He sits with me on top of the building. He looks up at the sky and its sifting clouds with fascination and does not move.
There is a statue of a woman, faceless, armless, legless.
She is leaning, sliding, curved, curling and her two breasts seem detached, two blobs dribbling off her chest, as if added as an afterthought. I think she is melting.
“I hate that thinking takes away from me doing other things,” he says, to no one in particular and himself.
I crack open him an orange and offer it as an answer.
There is a statue in the shape of a wheezing arrow on stilts. It is a black chunk that shines purple in the dusk light. I am tempted to sit on it, or pierce my finger on it, or something.
He nods and laughs. He runs a hand over his hair. Buzz cut.
I know what it feels like, but I do not touch it. I observe his face instead. It is long and thin, two coppery slits for eyes and a permanent, enigmatic smile. Thin lips. “You’ve got good features,” I tell him. “High cheek bones.” He smiles, a film over his eyes. He does not understand.
“What does that even mean?”
“Just really chiseled. It’s a good thing.”
He rubs the tops of his cheekbones. Thoughtfully. I notice his hands.
“Too?” he questions, adds.
“What does that even mean?”
I take a hand that is not offered to me and tap it gently, turn it over, trace the contour of the fingers. I begin to explain. “They’re long and thin, artist’s fingers.” He blinks. “Musician’s fingers.” He smiles. His fingers are tan and lightly used. “You don’t have any calluses,” I point out, “and you cut your nails, and they’re a nice shape, square and round.” I think of the little stubs I see on chewn hands. Clumsy bear paws, thick, knobbed hairy worker’s hands. I think of the sleek white hands of a child and the bluish marbled paper of a grandmothers’.
He flips his hand back and forth in front of his face. His fingers are tan and lightly used. He has good hands.
“You should do your work,” I tell him.
He does not bother wrinkling his nose.
It drizzles. It stops. It drizzles again.
He gets up and walks to the banister, leans out.
The ebb and flow of people drift below him on the street and he watches, entranced, as they parade across his view.
I open a book and begin to read.
We are both barefoot.
The sun comes out and he sits above me on a concrete slab, still looking out, still thinking. I tell him this is a good thing.
I eat another orange.
“I could have gone to India,” he announces.
“Oh yeah? What would you do there?”
A shrug. Brief eye contact, then he turns his attention back to the sky.
“You could do that here.”
“Yeah. I could. That’s why I didn’t go. I like the people here, they make me think.”
It occurs to me I seldom talk to him when not intoxicated.
“There’s just so many distractions.”
A shrug. Brief eye contact, then I turn my attention back to the sky.
“There’s distractions in India too. Good food, pretty girls.”
I get a smile. It’s followed with steady unsteady eye contact.
“My body is a distraction,” he agrees. Folds his arms and settles back. “It annoys me.”
I study him.
“You should talk more.”
He nods. “I like talking. No one wants to hear what I say though.”
“You don’t know that. Talk anyway.”
“I think strange things. I think too much.”
I give him a raised eyebrow.
“Better than thinking too little.”
He smiles slowly, until he’s grinning. His teeth are straight and he meets my gaze.
Someone has appeared on the stairs. She has dark blond hair and glasses and passes us. I realize I know her and wave, but she does not see me or chooses not to and does not respond.
“Who were you talking about Saturday night?’
I stretch my legs and rub them idly. I turn over potential answers my head.
“An ex-boyfriend. I was cursing him off, probably. Don’t get me drunk.”
He nods, satisfied. Satisfied. Satisfied.
“I figured as much.”
I yawn and let myself close my eyes for a second.
“You were pretty miserable,” he adds, lamely.
“Thanks for helping me.”
“Didn’t really do a good job.”
“You did what you could.”
I half expect him to pull out a cigarette and offer me a drag. He doesn’t. I’ve told him this story before. He is thinking. I am letting him think. I flip a page in my book.
“You fascinate me,” he tells me.
“I’ve never been told that before. That’s very flattering and very amusing.”
“Thanks,” he says, after a pause. “I’m not sure that’s what I was going for. I guess I go for that with most things I say. Not flattery all the time though.”
A door opens. The girl has appeared again. This time she walks slowly, and towards us. She is smiling. We are smiling.
“Hey guys. I haven’t seen you in so long.”
“What’s up, girl,” I ask her without asking. “How’ve you been?”
“Good,” she says automatically. Flips her gaze up and down from our bare feet to the sprawl of our bodies against the cement. Rests it on him. “Seriously, I don’t see you. You need to hang out more.”
I respond for him. I nod.
“I was just telling him he needs to talk more.”
He shakes his head. “Yeah, you keep saying that. I really don’t know if people would like what I have to say.”
“You should preach,” I suggest, “like at a podium.”
The girl nods. “On a box.”
“I don’t have a box.”
“I’ll get you a box.”
“What if I run out of things to say?”
“You could make a list. Like a sign-up sheet. Just talk.”
“I’ll do it.”
“Dude, when can I see you?” she asks. Me.
“Soon,” I tell her. I also tell her to visit. I know she won’t. She leaves.
The sun is a funny color and it makes things funny colors. The black shapes called statues have faded from purple to orange figures that scrape the sunset. The headless woman basks in it. The arrow sears through it. Another one depicts murder, a head throttled by a hand. It just stands in the sunset, like me. Juts against the background. The other ones are shadows that frame the milky sky blood.
“I don’t know what to do,” he finally confesses.
I briefly wonder about the missing prelude to this sentence.
“Do your physics work.”
“I don’t really have to do it. I don’t understand it.”
“Ask for help. People like that.”
An irritated shake of head. “I don’t.”
“You’ll get fired.”
“I won’t fired.” A pause. “I’ll get called into my boss’ office.”
I laugh. “Come on. Be ambitious. You’re smart. You’re good at physics.”
“You don’t know that. You haven’t seen me do physics.”
“No, but you’re really logical. You must be good at it.”
He gets up and walks around.
I flip a page in my book.
He leaves. The drizzling has stopped.
I finish my orange. I stack the peels in a lopsided pile; one, two, three, four. It’s a little pyramid sprinkled with seeds. I gather the other peels. I stack the peels in a lopsided pile; one, two, three, four. It stands across the other pyramid and fixes its comrade with an accusing gaze. They topple without my say so.
I begin to read.
A squirrel chatters somewhere.
A door opens, he is back and I greet him.
He gives me a hug without explanation.
I return the favor and press thanks into his shoulder.
“I think I needed it too,” he says.
Then he leaves again.
I continue to read.