bioStories Blog is an extension of the online magazine bioStories: Essays from the magazine, news, updates on contributors, and other features appear here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Swim Away, Little Ghost

by Dawn Corrigan
I know as little about the nature of romantic love
as I knew when I was eighteen, but I do know about
the deep pleasure of continuing interest, the
excitement of wanting to know what somebody else
thinks, will do, will not do, the tricks played and
unplayed, the short cord that the years make into rope …
—Lillian Hellman on Dashiel Hammett

Sundin Richards, a Utah poet, committed suicide on June 19, 2015. He was forty-two years old.
I knew a different Sundin than everyone else did. I know how that sounds, but I persist in believing it’s true.
When Sundin was around other people—even at his most sober and self-deprecating and charming—there was always some discomfort and anxiety that, more often than not, manifested as hostility. Even in those lucky moments when it was only a trickle, the hostility remained.
When we were alone, though, he was different. Oh, not always. Sometimes, when he wasn’t feeling well, I got the same sardonic jerk everyone else did. But when he was relaxed and comfortable, it was a different story.
That’s why I was able to be patient with friends and family when, in the aftermath of our breakup, they would say things like, “I never really got you and Sundin.”

After Sundin asked me to move out, people let me know what they thought of him by telling me I’d find somebody else, which ultimately turned out to be true, of course, but at the time I found it jarring. “Maybe you’ll meet somebody else, who knows?” my grandmother said, a startling betrayal, since she’d always professed to like Sundin and in fact had carried out an outrageous phone flirtation with him throughout the four years we lived together.
Dawn Corrigan and Sundin Richards
Relationships always involve a private component and a public one. For some of us, the public component is more important; for others the private is paramount.
I have no interest in a public life. Or maybe what I mean is, I’m perfectly fine carrying out my public life on my own. When it comes to relationships, I care about what happens at home.
Sundin knew how to spackle.
When, near the end of our time together, I bought a 1968 Chrysler New Yorker—my early mid-life-crisis car—and on the third day it rained and I couldn’t get it started, and I went inside and cried, Sundin went out to the car and started it right up.

When Sundin and I met in 1998, he’d been devastated by life. Frequently, in those early days, after a bunch of beers he’d become weepy. He’d cover his head with the thin white blanket I kept on the bed, so he looked like a Halloween ghost.
“Little Ghost,” I’d say, “why don’t you come out and tell me about it.”
When we slept, he’d wrap his limbs around me and cling like a drowning man. I’d never had anyone hold me so tightly. It was easy to envision that he really was drowning, and I was swimming him to shore.
I have to admit, I liked it. I liked being needed so much. But of course my goal, right at the outset, was to make Sundin stronger, so that later, when he was, when he swam away, what right did I have to complain?

Dawn Corrigan has published poems and prose in a number of print and online journals. Her debut novel, Mitigating Circumstances, an environmental mystery, was published by Five Star/Cengage in January 2014. Currently, she's working on a family saga set in southern Italy, Hell's Kitchen, and South Jersey. She lives in Gulf Breeze, FL.


  1. A beautiful distillation. These little crystals of memory that stay at the bottom of the glass. You've turned the thing beautifully, and they catch the light.