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We start fires in the strangest of places. You see, we need warmth even when we’re burning up in the atmosphere. I can’t explain it. Maybe they can, but I can’t. But I’m not here to explain. I’m here to tell. I tag along on their adventures so that I can narrate the happenings as they occur. I do what they can’t. So this is the story of one Friday night, the fires we started, the boys we didn’t kiss, and the secrets we fostered. It doesn’t all make sense. I suppose the point of life isn’t to make sense, it’s to tell the story as it happens.
I wake up in a bed that’s not my own. Groggy and sloppy with sleep I rub my eyes, welcoming in a new day. I gather myself as I slump out from under the covers. There isn’t much to say about the room. White walls, white sheets, grey clothes around the room. Our dwellings aren’t really the most important parts of us. So I don’t spend much time searching for something to find.
She’s in the bathroom. I walk across the hall, carpet cushioning my footfalls. She stands in hot pink underwear and a band t-shirt scattered with holes. She’s brushing her teeth. She doesn’t notice me watching her. Her short legs hold the thunder of her step. She is a monster beneath all that beauty. I turn around and reenter the blank room. I rummage through the floor, picking up bits of myself along the way. I dress and I’m ready. 4:00. We wake when we need to and sleep when there’s nothing left for us to destroy.
As I am readying myself she struts back into the room. We exchange genuine smiles. We chat about plans and ideas for the evening. Sinister banter one could call it. She informs me we are to be meeting up with the whole group as she searches through drawers for clothes to shield her body from the winter night we are about to disappear into.
We put the finishing touches on our items to carry. Lighters are pushed into pockets and the drugs are taken from their hiding places. Hair is secured within hats and gloves are packed away for good measure. We are ready.
The car is a block of ice. Our bodies defrost the leather seats as we smoothly roll down and out of her driveway. Over the curves and twists and kinks of the road our thumbs press keys that solidify our direction. We talk to each other only of what will come of tonight; of rooftops and cigarettes, of fires and of snow.
I guess I go along with these people to make my weekends a tad more interesting. I try to stop doing these things but the allure draws me back again and again. I tire of the constant uncertainty. But tonight it stops. On the drive to her house yesterday night, I amended that I would either find meaning in this seemingly meaningless nest of overly intelligent yet overtly bored children or pretend it was a dream, a possibility but never an actual occurrence. We are on the brink of adulthood. So, I decide tonight the path I want to take. I either linger in this smoldering ember of a town or I find something more fitting.
Hey, we’re here. The car pulls delicately into the parking lot. I look around and realize how far we had gone since we left. The quiet suburbia wasteland seems to have dissolved into the skyline and now we are encircled by cold, grey buildings. The city looms above us. I look out of the windshield and I see everyone else. They’re all there and ready to go. I exit the now only cold car. I push my hat down on my head to shield from the gusts of snow.
We are greeted with warming hellos from some people we like and some we don’t, but in the dark, they all seem to look the same. I decipher only anticipation. We all look forward to what is next. Without much lag, we quickly turn to one of the buildings, marked with an orange neon circle next to the door. I can’t remember who was in charge of putting it there, I guess it doesn’t matter.
The wooden door gives way easily with a shove from one of the larger members of the group. And then we’re off. The inside of the building is desolate, cold, dark. Right inside of the doorway there’s a rickety spiral staircase. How romantic; How utterly dreamy that we all shall wind one by one up this decaying pile of stairs. We climb to a chromatic scale of breathing and exhaling and shivering. The roof is only a step more, only a small climb away.
We break free as we file onto the roof. One by one we take our place around the circle that we have long since come to memorize. I look over the edge. We are so far up, maybe we climbed past God and he can’t see the sins we commit. One could only hope. Eternal damnation just isn’t our style.
I center my gaze on the center of our ceremonial circle we have created out of our tired, frozen bodies. There are stacks of driftwood and cardboard and love letters that were written to never be sent. That’s our thing. We write letters to those who we love that will never love us back and then we light them on fire and turn the despair into ash. All of us know what it’s like to give a bj to someone that doesn’t love you back, to have sex with someone and pray you won’t remember it in the morning. We write about them, and then we destroy them.
Tonight, I light the match. I strike it and let it linger in my fingers for a moment, consuming the glow that didn’t exist moments before. Someone pulls out the bottle of gasoline and they douse the tinder before us. And in an instant, the cold melts away. We are illuminated. I can see the faces of my friends, of these people that have ensnared themselves in my story. We smile as we are comforted by the orange flames.
Amidst the fire, I feel a hand softly grab onto mine. It wraps around my fingers and, like puzzle pieces, fits into my small crevices easily. I know it’s his, but I don’t let it show on my face. There’s new warmth that fills the inside of my body. I take my hand away and fold my arms across my body. I look over and he smiles. Sometimes things are simple. Sometimes a touch is all one night needs.
The boards slowly burn and turn to ash and become nothing but glowing embers on a snowy rooftop. There are no drugs passed around the circle, no alcohol to take residence in our blood. The circle is sacred and is treated as such. Parts of the group leave due to bedtimes and curfews, to parents and rules. These are the small reminders that we are still children.
And then there were two.
I smile and walk over to the edge. I dangle a foot over. The snow looks so soft from up here. I think it might be able to soften my fall, I wouldn’t feel a thing. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this whole thing anyway; maybe it would be best for this cloud of frozen rain to break my fall.
But then he catches me. He holds me close, taking me off the ledge. My feet touch the snowy roof and I am reminded of my solidity. We do a little dance. I look him in the eyes and we both burn from the inside out.
Make me believe this isn’t just a passing trend, that all of this means something more. Night after night I find myself as a moth drawn to a flame, as a listless wanderer of the shadows. And then I find you and everyone else. I enter your warm embrace and we set off to have another compilation of perfect adventures. But make me believe this will last.
As I speak, I tiptoe as if on a tightrope around him in circles. I want to enchant him as he enchants me. I want my whispers to haunt him with memories of the fires we’ve started.
They won’t I can tell you that for a fact. But that’s the point. We’re supposed to grow old and apart and separate. We are each other’s foundation, but not one another’s future. These rooftops are the springboards for us to begin our lives upon, not to linger. So no, I won’t tell you this will last or that it means something or that all of this wasn’t in vein. You’re the one that has to choose that. The things that you take from our nights out are what you make of them, not what we tell you to.
My feel fall silent as I cease my tiptoeing. The silence of the snow falls heavy around us. This is one of those moments that define a person. This is the epicenter of my youth. A roof, a boy, and a pile of ashes; I seem to have made my choice.