required anything of me. Still, it was something I couldn’t ignore; I couldn’t sit back and let you go to hell in a handbasket without putting up a fight. I hated that fact more than anything: I wanted to throw in the towel and let you have your way, but the man I’d become wouldn’t let me give up on you. So I continued on, despite your tanking morality and increasing disdain for me.
Here we are today. I can finally let go. You are no longer my responsibility. As I stare at the still-smoking .45 aimed at me, feeling each of the holes in my chest it has caused, I smile. Even though you continue to sink into darkness, I know you would be much worse off if I hadn’t been here. I love this city; I always have, but it’s someone else’s turn to fight corruption and oppose evil men in my stead. My part in this uphill battle is over. Perhaps someone else can make a difference, and can make you change your ways.
I sink to my knees, feeling the life slowly creep from my body. I reach up and take off my mask. It’s over; my time has come. I suppose it always had to end this way. As long as I had breath in my lungs, I wouldn’t have given up my cause. There was no retiring from this for me. I close my eyes, take a final breath of the stale downtown air. I’m going to miss this. I look up at my assailant and grin. I hear a click…another click…and now, I can finally rest.