by Katie Collins
“How do you want to die?”
He asked it suddenly, thumbing the pages of a forgotten book in his lap.
Fairy lights draped incandescent around the saguaro. Winter in Arizona.
“I guess I would want it to be quick,” she said. “What about you?”
He leaned over, grabbed her hand, laced his fingers through hers, squeezed.
“Anything but drowning,” he exhaled. “You know I can’t swim.”
The pool water breathed. A bee circled lazily on its edge, dipping one leg in, two, a wing.
The rest happened all at once: four more legs, a second wing, thorax, head.
She could have used the skimmer. The bee only needed a platform.
It didn’t struggle long.
He took her to Caruso’s for dinner after Christmas.
The restaurant only seated forty and had Italian-import marinara sauce.
The waiter brought out the dessert cannolis and two forks, cleared their dinner plates.
She stuck one candle in each, a 2 and a 4.
She always thought 24 months sounded more serious than two years.
He laughed and blew out the candles. “Happy anniversary.”
She found him outside that summer, hung on a velvet mesquite.
The branches were sturdy, hardly splintered under his weight.
The saguaros loomed stark against amethyst mountains.
He hadn’t picked a high enough branch.
She looked up what happens to a body hung without its neck breaking.
Carotid artery closes, capillaries burst.
Oxygen isn’t cut off fully for almost ten minutes, hanging.
How long does a minute feel while you’re dying?
She hadn’t seen him in six months.
At the funeral she spoke about the time he’d thrown up on their jet ski ride in Puerto Peñasco.
His mother planted cactuses in November.
In spring they bloomed bruised magenta.
This piece originally appeared in the Spring 2018 Issue. Photography by Lauren Koumelis.