I drudged up the narrow, concrete stairwell toward the roof of my building, packing my cigarettes as I went.
The air was cold and crisp; I inhaled slowly and felt it travel to my lungs and leave a lingering chill. I re-wrapped my scarf for good measure.
I never told anyone about my access to the roof. In a city so crowded, and in a life so shared, I held on to my secret rooftop as though it would destroy me if anyone found out. Maybe it would.
“Do you have a spare?”
“Why are you up here?” I asked, handing the cigarette back to him.
“I like this city. Very much, I really do. But I just wanted to see the sky.” He took a long drag, his stare never leaving mine, and blew the smoke out in a quick exhale. “Do yanno what I mean?”
I looked at him for a second longer, then up at the sky. It was grey — winter grey. The clouds were thick and sad, blending seamlessly into the city’s concrete skyline.
“This sky just makes me want to take a nap.”
He laughed quietly, the air from his breath seemed no different than the smoke.
“Up here, we’re above everything, more or less. Up here there is a horizon, there’s a skyline. You don’t have to look straight up to see it. On the streets we’re blocked and barricaded by buildings and people. I feel much less small standing on a rooftop. Sometimes I just need to feel less like I’m part of a city, and more like I’m part of the world.”
I considered what he said, but didn’t respond. He put out his cigarette and smiled at me, and though he was only standing there, inoffensively, offering up a sliver of insight which I probably needed to hear, I’d never felt smaller.