Where did it all begin?
That was the question that circled endlessly in my head, and each time I asked it a new scenario would appear before my eyes, memories swirling into being from the static in my head.
I saw a driveway in the suburbs, an empty blow up pool sitting abandoned under the setting August sun.
I saw a furnished basement with instruments and recording equipment, full of promises unfulfilled.
I saw the roof of a townhouse, an old, decrepit town stretching away in every direction while a giant bridge sat in the distance, squatting dully on the horizon and painting the sky green.
Hundreds of other images flashed past, low lit rooms with jazz playing, smoky parlors with live musicians, massive leaning towers of empty bottles,
all tinged in sepia like the aging pages of a photo book.
It never lasts, of course. In the span of a minute this multitude washes over me and then is gone.
I stand hunched at the highest point in the city, harsh and bitter wind snapping and clawing at my fur lined jacket.
Below, the world plays out as it always does, people shouting, cars honking and animals baying, deafening, even at this distance.
Others claim that at heights like this, you feel the call of the void, the sudden inexplicable urge to toss yourself over the edge.
The feeling is familiar, hauntingly so, but I know it well by this point, too well to indulge in the fancies of diving into its sweet embrace. Younger souls would give in to this feeling.
Nowadays it feels all too often that essences are being left unfinished, untempered, and in this weakened state released to the world.
People are being born too fast, growing up, growing old before their eighteenth birthdays.
No one takes the time to simply stare into the mirror, to ask themselves the questions that solidify the soul, to let the mind wander as it will to some inevitable conclusion.
People fear sadness like never before. Their claims of misery are self wrought, imagined things.
Like many other creations of modern society, they are hollow, empty, echoes of things that could have been but were never given the time to develop.
True sadness, misery, is a gift like anything else, a time to set aside forceful joy and to reflect on the things that you don’t bring up in polite conversation.
In that way, that nostalgic childhood summer way, sadness is an art. A feeling to be refined and tasted like fine wine.
Sip gently from the cup of your heart, take all your social fallacies and brush them softly away. Now is a time for peace.
I take a sip of my energy drink, staring at the unlit cigarette in my hands that I bummed from some passerby on the ground floor. I flick it over the edge. I don’t smoke cigarettes.
The project of attaining one from a stranger is a beautiful thing, however.
It forms a momentary bond, two islands in the sea reaching out sandy limbs to brush against each other for a passing moment. Solidarity.
By all rights, I should be asleep. It’s three in the morning, and I have appointments to keep. I take another sip. There are many vices in this world, mine is weakness.
In this circumstance, I can allow my image of the impenetrable mask of strength to fall away, to be naught but myself, alone on a rooftop in the middle of the night. I am myself, here at last.
Everyone has a mask, a face they put on to protect their hearts. I used to indulge my weaknesses in public. It made people uneasy, so I found a quiet corner of the world to do it in.
No need to make everyone nervous when I could just as easily have the same effect from so high above. The city trembles in delight as my eyes seek the horizon once more.
My audience was never those people, after all. The inanimate and the earth itself make much better listeners.
There are others out there too, whose siren songs called me onto the rooftop. Here is our true audience, the answer to our call, the chorus to our verse: each other.
We stand above the clouds, a sea of rooftops in the hazy distance, some bathed in afternoon sun, some glowing with the neon of the bright city night.
Others still hide in the fog below, their perches unseen but far from unheard. Artists find each other, always. Even the ones who do their level best to hide from the others.
Even the ones who are here out of shame. The calls echo out into the empty space between us, serenading our other selves over gaps of unimaginable distance.
Fear returns to me now, for an instant. Regret makes its appearance as well, but I brush them both aside. Peace isn’t a lack of negative emotions, it is the embrace and release of them.
A true peace is only formed from balance, and balance requires good and evil in equal measure.
I laugh under my breath. These thoughts, deep as they might be, toy with some grander purpose that even they cannot understand. I wonder, curious, at how many other people have found that Truth.
They say Life’s greatest question is its meaning, but if at least a few of us hadn’t found answers we wouldn’t be here in the capacity we are.
Or perhaps that then is proof that we haven’t found the answers, toxic as our existence remains. I see it though, my Truth.
It has no words, no meaning that I could share through any medium that could do it justice. It is cold, harsh sometimes, and not very understanding of my own personal failings.
It expects perfection simply because I know of it. That would certainly explain why I tend to lose touch with it for long stretches of time.
Simultaneously though, it is love, all love everywhere. A love so strong and stretching so far beyond everything that it becomes disappointment.
I can see everything the world could be, everything by rights it should be, and that gives me hope.
When something matches that image, when society claws ever so slightly further up the slope it put itself on, I could dance right off this rooftop with joy.
When the world falls short, I find myself right back here, on the rooftop.
Balance, calls another from their perch above the clouds. Reminders from the void, good needs evil. Joy needs disappointment. Love needs…
That siren, seductive call from below makes itself known again. My bed pines for my embrace, cold and lonely as it is below the clouds. I look at the drink in my hands, long empty.
I glance at the horizon, noting the flecks of orange and purple that dot it now. The promise of another energy drink peeks from behind the door to the stairs.
I turn from my perch, bidding silent farewell to the others, who watch me go as they watch all other artists vanish into the real world;
with slight, wistful smiles and honorific tilts of their heads they wave goodbye for now, and goodnight. I turn at the stairwell door, cock an eyebrow, give a grin and bow.
My audience remains, but I exit stage left. The next act begins its preparations. I wonder if I could find that cigarette I tossed.
A car honks in the distance, and somewhere in the building below, my alarm clock goes off.