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As I sit on my high perch way above everyone else, I close my eyes and listen to the quiet. I rest there, organizing my thoughts, when a car horn pulls me back to reality. I lean a tiny bit forward, clutching the ledge behind me, and look down. Yep, still a few hundred feet, give or take a hundred. I pull back. It’s only a matter of time before someone calls the cops and I have to get down, and I don’t want to miss one moment of being up here. I look at the expanse of buildings before me. It’s around sunset, so some buildings have lights on and others don’t. I relax again, drifting off partially but staying conscious enough to not fall off.
The sound of wailing sirens breaks my rest again. That’s the bad part of being in a city: too obnoxiously noisy. I wonder how long I have been up here. It can be difficult to keep track of time, even without half-sleeping. I look down to see what the problem is. I see police cars, fire engines, and ambulances. Oh, I guess I’m the problem. Seems like there are more cop cars and less fire trucks than usual.
A voice comes up over a megaphone. “This is the police. Please remain calm. Step away from the edge and stay on the rooftop.”
I take a deep breath and, yelling almost as loud as I possibly can, “You know, you’re disturbing the peace! I was just getting comfortable. Frankly, it’s hard to stay calm with your sirens and yelling at me. So, you… yeah, you, with the megaphone, why don’t you take a seat up here and we can talk face to face.” All the people on the street look at each other for a moment, and then the man with the megaphone gives the megaphone to someone else and starts for the building I’m on. I patiently wait a minute, and eventually the man arrives, a little caution showing on his face.
“Hi there,” he says. “So you’re the one everyone keeps calling 911 about.”
“Yeah, here I am. In the flesh,” I say. He stands around a little awkwardly and I say, “Oh, how rude of me, please, do take a seat, no need to be shy.” He carefully walks over, sitting down next to me.
“What’s your name, boy?” he asks after a few moments of silence.
I take a deep breath and say, “I don’t see how that could matter. I’m probably just another number to you, a statistic. One more victory for you. Perhaps another step closer to a promotion. A raise or a bonus. Climb up a step in the police hierarchy. After maybe a few months you’ll forget me and everything that happened here today. Sooner or later you’re promoted out of here and you don’t have to deal with this stuff anymore. Eventually, not even the file of this account will remind you of me. After all, I’m just a speck in all of the U.S., in all of the world. Not very memorable, huh? However, you might remember the kid whose name was unknown that you still remember whenever you look out at the city scape.”
“You didn’t answer the question.”
“I suppose so.”
“So, that was basically a long-winded version of ‘no?’”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“And you thought up all of that by yourself?”
“Damn. Kids these days,” he says to himself, but I can still overhear him.
“Yeah, I know, kids these days,” I reply, mocking his voice. “With the internet, and the loud noises, and the smartness and the Facetube, and the YouBook….”
“Are we going to be up here a while?” he asks.
“Most likely, yeah.”?
He sighs, lights a cigarette, and asks,” So if you’re not going to give me your name will you at least give me your age?”
“Are you serious?”
“Come on kid,” he says, overly exasperated. “You don’t look old and you don’t look young.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. Your first guess was close.”
“There we are!” I say, leaning back and looking up at the stars. “Good show.”
“So now you’re British?”
“You got that right, mate. We’re all a little British on the inside.”
“I guess. Probably for the most part Caucasian people.”
“Good point.” He puffs another bit of smoke at me. “You know smoking’s bad your your health, right? Asthma, lung cancer, throat cancer, heart failure, stroke, all those great things.”
“Well, I was born with asthma, my pills help break up plaque and promote heart health, and I’ve already survived cancer.”
“I don’t think the pills will really help you all that much, but to the cancer, congratulations! What kind?”
“Hmm. Well, I think you can get cancer at the same place multiple times”
“Yeah, yeah yeah. But I have experience in surviving it, so I’m sorta prepared for it.”
“But wouldn’t you just rather not have cancer again in the first place?”
“Touché. I suppose.” We look out at the city in front of us. “You know, I’m not going to get promoted out of here any time soon.”
“Really? How come?”
“I’m the new guy.”
“Yeah, what happened to the last guy who used to talk with me up here?”
“Transferred to somewhere in the mid-west.”
“That so?” I say with a grin. We pause, waiting for the other to say something.
“You know that you can’t stay up here forever, right?”?
“I know, potty breaks.”
“No, I mean you’re going to have to leave the rooftop pretty much permanently.”
“Awww. But it’s so nice up here! Plus, doesn’t it feel good to talk to someone?”
“Yes, but not on top of a building.”
“It just takes some getting used to.”
“I guess. So why do you come up here anyway?”
“I dunno. I suppose because it’s so peaceful up here. Tranquil really.”
“Yeah, I’ll give you that.”
“I mean, just look,” I say, gazing out. “It’s like that feeling from when you first see the city and you’re like, ‘Holy crap, that’s the best freaking thing ever!’ but every single time you come up here it’s renewed again.”
Just as I’m getting into the mood, my roof-mate’s radio crackles into life. A staticky voice comes over, saying, “Sir, are you okay? Is the subject submissive or hostile? Do you need backup? ….sir? Hello?”
Clearly annoyed, the owner of the radio retorts, “Yeah you dumbasses, the situation’s normal. Don’t call again or you’re going to annoy him!” He looks at me to verify and I nod in agreement. “If I start screaming in terror, get up here. Otherwise, DO NOT CONTACT AGAIN.”
Amused by his attitude, I ask, “May I?” gesturing toward the radio.
“Go ahead.” I take the radio and throw it as hard as I can in the direction of the other side of the street. “It would really suck if that thing hit someone,” he points out.
“Hmmm. I didn’t think of that.” I slowly look out. No one from the ambulance unit has moved an inch. “Nope, seems to be alright. No mayhem, no cries of agony. That’s always good.”
“Okay. Hey, check out the sunset.”
“The great thing about the sunset is that no matter how many times you see it it’s still really stunning.” After a few minutes of reveling in the sun’s beauty, I say, “This has been actually kinda fun. An interesting experience at least. Best so far.”
“Yeah. I guess that means you’re ready to come down?” he responds.
“I suppose. For today at least. Doesn’t it feel great to get this off your chest?”
“Yep. Sort of a refreshing feeling. An experience you couldn’t really get normally. But in a good way.” He waits for a moment, smiles, and says, “You know, I half expected you to jump off in the beginning. But I can see now that that was probably the last thing on your mind.”
“Alright, they’re waiting down on the street.”
“Okay, let’s go.” As we start to head down I say, “Doesn’t it feel really funny to be going to meet the others… from a rooftop?”
“Yes, yes it does.”