Rachel O’Neill

As I lay dying in the afternoons
As I lay dying in the afternoons, and then for a short time in the mornings, I took to laughing almost inaudibly to myself. These outbursts were timed with Helios’ chariot. As dusk and dawn clattered overhead certain of my memories stuck fast in his wheels and went round and round. As a boy I stole a bike and pedalled it down the steepest hill in our town. I turned a corner and the earth came at me with a wall. I left hospital with a small something or other carefully wrapped in a nurse’s handkerchief. I took the bone, though I wasn’t sure it was routine. Then there was the girl my own age who latched onto me like a crab and propelled us down the hill of an extinct volcano. Her mother kept her home for a month for soiling her petticoat and by the time she emerged we hardly knew each other. A month or so later I found a boy resting in the shallow water. I liked his ruby stud earring and the way he didn’t say anything when I reached out and touched it. How could my very being, though appearing to be bedridden actually be somersaulting, cartwheeling, whirling on this other level? My visitors thought I was gurgling in a coma, but it was the froth of locomotion.



Almost exactly the love of my life
On slow days at the office I wrote love letters to myself from the woman who was almost exactly the love of my life. In these letters I, or she – well, ‘we’ – wrote of our desire for me as a passionate explorer might. ‘Once you bring back footage of the moon’s farside,’ she said, ‘there’s no telling what miracles it will perform on the diseased parts of our relationship.’ In these letters she promised not to leave me and was happy to put our life on hold for a year or two of probing research. ‘Why jump into the next phase with reckless abandon?’ she wrote one week. ‘Just because we broke into seventy six terrible pieces last time doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try again.’ I came to love the heart and mind that wrote me these messages, overwhelmed at times by their quiet and unobtrusive undercurrent of encouragement. Even now I feel bound to this correspondent as if to a great abiding mystery, such as the inexplicable shifts in our planet’s poles that can push ships onto rocks or that can draw whales as if by leashes onto shore.



By Rachel O'Neill

is a filmmaker, writer and artist based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Aotearoa. Her debut collection is One Human in Height (Hue & Cry Press, 2013). She was awarded a 2018 SEED Grant (NZWG/NZFC) to develop a feature film, and held a 2019 Emerging Writers Residency at the Michael King Writers Centre.