It was a Saturday night. The city was buzzing with excitement, flashing neon signs and speeding taxi headlights lighting up the streets, feverish music thumping through open windows and locked doors. Promise hung in the air like smoke, intoxicating people prowling the sidewalks in search of new dangers to entertain themselves with.
I could have been down there with them, finding my own way through the night, finding my own excitement between the lights, but no. I had to be on a high roof, shivering in the cold, trembling at the thought of those same sidewalks so many feet beneath me.
“Just look at this view!” Noah exclaimed, “Isn’t it amazing?”
I didn’t agree. I didn’t care for this ‘view’ except in being at least nine feet away from it. I wanted to be somewhere inside with music and people. I wanted to be warm and on ground level. I wanted him to stop leaning over that fucking ledge. It made me dizzy just to look at him. I held onto the frame of the metal door that had led us here and tried to focus on my breathing.
In, and out. In. And out.
I felt sick.
Noah looked at me over his shoulder, softly illuminated by stray light from the streets below. His brown curls bobbed gently in the breeze, framing his face just so. He smiled.
God, he was beautiful.
“What’s the matter?” he teased, “Scared?”
“I’m not scared,” I protested, “I’m cold. It’s fucking freezing up here.”
In, and out. In, and out.
“C’mon,” he said, holding out a hand, wiggling his fingers, “you don’t want to miss this.”
I started to tell him that I wanted to leave, but the words died on my lips when he turned up that smile, flashing his teeth, dazzling me. I never could say no to that smile.
Fucking hell. I closed my eyes and took a step before I could change my mind. The roof felt wobbly beneath my feet. Another step. Noah’s hand grabbed mine, gently pulling me towards him and the ledge. The stone felt icy cold against my stomach. I opened my eyes.
I stared into the maw of a concrete ravine of buildings and sidewalks, the windows glittering like sharp teeth, calling for me. My body tensed, ready to spread my arms and take the leap, the world already spinning towards me, the ground getting closer and closer.
I shot back, right into Noah’s arms.
In, and out.
“You should look up, not down,” Noah whispered in my ear. I shivered. I had closed my eyes again, trying to hide, but in the dark it was still there. That endless, endless depth and falling, falling, falling.
“It’s not so scary when you’re not looking at the ground,” he said. There was that smile in his voice again. Noah gently took my chin to move my head upwards. I let him.
“Open your eyes.” I did.
Before us the city spread out like a grey, static sea. Traffic lights and neon signs reflected in windows and puddles on rooftops, greens and reds and blues flashing on and off. Living room lights shone brightly, here and there strings of Christmas lights hung from balconies. In the distance the lights of smaller towns hummed, and even the deep black sky showed a few stars. A landscape made of light and darkness.
I let out a breath.
It was beautiful.
I was still trembling, though.
Noah kissed my cheek and let go of me with a laugh. He climbed onto the ledge and stood up right, without a fear in the world, with nothing between him and the heavens, between him and the earth.
“Sometimes,” he said, spreading his arms wide, “you just have to face your fears.”
I looked up at his dark silhouette. He was right.
So, I put my hand on Noah’s leg, and pushed. He fell without a sound.
In, and out.
Slowly, the trembling stopped.
Lotte van der Krol’s favorite color is the green-blue of the sky on a clear day about an hour after the sun has set. Her short fiction has appeared in Popshot Quarterly, and you can find more stories on lottevanderkrol.wordpress.com. She’s also on twitter @lottevdkrol
Image via Pixabay