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Shooter's Island - Erin Swasey

In the winter, we spoke about dogs that could save my life and ghosts in a summer home your soul never truly left.

You knew the world the same way you knew my face the first time you saw it. It had possibilities that you couldn’t quite understand yet and maybe that was good for you at the time. Something beautiful with tattoos and gashes on silky, pale legs. Those girls. They always had a way of captivating you, but you were too smart for that. You were growing tired, though, and of course, just like me, you wanted more.

This vapid city was in the palms of your hands since you were seventeen and when I first saw you walk on that sidewalk you made it new again. Cement still wet, the caution tape unraveling. You didn’t know you were about to engrave our initials for others to gawk at for years to come. I wasn’t any help either. The loves we had, our “once upon a time” flames were simmering out, so naturally we crafted our torches for each other and the fires raged. All because you had a lighter that night.

You’d take a drag of your fifth Marlboro of the hour and I’d nurse a water bottle full of gin under my sweatshirt. There were only so many minutes we had a night before we returned to lives that were strangers to each other.

In the mornings, I’d brew cups of coffee for a living, dressed in a flannel and hungover with missed potential. You’d tend to a beautiful blonde in a tower of success, spinning in your office chair, surrounded by expired K-Cups. They still had the ability to pump a certain restlessness through your veins. Or maybe it was me.

But I was just “the drunk girl with the tits.” That’s what she called me. Her eyes, just like yours, never failed to fall upon me. You never could show her just how much you liked me, so we’d bite our tongues and curl our toes into infinity knots. Hidden in plain sight. Your days with her were mundane and she knew it, too. And much to her dismay; we could all count on me being on that sidewalk.

Beauties always sleep and well, beasts don’t. You’d slyly slink away for “just a quick smoke before bed.” She’d be three Pinots deep into a podcast of pretentiousness, falling into slumber while you make your way to me. I hated cliches, but you were my favorite one.

“Shooter’s Island…I could tell you some shit about that place. It would make your head spin.”

It was already spinning. You flicked the cigarette into the sewer, falling into an endless pit that resembled my stomach. I’ll play Yahtzee with the idea that we should never quit smoking so I can Hallmark our lives into a card of emotional infidelity that’ll last forever.

“Make my head spin then.”

And that was it. I said this with full knowledge knowing that this was it. This would be the moment that the birth of your existential crisis will lead to my happily ever after. I didn’t need to say more. The nervous shuffling of your feet halted and began to dance on my throat. In another life it was your hand caressing my neck that would be rightfully yours.

We’d always talk about where we’d be if this wasn’t what our worlds chose for us. You’d be in a lighthouse, taking breaths you never thought you could take without her, sipping bourbon, neat. I’d be sprawled across a near-by pier chain-smoking, and every shallow breath I’d struggle to take, a scripture would be writing itself onto my body for me to find you.

Just like this.

It could only ever be like this.


Erin Swasey is a Florida native but spends her free time listening to NPR, painting, and drinking obscene amounts of coffee.


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