On the Roof

Singapore Add comments

I’m on the roof of my hostel. There are two picnic tables out here and I sat at one when the air was still hot and the sun was still burning everything. Now darkness has come and with it high lightening, soft thunder and heavy winds. The corrugated metal doors of the outdoor showers across from me suddenly and simultaneously swing open. My eyes pass over the glowing laptop into this new black space as my stomach dips to the squeak of their swing.

While I sit here reading and enjoying the sudden cool of a pending storm, a man walks out onto the roof. Slowly and peacefully, he shuts the glass door behind him. I watch his careful movements and see his collared shirt, tucked into jeans that fit as formal as blue jeans could. I think he must work here, maybe even own the place for he is so careful. As he approaches the shower, the winds again swing the doors, this time for him.


Fully clothed, he turns on the shower. I watch wondering and dim my laptop screen for a better view, but also because I imagine my face to be a glowing bulb from where he is. The man splashes water onto his face and then turns and walks from the shower. Leaving the water running, he passes on my right.

I wonder about the water and why he has left it. I think again that maybe he works here and is rinsing the floor. Then the water stops. It has an automatic shut off.

The central air fan clicks to a hum on my left and I delve back into explanations of meditation and enlightenment. A few paragraphs have gone by and my mind wanders back to the man on the roof. Sitting only a few feet from the edge, I suddenly wonder where he could be if not within arms length.

I find a dark body folded over on the floor beside me. He is praying. He stands and speaks words in a mumbling tone to some god who is beyond the far side of the roof and then he folds himself over again. In my periphery I watch as he repeats this some times more and also as he leaves calmly and quietly.

He is gone and I begin to type this entry. When I write about the central air fan, it clicks on again. When I write about finding him on the floor, he comes back onto the roof. He passes me again and this time sits on the ledge. I hear a click and a cough and then the winds bring a smell of burnt cigarettes. My stomach sinks like it did when the metal doors had swung. I look at the glass door he had closed softly and peacefully and see the small square sign that faces inside from where he had come. “No Smoking on the Roof Terrace” it indeed reads as I remember.

I twist my body from noon to five and look straight into his eyes. I hold long enough for him to see my distaste, but turn before seeing anything in his. Huffing his smoke from my lungs, I pick up my things. I shut the glass door less calmly than him too.

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