I Can See the City Beneath Me...

March 19, 2008
By Valentina Zarya, BROOKLYN, NY

I can see the city beneath me, steel and gray and miniature. There aren’t any streetlights on yet because it’s only about five in the afternoon, but you’d think it was nighttime. It’s the darkest it’ll ever get in this city.
“I’ll jump if you do,” I say to Sam as I take a step closer to the edge.
“What?” he looks at me, and I try to imagine what he’s thinking. He’s probably trying to process what I just said and decide if I’m kidding or not. He’s probably analyzing the scene in front of him: the girl he thinks he loves is standing at the edge of the roof of his apartment building, ready to jump. Poor kid, he must be so confused.
“Are you serious?” he asks, and takes a hesitant step toward me.
“What if I am? Would you do it?” I knew he would if I really wanted him to. “Come on, there’s no point to life anyway…and if I jump, you’ll be stuck by yourself.” I can’t help adding this last bit. I know he hates being by himself.
“You’re crazy.”
“I know I am. But would you do it?”
“Come on, how cool would it be to just jump? We can hold hands and count to three and then—splat!—it’ll be over in a second.”

“My parents would be upset.”

“So what? You’ll be dead, so it’s not like they can ground you.”

Sam is at a loss for words. He’s probably considering the pros and cons of the situation. Pro: He won’t have to watch me die. Con: He’ll die. Pro: He won’t have to grow up. Con: He won’t get to grow up.

“Sam.” I really need to stop doing things like this to him. He’s not a bad kid.


“I’m kidding.”

“I know!” Sam looks relieved. Another decision he doesn’t have to make.

“Let’s go get pizza.” Another decision I make for him.

The street below us is lit now, and I can see our reflections in a store window on the opposite side of the avenue. Sam’s tall. Too tall to be comfortable when he kisses me. He has to bend his neck and his knees. It’s such a hassle to kiss me that he doesn’t really do it much anymore and I’m okay with it—I don’t like kissing anyway. I find it dull.
There’s nothing wrong with the way Sam kisses, I just never really liked it. It’s supposed to be this incredible life-changing thing, kissing. You’re supposed to get lost in the kiss; the world around you should melt away; nothing is supposed to matter besides you and the person you’re kissing.
I’ve never had a kiss like that.
I lead Sam through a door with a sign on the other side of it that that says “No Persons Allowed on Roof.” I’ve seen this sign so many times that I don’t feel any sort of thrill when we come up here. It’s not an adventure anymore and picking the lock is too easy to provide any sort of satisfaction.

We head down the stairs. There are twenty-six floors. There’s an elevator in the building but there’s nothing interesting about elevators. They were invented for people that are old or handicapped and since I’m neither of those things, I prefer to take the stairs. Sam says he doesn’t have a preference, but I know he’d much rather take the elevator. He has asthma and sometimes I feel a little guilty for making him climb stairs all the time, but then again it’s probably good for him.

The doorman says “good afternoon” to us when we finally get down to the lobby. We say something along the same lines and wait for him to open the door. The cold is a shock. I’m still panting from running down twenty-six flights of stairs, and the second I take a breath of the outside air, I’m paralyzed. My lungs scream in pain and threaten to quit on me. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t like working for me either. Sam has on one of those ski masks that make him look like a bank robber, so he’s doing okay.
Sam’s always doing okay. He’s so damn sensible it makes me sick sometimes. I can do anything I want to him and he’ll be okay. I can say, “Sam, I don’t love you,” and he’ll shrug and say, “What does that have to do with anything?” as if I’m just being a nuisance.
It’s true. I don’t love him. But he loves me and he’s a good kid so we go on his roof every day after school and sit and talk about what life would be like if we weren’t ourselves. I tell him I love him too and I’m pretty sure he believes me.
We walk down the block to Peni’s Pizzeria. I get sad every time I see the sign. I wish someone told poor old Peni that adding an “s” to the end of his name would be bad for business. I tell this to Sam and he shrugs and says that he never noticed and that he’s pretty sure no one else does either. I want to tell him that not everyone is as oblivious as him, but I decide not to. Sam sits down at one of the many empty booths, and I order for both of us. I slide into the seat across from him and he asks: “Did you really want to jump?” I don’t really know how to answer, so I shrug. He can interpret that any way he wants to.
I want to laugh. How do I answer that? Because I couldn’t think of anything better to do? Because I wanted to see how you would react, if you would react?
I shrug.
“You should see a doctor or something.”
“You mean a shrink?”
“I guess.”
Sam’s not the first person to think I’m crazy. He won’t be the last either. I’m not though, I know I’m not. The only mental illness I suffer from is boredom, and they haven’t made a pill for that yet.

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