My two best friends were swinging side by side, slightly out of unison. It will be my turn soon, they assure me and I shrug as if I couldn’t care less. I’d locked my arms around the playground poles and was in the process of looping my body around in circles, pretending to make my own kind of fun, my hands smelling of dust and metal. Earlier, we had skipped to the park singing Listen to Your Heart, agreeing that Marie was really pretty – even with short hair – debating whether she and Per were “together” together or just “band” together. T had her theories. She said that she read in a magazine that they used to be an item but now they were too famous and that they had chosen fame over romance. She just knew Per was secretly in love with Marie, based on the songs that he penned – and had we even listened to the words to It Must Have Been Love? We argue how to pronounce Per’s name in Swedish. T is insistent. She is confident and sophisticated in her pronunciation and I stop questioning her. By the time they jump off, there is no time for me to swing.
I watch this memory like a time-traveller. I want to gently tell my eleven-year-old self that she would always be the third wheel and to not let it bother her so much and also that she should let her friends go to the shops without her, so she could swing for hours uninterrupted. I want to tell her that T was wrong, it wasn’t pronounced “Pierre” and that even though it felt unfair that T’s parents were letting her skip primary school graduation to go to the Roxette concert, that she would finally get her chance twenty years later. Marie would have been battling cancer for ten years by that time, refusing to cancel even when she barely felt up to it. Per would do all of the heavy lifting on stage – always watching her with barely-disguised concern. She would sit for most of the numbers, and let him take the lead. Brisbane audiences would slam Marie’s lacklustre performance but she would feel nothing but gratitude and awe for witnessing such resilience and bravery.
I want to add that she will look at T’s empty seat beside her – that they both will try to be friends as adults, but in reality they are completely different people and she will finally accept that.
Finally I want to tell her that Marie would die on her husband’s 39th birthday and that she will be late for work because she played their music and it spun in her head on repeat, taking the world as she knew it down, down with her.