Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Mild at heart

I remember a night, a summer night on a rooftop in one of the more upscale areas of the city. Summer 2001. We ended up on the rooftop.

We began in an apartment in the building. An apartment or a condo, hard to say. A very tall building with many floors of identical tiny apartments or condos. It felt like we were in a kennel.

Our hostess had mosquito netting over her bed. There on the seventeenth floor of an air conditioned high-rise: mosquito netting. I made fun of her a little for this and she did not seem to know I was making fun of her. She gazed blankly back at me as though I were speaking a language she could not understand. She blinked lanquidly as I spoke to her.

In addition to her decorating taste, our hostess had a desire that I desire her. I don't think it went any deeper than that. I think she just wanted me to burn with jealousy if she spoke to other men. I did not. It was easy for me to do, as I did not really find her appealing on any level.

It was a party of sorts, in the tiny apartment. The apartment and then the building's swimming pool. Some of the partygoers had brought swimsuits, and they cavorted in the warm air and the water until we were chased away by the building's security personnel. When they chased us from the pool was when we went to the roof.

I had brought a book with me to the party. I did not bring the book to be antisocial. I had brought the book along with me when I was under the impression that the party was merely a relaxed poolside gathering. Water holds no appeal for me. I thought I would read and sit in the sun and watch the women play in the water in their bikinis. This seemed an excellent way to pass the time.

The gathering became a party only through the virtue of people not leaving, and other people showing up. It was very organic.

I did not know most of the people at the party. I had been brought along by a former roommate. I knew her, and she knew all of the others. All of the others knew each other as well. My roommate did not stay by my side to ensure I was mingling. It would have made me feel terrible if she had.

There was a coat of coarse gravel all along the rooftop. A woman asked me why they put gravel on rooftops. People sometimes assume I will know things that are obscure. I guess I give off that vibe. I wear glasses, and I was carrying a book. Perhaps that's all it is.

I told her it was so that no one could sneak up on her, throw her off. I told her it was for her own safety, and that it gave her a fighting chance should an assassin appear here on the roof with a desire to do her in. She moved away.

I ended up on the periphery, perched on the concrete ledge of the building with my limbs wrapped around the guardrail. I was looking down at the other rooftops and the streets and the twinkly lights of the city. There were no twinkly lights above. There is far too much ambient light in Chicago for a body farther than the moon or the sun to have a hope of being visible. And yet we have a famous planetarium. Go figure.

I was looking down at the lights and thinking about a PJ Harvey song. I was thinking about the pretty woman I had failed to talk to that afternoon. I was thinking about a dream I had, and the book I was reading. I was thinking about the lights as I looked out upon them from my perch atop the city.

I could hear the laughter and muffled shouts from the others on the rooftop who seemed to me as though they might be on another rooftop entirely. It was very late at night, and each cry from a reveller brought a loud "shhh" from another.

If I leaned forward, I could easily visualize my own death. I could feel the wind of the fall.


Anonymous said...


Very moving post for me tonight.

I just went outside to watch the snowfall and I leaned over the balcony, three floors up. I got that falling-during-your-sleep feeling while I was slung over the edge. I was tired and it was windy, so I went back inside to avoid any unfortunate occurrences.

And I love this:

I told her it was so that no one could sneak up on her, throw her off. I told her it was for her own safety, and that it gave her a fighting chance should an assassin appear here on the roof with a desire to do her in. She moved away.

Someone told me a few days ago that they had to do something they were dreading and my Tourette's response was, "Oh...do you have to assassinate someone?"

She backed away, too.


Zinnia Cyclamen said...

So atmospheric, so beautifully described that I was right in there with you. Greetings from a fellow novel racer, who now wants to read your novel.

Chris said...


Caroline said...

Beautifully visual.

I usually find it hard to read fiction on blogs, I usually have to visit again when I've a coffee and a moment. But not this time.
I've been dragged in.

I can see him. That sad and lonely feeling of being in a crowd and wondering if anyone really understands. I like that he has a book with him and I like that 'People sometimes assume I will know things that are obscure.'

