Kate Can’t Fly

By Henri Colt

“Don’t leave me!”

Kate’s shout stops me at the curb. I look up to see her climb over the railing of our third-floor balcony. She holds on with both hands, toes flexed over the rain gutter, arms fully extended behind her. Long brown hair tumbles onto her breasts when she leans forward. 

I’m crying, but now I’m angry too. “What the fuck are you doing, Kate?” 

“You’re the liar, remember? You promised not to leave!”

This is pure manipulation, like her cutting, and even the kinky sex. I don’t take my eyes off her. “Kate, I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? You’re a joke.” 

There is desperation in her voice, but it’s from desperation that I left. I couldn’t take the insults, the blame, or the walking on eggshells any longer.

I remember the Alprazolam. 

“Did you take anything? Did you take those pills?” 

“Yes, all of them.”

I’m in the street. People around me are watching.

“Stop this foolishness,” I say, “I’ll come back upstairs.” I don’t care that my sense of self-worth is shot. I should walk, but it’s an addictive relationship. 

“You always say I’m foolish.” 

I know the dance. This is just another conversation going around in circles, but Kate’s sleeveless Bodycon mini is high on her thighs. Pretzel-stick legs shine with baby oil and sweat from our recent love-making. She’s not wearing panties.

God, I love this girl, almost as much as I love the craziness of it all. “Get off the ledge, babe.”

She dangles her right foot in the air, mocking me. 

I raise my voice. “I said, get off the balcony. Now!”

As she leans out further, I find her perversely attractive. No matter how often we fight, I’m like a junkie—I can’t break away. 

Her toes never leave the edge as her weight pulls her forward. She hovers, her eyes widen. 

Jesus, no. 

It’s a swan dive. 

Fifty-thousand thoughts rush through our heads every day, but as Kate lingers, mine are for a moment suspended. Her slender outstretched fingers won’t stop the air from moving between them. My shirt ruffles in the sudden breeze, or maybe I’m shivering. Can time reverse itself like a roll from a slow-motion camera? I imagine my girlfriend back on the balcony, but a bone-cracking thud smothers my scream.


Henri Colt is a physician-writer and global nomad whose work is influenced by an intimacy with human suffering and a passion for optimism. He is Professor Emeritus with the University of California and editor of the Picture of Health: Medical Ethics and the Movies.

2 thoughts on “Kate Can’t Fly”

  1. Excellent illustration of the cyclical nature of unhealthy & dysfunctional relationship. The nature of their relationship is far more common than most acknowledge. We should listen closely when friends share. Breaking such a cycle sometimes takes more than the recognition of the dysfunction by one of the participants. Friends & family, however, are key. Thanks for writing this piece.

FewerThan500 authors appreciate your feedback. Please leave a comment.