We’d been on the roof for what felt like centuries, but it was probably only hours. Picking at pieces of old tile and gravel, I sprinkle them on the remains of her torn and battered sneakers as the wind whips our greasy hair around our greasy faces. We sat side by side, downwind of each other, with the sun at our backs and droplets of sweat dancing around our exposed vertebrae like people dodging across a minefield.
I’d long ago given up trying to connect with this strange thing – with a face shaped like those lunchbox cheese triangles and a plastic child’s ring; the smiling face now melted and demented, and adorned with a small shard of razor sharp glass. I told her; try feeling a real emotion but she would always ask what is real? Is it what you read in your books?
I feel less for a human being than I do for a pile of abandoned bricks.
Last week, on her birthday, we met a ghost from her past. Five hours later, the guy who’d bullied her all through school – the guy who’d taken her pencil cases, lunch money and other more precious things – hung upside down from his ankle, circling gently in the wind like a diseased rotisserie chicken. As he dripped into a bucket just below his head, the breathing becoming ever more laboured and wheezing, she poked his chest with the crowbar that had done so much to extinguish those teenage memories and said this is real. He’s still warm. We could revive him. But we won’t… because it’s been decided already.
Back on the roof, I put an arm out over her cold shoulders. Even as the sun beats down, it reflects off those bones and violently ricochets in a rainbow arc. After we cut down the person who’d done so much to create what would eventually destroy him, I asked her if she believed in love… or God? She told me; I believe in every breath we take potentially being our last.
Now, I see what she means. Sitting up high overlooking a town so dismal that trees cannot root and instead tumble in the wind, with one more ghost now fermenting inside the soil which is still caked under my fingernails, I can see no endings to any of this…. only endless beginnings that I stupidly ignored.