“She won’t wake up,” the neighbor’s roommate said. We left our breakfast on the table, our separate newspaper sections spread open. In the neighbor’s apartment, my boyfriend took our phone to the bedroom as the 911 dispatcher gave instructions. The room was dim. I remember flashes. The slick material of her sweats. Her flesh stained dark along the side she lay on. My boyfriend worked to revive her, but the fading phone reception forced him to leave the room. “Is she cold?” he called to me. I touched the strip of skin above her sock.

When the police detective came, the neighbor’s relatives gathered in our apartment. “She never showed up for her birthday party last night,” they told him. 25 years old.

The detective said she suffocated while inhaling the helium from a bouquet of birthday balloons. She put her head in a garbage bag and snipped the latex with a little pair of scissors. “She was probably trying to get high,” he said.

Afterward, my boyfriend and I stood in the new quiet of our apartment, unsure how to look at each other. The coffee and newspapers on the table seemed like things left in an abandoned house. She wasn’t getting high, I thought. There’s only one reason to put a garbage bag over your head. I didn’t say it to my boyfriend, though. He seemed very far away, the air between us numb and thick. A wind blew in my ears. My fingers remembered the heavy, lifeless leg. I never felt anything so cold.

Ann Hillesland’s fiction has been published or is forthcoming in literary journals including Open City, North Dakota Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, Bellowing Ark, Going Down Swinging, The MacGuffin, and Red Wheelbarrow. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Queen’s University of Charlotte.