Neal Suit ~ Up

My best friend, Olivia, was a sar­dine wedged into her father’s base­ment, liv­ing in the space between two pressed palms, cocooned under the ground. Maybe that’s why she always talked about things that go up, up, up. She want­ed to be a pilot, or maybe just fuck one until he let her sit in the cock­pit, pull the stick back until her house became a speck of sand. She want­ed to vis­it the cir­cus to see Marvelous Madame Mondon, the tightrope walk­er. Olivia fan­ta­sized about being sus­pend­ed 100 feet in the air, a tooth-floss cable from death, pirou­et­ting in defi­ance of grav­i­ty. She imag­ined absorb­ing applause that crescen­doed sim­ply because she sur­vived, kept breath­ing, avoid­ed a plague of but­ter­fly frac­tures. Olivia prac­ticed on the street, tip­toe­ing on earth-swal­low­ing asphalt. Her mouth was the shape of a sink­hole, her dress the col­or of the blood moon.

I told her that she should run away with the cir­cus, make a new life frac­tured in a house of mir­rors, curled up in a Volkswagen back­seat on top of six­teen Ronald McDonald shoes. She gig­gled at my sug­ges­tion and high-wired down the street.

Olivia didn’t come home one night, and by the next morn­ing the cir­cus invad­ed her street. They found a scrib­bled note. They told me Olivia drew an out­line of the George Washington Bridge. They called it a cry for help. They dredged the riv­er below the bridge, man and machine scour­ing the depths, pulling up silt, sea­grass, tires, and plas­tic bot­tles.

I know they won’t find Olivia. She’s thou­sands of miles away by now. Eagles don’t soar from dri­ve­ways and cul-de-sacs. They start their ascent from moun­tain­tops, from the George Washington Bridge, because it’s always eas­i­er to let the air lift you high­er, take you fur­ther. Because alti­tudes above don’t mat­ter, only what remains lin­ger­ing beneath.

Olivia’s father now leers at me with pearl-dot eyes and a con­crete grin, the way he used to look at Olivia when he thought I couldn’t see. He smiles like we have a shared secret because we both know Olivia’s left us behind, a paper air­plane tucked and fold­ed into the clouds, dart­ing far, far away. We gath­er in the church for a body­less memo­r­i­al, and I mut­ter over and over under my breath, hop­ing her father can hear me, but not car­ing if he can’t, why did you ever think she belonged to you?

As we sing a hymn, my voice ris­es high­er and high­er, rat­tling the stain glass Jesus into applause.

~

Neal Suit is a recov­er­ing lawyer. He has short sto­ries pub­lished or forth­com­ing in Cleaver, Literally Stories, Five on the Fifth, Bandit Fiction, Blue Lake Review, and (mac)ro(mic), among oth­ers. He can be reached on Twitter @SuitNeal.