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Emily Slaney

Wish You Were Here

Bliss comes to the park with a cut-off noose around her neck. She slides onto the empty kiddie swing next to mine, smiling crooked teeth and picking at the frayed ends of rope. "You wouldn't believe how long it took me to make this." She pushes herself a few steps back and kicks off into a gentle swing.

I push back and lift my feet, matching her momentum but not her swing. I'm two breaths behind playing catch up. Bliss sails past me. "There were easier knots you know, I could have done a slip knot or a tarbuck knot." She swings her legs back and forth, picking up speed. The noose bounces gently on her chest. "But they didn't look nearly as cool."

"Not quite suicide chic." I arch my back exposing the soft of my neck, lean as far back as I can until everything looks wrong-side-up. My long hair sweeps the floor, my necklace slides up to meet my chin. With every swing the rough asphalt rushes to meet me. The faux promise of a crash impact leaves me breathless.

At her highest peak Bliss releases the swing. Jumps into that free-falling thrill I haven't done since I was a little kid. Her boots kiss tarmac with a soft th-unk.

I drag my pumps along the ground until my swing slows to a stop.

Bliss turns to face me, the cut end of the noose in her fist. She pulls it taught, out to the left and tilts her head right. Back arched, body all awkward angles and broken doll limbs, high fashion and editorial. Pale face, go-fast red lips: "Check it out: train-wreck couture." Behind her the slide glistens in the fading autumn sun.

I slink over to the old metal roundabout, sit feet out in front of me, back against the central pole. Bliss skips over, puts her foot on the segment next to mine, her hands clutch the rail. With her other foot she scoots us around and around. From my bag I pull a small bottle of vodka. Bliss pushes us faster and faster: the amber hue of dead leaves blur into a continuous streak. The noose around her neck swings forwards and back. I pin my eyes to it, a focal point to avoid motion sickness. Thirteen neat coils, I drink the time it takes me to count them.

Bliss lifts her foot off the ground and lets the roundabout coast. Her breath broken, her smile crooked. "Thought you couldn't drink on medication, the body is a temple, and all that shit, right?" She laughs stretching her hand out for the bottle.

I pull the bottle away, squash my eyebrows into a frown. "The body isn't a temple, it's a fucking graveyard." I swallow another mouthful. "Every choice you ever make will haunt you. Every kiss, every scar is just a dead skin memory."

Bliss lifts the noose from around her neck and places it over mine. Her fingers brush cold against my cheek, her hands smell faintly of metal. She prises the vodka from my finger tips in return. "Swapsies."

The noose sits heavy around my neck, the fibres irritate my skin. I slide my fingers over the curve of each coil. Around us the rotating world is slowing down. "When you really think about it we're just a freaky living mausoleum of our past."

Bliss scoots the roundabout some more with her foot. "Yeah, I like that," She clears her throat. "Here lays innocence, dearly departed, taken from us so young."

The trees blur back into their smooth continuous death hues.

I take the vodka from Bliss and drain the last mouthful, "For every rupture of the heart." I pull my arm back and attempt to throw the bottle in the bin that glides past us every rotation. My muscles are out of sync with my brain, my eyes cross trying to focus. The echo of breaking glass seconds behind us as we turn, turn, turn. Eyes closed against the nausea, my fingers trace faded flashes of scar tissue running up my arms: skin Braille.

From above me Bliss drops her voice to deep and booming, empty church loud. "Our sister who art in heaven, hallowed be thy vein."

Opening one eye I look at her, the corner of my mouth twitches into a smile. "You used to be cool, man."

Bliss scoots the roundabout faster than I ever thought possible. "I've never been cool, man."

Lifting her foot back up she grips the rail tight with white knuckle fists, leans as far back as she can, exposing her neck, watching the clouds whirlpool around in the sky above her.

I pull my knees up to my chest. "I stopped taking the pills."

Still watching the heavens, Bliss shrugs. "Figures."

Gripping the hand rails I edge myself up into standing. The wind tangles my hair out behind me. The world spins a multicoloured vortex. I stretch my hand out, palm up for Bliss's. One last jump: a free fall thrill and the kiss of tarmac. "After three."


Bliss slides her fingers into mine, holds tight like she'll never let go. "Dude, you're crazy."


I whatever-bitch raise my eyebrow. "So why are you holding my hand then?"


My fingers close around the ghost of a memory and I jump.

Tarmac rushes to meet me. It tongues the skin off my cheek, a burning caress. My knee caps feel shattered. My palms find the sharp twinkle of shattered glass. Without the noose my neck feels empty, abandoned. Above me the sky is perpetual. I look for Bliss but she's gone.

Close my eyes. Ball my hands into damp fists.


Behind me the soft kiss of boots on tarmac.

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