Two men are on a rooftop, Manhattan’s skyline as their backdrop. One man stands, while the other straddles the building’s ledge. His legs rest on cement fragments that push against his pants, leaving fleeing impressions in the hairy flesh of his thighs. He smothers his cigarette on the building’s side. The building groans.
I’ve written all I can. His voice jumps from rooftop to rooftop and cradles in the gray, half-moons of satellite dishes. They transmit his drama down into television sets for home viewership and up to the blackest space, secretly passing through the paths of jumbo jets, choreographed miracles racing in the sky.
The other man stands in silence. Wonders in silence. He thinks, I don’t need this, and regrets it so quickly, it’s as though the thought never happened. But it did. He crosses the roof, trudging along as if his legs were made of molasses, as if he were a witch melting, as if he had never accomplished walking. He’s caught in a bad dream. The message leaves his brain and in the time it takes to reach his legs, his heart has sent another message that means to turn his feet around, but his brain insists. Plow ahead, it screams. Go. Leave. The heavy door swings shut behind him.
Our man, the man on the ledge, watches the cars below him make perfect, left turns on green-light command. People walk on sidewalks, all wondering why the writer cannot write. Every so often, a curious man would pause to turn toward the sky and steal a glance of the writer who cannot write. Women with children run into old neighbors and exchange pleasantries, How are you? Oh fine, and you? Oh good good, much better than the writer, you see. No no, don’t look. How miserable, oh that poor man. Yes, yes, indeed, miserable. Woman repeat things for emphasis.
There’s a hole in the building’s mortar, about the size of a fist, but clearly, not made from a fist, the mortar’s too hard for that. The non-writing writer leans in, it’s several inches deep. It’s filled with dried leaves that weren’t good enough for the wind, discarded cigarette butts and match stems, and dirt. Of course dirt, dirt because the city’s filth grows like ivy, climbing every building. It’s reached the top of this one.
He pulls out a notebook and a pen from his jacket pocket. Because that is his only reflexive motion. He quickly writes a message (aha!), tracing the letters repeatedly. He tears it from the page and folds it four times to help protect it from the rain. Surely, the rain will come. He drops it into the fist-sized hole, but it doesn’t fall to the bottom with the rest of the discarded debris. It lays suspended in the fist-sized hole, half-way from the bottom. The fragile lines of a spider web bear the weight of the paper. It will surely cause the spider to starve. The spider cannot spin another web.
What would you wish for?