When I finally braved going up there, the roof felt uncharacteristically desolate. My breaths, the rustle of my skirt, my footsteps on the concrete; all seemingly caught in the throat of the night. Not to mention that it had rained just a few days earlier, making the atmosphere all the more sullen.
Looking over the edge didn’t scare me anymore. I could scale the perimeter of the roof without batting an eye. I guess that’s what death does to you. Once one of your fears has been yanked from under you, without a word of a warning, the others become insignificant.
As I started to begin my second lap around, a movement a few inches to my left caught my attention. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that the first thing that sprung to my mind was that it was you. Somehow, you had come alive, whether it be dead or undead, and decided to pay me a visit; for old time’s sake.
But alas, it was a simple black and white composition notebook, fluttering open and closed in the strengthening wind. It looked almost inviting, the one thing keeping this place from looking like a concrete jungle. Yet something was tugging inside of me, telling me to move away, keep walking, forget it. Forget you. Because opening that book was like tugging off all the band-aids I had spent months putting on and reapplying. It was yearning to create fresh wounds.
I tried to distract myself, I really did. Looking at the people below and pretending they were all ants, driving their specialized ant cars and living in their little ant homes was entertaining for a while, but then I realized how ridiculous I was acting for an 18 year old.
The big 1-8. The birthday I spent watching old videos of us at every previous party. The birthday I never thought I’d have to spend without you.
But I guess the old saying “Opposites attract” rings true, because I found myself walking over to the notebook, resistance in every step. My mind was chattering away, listing all the bad that would come with flipping through the notebook. But right now, in this moment, I tucked the endless chatter away, shut it in a room I never knew existed.
Mental preparation was never a talent of mine, so as soon as I reached it, I grabbed the notebook and made for the part of the roof that overlooked the city. That was your favorite spot, so I found it fitting to the situation.
Settling into my spot on the left of the “middle of the world”, as you liked to call it (and marked with our initials), I cracked open the notebook for the first time since your passing.
The first thing I noticed was the coffee stain on the first page, courtesy of your obviously steady hand. You said it gave the notebook character; no one else had a notebook quite like ours now. Looking back, you were the embodiment of that coffee stain. Yeah, that sounded a lot better in my head.
Anyways, something about you was imperfect, but that’s what made you interesting. You weren’t afraid to crack the perfect world we lived in. You weren’t afraid to act like a lunatic in Grand Central Station, with all the professional businessmen around. You taught people that it was okay to let yourself go once in a while; to break routine if only for a little bit.
How coincidental it was then, that the first page was a detailed description of what happened in Grand Central Station that day - from the businessmen’s point of view. In your version of the story, they were impressed by your utter talent in the arts. Your flinging of the arms was really a graceful ballerina number to them. Your shuffling feet were a tap dancing routine. Your face, bordering on recently escaped mental patient, was expressive beyond words.
I remember sitting beside you, watching you write that crazy story, eyes filled with mirth. After you were finished, you would read the whole extravaganza to me, pausing every time I bent over laughing, to make sure I didn’t fall off the roof. And when I almost did, you put out your arm to hold me upright and said “You can’t fall off the roof just yet! We haven’t even gotten to the best part.”
Without realizing, a smile had made its home on my face. At certain words, I could almost hear you stressing them, knowing it would get a laugh out of me. You would even add a few lines that weren’t on the paper, and I found myself mouthing them, unknowing of the fact that they were etched into my memory.
In fact, my memory was better than it had ever been. Each page brought back the entire scene to me: every inside joke, every laugh, every sunset and every moment of comfortable silence. You were alive, right then. Alive and sitting to my right, watching the shades of pink and purple inhabiting the sky.
I hadn’t realized I had reached the last entry till I tugged my eyes away from the sunset, letting them adjust to the stark white of the paper. There was a single line written on that page, and from the perfect calligraphy, I knew it was yours. I remember you writing it, but struggling to find a way to turn it into a story.
“She loved the world...”
You had leaned your head against my shoulder, notebook falling between us, and we watched the fading sunset together. It was the one thing that made you fall silent for a while, but I knew your eyes were drinking up the colors and the scenery to use it in another story of ours.
And that’s when I knew. I had never been more sure of something in my life. I picked up the notebook, flipping to the page with your last written words. Shifting a little to my right, I positioned myself in the “middle of the world”. I looked out at the buildings below, lit with the fiery orange radiating from the sky, and a smile broke free, cracking the mask I had worn for the past few months. I didn’t have to pretend to be okay anymore, I thought, letting my tears stain the paper.
There was something I could do, despite what everyone keeps telling me. People like you, they don’t just disappear when they die. They don’t leave things unfinished.
So, here I am, sitting in the space between you and I. And with a ballpoint pen and a composition notebook, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on the bridge we’ve been building since the start of our friendship. You completed me; so it’s time I completed you.
Where your words ended, mine continued as I wrote:
“And the world loved her back.”