The city looms large and monstrous before me. With hundreds and thousands of windows for eyes, buildings stretch upwards towards the clouds in the sky, grasping unsuccessfully for a place among the stars. Frustrated, they vent their anger on people that walk the streets and those that reside within them, denying them sunlight and wind, and occasionally water in their taps. The 12-storied one before me, with anger in its bricks, eyed me suspiciously. I’d been thinking of killing past lovers, of plunging knives into their backs and twisting them around, boring into bone. Afraid that the building might have read my murderous thoughts, letter by letter, I shifted uncomfortably on the ledge, from side to side, from foot to foot, turning my eye upwards to search for eagles and other high achievers. It didn’t work.

Angered by my insolence, the red-bricked building lets out a loud yell that reminds me of a fire alarm. Its eyes are ablaze, flickering with fury, and smoke is coming out of its ears: something that reminds me of my childhood when I used to watch the same in cartoons on television. I quite liked those, and on remembering how cats chased mice, I began feeling as if I, myself, was being chased. Down below, someone with a really long nose was pointing an even longer finger in my direction. What was this? Someone with obviously nothing better to do runs into the building on whose rooftop I stand and I can almost sense his footsteps as he pounds the steps, jumping two at a time, on his way up. The building in front of me is now furious and swaying from side to side. Just as the door to the rooftop behind me opens, the building leans over and with one of its red bricks, nudges me over the edge to the cold and icy footpath below.

The city looks at me strangely today. Maybe this has something to do with what I was thinking about, and maybe that I was thinking of sharp objects on soft skin was obvious from my face. I hate it when that happens, when I am not able to hide my thoughts behind a rigid and plastic exterior. Maybe I should try plastic surgery and get myself an expressionless mask to hide behind. The drainpipe next to the ledge is cold because it’s cold and expressionless. Below, there are people walking the streets like they have somewhere to go, and crossing after crossing is opening up and swallowing them into its mechanics. And they keep walking into it, chit-chatting as they step over into the maze of pipes, cables and sewers. There is someone in the room in the red-bricked building across. It’s not a room, no. It’s a bathroom and she is bathing. Nice, nice body, she has: a figure 8 and she is soaping herself all over, all along the lines that form the 8. There’s probably some music playing somewhere, because she is bobbing her head back and forth, soapy golden locks unlocking as they lunge back and forth. The bathtub is filling up with the water from the shower, and spilling on to the floor, and onto the ledge that I stand upon. I want a better view, so I shift a little to the left, but there’s soapy water on the ledge, and I slip and fall over, into the waiting mouth full of pipeworks below.

This city doesn’t seem to like me anymore. Maybe it has read my murderous thoughts; maybe it plans to push me over the edge. A crowd has gathered below, and they seem to be chanting lyrics from U2’s latest album. Maybe they’re expecting the band to be on the rooftop with me. I look behind and there’s Bono with his sunglasses on, but he swishes his index finger about furiously. But just for the crowd, to not disappoint them, I decide to sing a song. . I don’t like disappointing people. One of my many flaws. Placing my hands on my chest and I’m bellow like an opera singer in heat:

I was born a man free
Restrained by my own binds
Until you chose to release me
And came together two hearts and minds.

And now that you’re gone
Leaving me on an edge
All because of you
I’m thinking of jumping off this ledge

All because of you
All because of you

As I begin the chorus, they dissipate. Across, on the flagpole protruding from the red brick building, sits a flagpole sitter who was until now debating anarchy and democracy. My singing drowned out his concept of I and individuality, and he jumped off, backed by popular vote, onto the cold and icy footpath. He just misses a couple walking hand in hand. It is Valentine’s Day and there’s a cupid on the card that the girl is holding: a cupid that reads my vengeful thoughts and decides to do something about it. He takes aim and an arrow pierces across the card, tearing their love into two, straight for my heart. I ask the arrow, as it nears me, to stop and listen for a bit. I don’t have the time for love, anymore, I tell it. Even if I do, I don’t have the time for heartbreak, I plead. The arrowhead blinks, and the feathers in its tail curl up to scratch its smooth chin. There’s always time for love, reasons the arrow, and not giving a damn for my views on the subject, plunges through my ribs, into my heart. With the impact, I topple over, falling backwards, staring open mouthed at the wonderful rosy sky.

The city goes about its business in a businesslike manner. People walk the streets, whether in love or in vain. Tall Roarkian structures stand with characteristic aloofness as I contemplate jumping off to put an end to all my suffering. But murder isn’t easy. Below, armies of office goers march with evenly paced steps and stony expressions on their faces. I take a deep breath, and inhale the sweet smoke as it travels across my tongue, down my throat and into my lungs. My lips scald with the heat of burning paper and I pull the bud away Bah, who gives a fuck?, I mutter, and turn around, stepping off the ledge, throwing what’s left of my joint onto the ice covered rooftop.

Honest to God, Mum. I wasn’t on anything while writing this! – Nikhil Pahwa

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