by Charlie Kelley-Pegg

I went to a party supply store the other day to buy some balloons and
There was a sign on the door
That said they were out of helium
See apparently
There’s this big ass shortage
Because our helium comes from underground
And the U.S. deposits in Texas and such
Are being depleted
Which is scary, sure
But kind of funny when you think about it
The same air that traps balloons
On ceilings of gymnasiums in middle schools
A couple days after Abuela’s funeral
Her friend Estelle and I went hiking
On what used to be
One of her favourite paths
She told me about Abuela’s last days
How immobile she was and everything
Estelle had witnessed all of it
But you know
Most people I talk to them one day, next day they’re dead.
It’s an old age thing.
I asked if she thought Abuela was ever in much pain before she passed
She said there was no real way to tell
But that pain was one of the biggest reasons people are so afraid of death
She continued the tangent by telling me that
A woman in an elderly couple she knew had contracted some
Life terminating illness and she and her husband didn’t want to be apart so
They made a suicide pact
Got the supplies and
Ended their lives by inhaling helium
It’s relatively painless they say
Says Estelle
She switched the subject and
We moved on from the conversation
But I will never forget that.
The thing about this helium shortage is that
Because helium is a very light gas,
It has to be captured quickly,
Or it will float up into space.
I have to wonder if the same is applicable
For the elderly couple with the gas inhalant masks on
Will they stay still in space or
Will they just float away?

back to University & College Poetry Prizes