My apartment is on the 6th floor and looks out over a much shorter apartment building with a tarred roof.
From my window I have a clear view of everything down below. The garbage trucks clogging the street on Thursdays. The neon liquor store sign with the U burned out so it only says, LIQ OR. The airport tower in the distance, and the items tossed onto the roof next door.
It’s the stuff on the roof that really interests me.
First I noticed a pair of scissors and found it odd that someone would throw a pair of scissors up there, because there is no stairway or any kind of access so the only way the scissors found their way there was if somebody heaved them up from the street below, or if they fell from an airplane. When the next day an empty half-gallon of milk showed up I wrote off the airplane theory.
Then some kicks appeared: scuffed-up Nikes without shoelaces.
That was it for a couple of days until one morning I looked out and a cassette tape had spewed its contents across the black roof. The unfurled ribbon stretched across all four sides, like the phlegm that sometimes clings to your teeth when you crack a criminal smile.
It was getting more and more crowded up there.
I wondered why somebody was throwing stuff up on the roof, and when? Because it had to be one person. What are the odds that multiple strangers all chose the same roof to discard their old belongings? No, somebody was using this apartment building for their own personal trash. Coming along at night and throwing those things up from the street below. Right?
I asked my girlfriend. She was over and we were watching reruns of Seinfeld. Every time zany Kramer comes pouring through Jerry’s door I hear him shouting the N-word in my head, like a disease. One comedy show outburst filmed on a grainy camera phone posted on YouTube ruined the entire series for me, but she still laughs at him. I liked it when Kramer was Kramer, not Michael Richards.
They say time fixes things, but sometimes time fucks things up too.
I explained to her what had gone on, how the weirdest things keep showing up on that roof. Yesterday it was an inflatable raft. How the fuck could someone throw an inflatable raft three stories?
“Maybe it’s a magical roof?” She told me. “The universe is full of surprises.”
I didn’t say anything. They say love is blind, but they never say it’s deaf.
After that we went away to the mountains for a weekend and forgot all about the shit on the roof. It was unseasonably warm and the snow half melted so we didn’t even bother to go skiing. We bathed in the hot tub all day and drank white wine. I felt so European.
When we got back to the city I expected to find something new — but nada. She went back to work and I went back to writing. I’m a writer, you know. Well, not professionally, but I do work the words across the screen with little cracking whips, training them like an ant circus to do my little tricks.
Send me a self-addressed envelope, I’ll send you a poem of seven lines or more.
The vanity of a manatee,
right outside the cannery,
looking in and you at me,
a twisted kind of beauty.
The city burns randomly.
Pain comes so handsomely.
( I do reserve the right to sometimes not make it to seven…)
It was a Friday when my girlfriend and I started talking about the roof next door again and what it all means: the scissors and shoes, the cassette tape and the fucking raft, and oh yeah, I forgot to mention the Barbie doll with blank genitalia that showed up, and when the rains came nice and heavy took to floating around a giant puddle that formed up there. My girlfriend insisted that it’s all the work of unfathomable forces, perhaps it’s a spiritual phenomenon, she suggested. I suspected hooligans.
We decided to go out instead of staying home and playing guessing games. The city chimed with mischief. We met its call: dancing and twirling and quaffing whiskey and laughing with strangers and chatting with taxi drivers. We raced the sunrise home and made sloppy love in my unmade bed with the windows gaping open.
I woke up blurry and confused, head ringing with voices and music that swirled together in a bewildering whirlwind. I stumbled to the bathroom and let loose a gallon of piss that mostly missed the toilet. When I went to grab the toilet paper to wipe it up it was missing — even though I was sure I put out a fresh one just yesterday before my girlfriend got here. I figured I probably used it in my drunken blackout to clean up some mess in the living room or some other logically nonsensical thing, and went lumbering like an autistic lummox through the apartment in search of the roll of T.P, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I searched high and low. Even checking under the couch which caused my brain to rattle a little in its jar.
Finally I spotted it. Out the opened window. Unfurled like a ticker tape across the neighbor’s roof.
Spiritual phenomenon… I tried to hold it back, but a sucker’s grin squeezed itself across my face, I was in love.
I got back to the room and she was still sleeping like a dove.