A Brief History Of Rooftops I’ve Been On


My brother discovers that the screen is off in my parent’s bedroom window, the one above the garage. He crawls out on the roof and sits there. My little sister follows him through, angering my mother.

They crouch there like two mismatched seagulls contemplating the distance to the hot hood of the minivan. I try it for a second, too.

The Empire State Building

A stranger and I exchange a laugh. I think “You’re never going to see him again.”

They said it’d be foggy, grey like the apocalypse—like the surprise of a glacier, it’s blue.

Fire Island Light House

Tiny toy houses and tiny toy boats, two tiny toy cars—one for the sheriff and one for mail. We circle around and meet again. We try not to lean too hard on the rail.

The stairs are worse on the way down, but nobody talks about that—hugs the wall and smiles at strangers as they ascend with their sandy children.


The sun is warm. The men disappear, some for a shower and others promising to bring breakfast. Minarets dot the wide, white horizon, lending symmetry to an otherwise chaotic silhouette. A hill ascends toward the city, covered in graves that looked like crushed shells from a distance. I fail to capture a mountain’s scale in my camera lens and settle instead for watching the buses moving along its base.

As if all in agreement, my friends and I promptly fall asleep. The men return with tray upon tray of juice, bread, pastries, and spreads.

I drink a cup of tea and then a cup of coffee. I eat until I am uncomfortably full.


“Sitting behind you is one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen in my life,” I say.  I picture myself walking over and sitting down, jumping in:

“So do you always sit in cafes alone?”

“So you write poetry?”

A man stares at me from behind his sunglasses and I cringe. Why can’t we all just leave well enough alone? And writers are the worst, we are — the very worst.


I flip through an old copy of The New Yorker until you call. Anxious. Taking in what I can — the cartoons, the poems, the first two pages of a seven page feature. You ask me what my parents do (because we are working from the inside out and always will be). Maybe it was a question for months ago that got lost between Halloween and my costume sitting on your top shelf. It must have only been there a week. I cut the beads off so that I can wear the tank top again—nobody will ever know it was a fruit.

A man leans out his window into the warm night, bear chest against the sill and cell phone in hand. The lights flickering on and off map the march of occupants from room to room but just between the walls they own, horizontal progress, and floor by floor any coincidence is random.

A helicopter leaves cross-hatches over my words. You have to pause to call your dog back. We both apologize.

Another night, a man leans out his window—bear chest against the sill and cigarette in hand. My stepdad is telling me about a family kayaking trip: “you let go of the boat and let the current take you and just look around.”

They’ve figured out it’s slugs eating the cucumbers. They say that you can put out a shallow dish of beer, and that there’s diatomaceous earth that will “cut their bellies open.” But, he says, “that doesn’t sound appealing to me.”

(Maybe there will be no cucumbers again this year.)

A couple on another roof unpacks dinner from a canvas shopping bag. Their railing is strung with lights.

I will turn on our lights next time I come up here, I think. TC Mark

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