Loved it.

I saw PJ Harvey in concert when I was 17/18. She was in a tiny bar and the mainly male audience were swooning. I wanted to be her for quite some time.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Mr Moon. I don't think we have been formally introduced. I just followed Caroline's command to visit your blog and after reading this I am very glad that I did. It's small, but sublime and keeps drawing me back in, a little light in an otherwise dull day. Thank you.

(Obviously I completely identify with this person, although I have never had the guts to bring a book along to a gathering. I always geta bit anxious when I realise the people I am with are on a different plane of consciousness from me and no flippant remark is going to break the ice. Do you have access to my brain, perhaps? Oh dear...).

nmj said...

Mr Moon, this is lovely.

basest said...

your post reminds me that I should pay more attention to my surroundings, and not only because the occassional assassin might creep up. My memory tends to play tricks on me, and maybe if I had been more observant, I wouldn't feel if half or my experiences were real or some sort of dream.

I think the really banal ones were probably real, and everything else was made up.

Unknown said...

No, no, no, Mr Basest. A writer writes down the things that most people have consigned to the back of their brains. The writer is a memory keeper, recording life on a slightly deeper level!

Nikki Neurotic said...

I don't like heights...I don't even like reading about or seeing pictures of heights...this was a disturbing post.

The Moon Topples said...

Minty: Glad you liked it, and I suppose slightly less glad that you can identify...

Zinnia: Thanks. I guess I really need to update my novel racing links and such. I'm such a crappy racer these days.

Chris: Thanks.

Caroline: This is not, strictly speaking, fiction. Reads like it, though, I'll admit. But I'm glad you like it. I love PJ Harvey. She played Chicago on my 20th birthday.

Yellowduck: Nice to meet you. I'm sorry you identify with me in this instance. The book wasn't meant to be audacious, but it did help create the barrier between myself and the others.

NMJ: Thank you.

Basest: I don't think paying attention makes any real difference in the amount of tricks your brain will play later. I think the writer's job is to set the mood and fill in the missing bits with more mood, maybe. That's sort of what I did here.

Minx: I'll be trying to decide if I agree with your definition of a writer the rest of the day. I doubt I'll come up with anything profound, though.

SilverN: Sorry to scare you. I'll write something closer to the ground in the next day or two.

Everybody: Sorry I'm such a crappy replier today. Crazy busy at work.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have always felt like an outsider, although I doubt that others see me that way.

I used to carry a book wherever I went, not only because I hated to waste time in which I could be reading, but because it seemed to connote that I was at the party, restaurant, wherever, by happenstance and therefore, if I wasn't welcome, it didn't matter anyway.

This was beautifully written. I so take that for granted with you and sometimes forget to mention it.

Caroline said...

I never assume that it is not fiction. I've had too many people ask probing questions based on what I write.


The Moon Topples said...

HinSF: I have a similar problem. After I the previous post (the interview) a Worker came up and told me he thought I fit in just fine. He said he couldn't see how I might think of myself as not being socially adept.

And your flattery is always welcome here. You say the nicest things...

Caroline: Just setting the record straight is all. Usually if something's fiction, I label it as such, but I totally see how this reads less like a personal experience than like a little fiction piece.

Anonymous said...

Very nice, Mr. T. You are a wonderful writer.

Liz Dwyer said...

One more reason why my life needs to be less busy is that I miss coming over here to read. Very nice.

The Moon Topples said...

GT: Thanks. Your $5 is on its way.

Liz: Thanks for the nice words. You've been missed around here.

S. Kearney said...

This was great, and I guessed it was you on the roof. I love the bit about the gravel, which I've often wondered. I like the idea that it warns us of someone running at us! :)

Anonymous said...

Whoa. Five dollars? No, you promised ten.

The Moon Topples said...

Shameless: What else could it possibly be?

GT: I have your 50 cents right here.

pundy said...

That's a rather fine piece of writing. Thanks.

The Moon Topples said...

Thanks, Pundy.