I met her on the roof. She was leaning over the edge, staring blankly at the cars below, her thoughts disappearing in the sounds of various parties, traffic and violence. The woman in room forty-two weeping again, I heard it in passing. Why couldn't I stop and knock on her door? Uncaringly I strolled past her door, ignoring the shouting of her abusive husband. I met her on the roof. She was leaning over the edge, elbows resting on the cold concrete.
Careful now, if you lean too far you might fall My words startled her, and she turned around, her gaze meeting mine, her tears held in stasis for one excruciatingly slow moment, her pain shooting through me, piercing my heart. Her frail eyes searched my soul, as I approached. What?
I said you have to be a bit more careful, you were leaning too far My words trail off disappearing in the haze of the nightlife's noise. Oh. She rummages in the pocket of her faded skinny-jeans, and extracting a battered cigarette, rests it upon her lower lip. I'll take that into account next time, you got a light?
I take the Zippo from my own pocket, lighting her fag, we sit down against the wall. The name's Max, and you are? She takes a drag from the Camel before answering, I'm Leticia, pleased to meet you. Her expression has changed, from the overwhelming sorrow to one brimming with self-assurance. She's either an actress, or totally schizophrenic. I embark on my quest, So, what's a beautiful girl like you doing in a dump like this? Smooth, I think, as she smiles softly. Pick-up lines are so last century love, but since you asked so nicely, and dare-I-say it, almost sincerely She paused to take another drag, I'm a struggling actress a bit clich, but true.
I wanted to scream I told you so, but did so silently, smiling secretly to myself. That's good, so you're aiming for Broadway, or the West End? She started laughing, Hell no, with all the aspiring actors in our midst I can't afford to aim that high, the stairs are way overcrowded. I'm just aiming to get paid. Insert laughter here, zoom, pan left to where I am staring into space, exhaling blue smoke. She looks at me again, her eyes melting my heart frozen by unrequited love, refusing to care, refusing to love, refusing to feel, being thawed by her soft, sad eyes. What's your deal? I mean, you know my story, why are you here? Let me guess, musician, right? You're a musician? Now it's my turn to laugh, Actually I'm a waiter, I want to be a photographer though Why would you think I'm a musician?
I don't really know, maybe because you've got that thing around your neck. She takes the guitar pick resting on my chest and inspects it with a scrutinizing eye, whose signature is this? My heart skips a beat as my mind drifts off to a happier time. In sepia tones I see the black and white romance I shared with Roxy, but the memory is blurred by her betrayal, blurred by the picture of her in bed with Jared, the drummer in her band. Oh, I don't know, probably some guitarists I guess I bought it at a thrift shop. The lie rolls so easily off of my tongue, my deceit spilling forth so easily into our world.
Cool, cool She takes one last look, and lets it fall back to its usual resting place. She's stubbing out her second fag, and get's up soon after. Thanks for the chat; I'll see you around Max. She leaves, leaving me to sit back, my thoughts following her down the stairs.
Days passed before we passed again, it was in the hall. She wore a dress of red, the color exuberant and fabulous when compared to the drab interior of our inferior building. It was a short dress, and from underneath two smooth legs protruded and ended in red boots, beautiful red boots which made her seem even taller than she already was. Who's the lucky guy? I asked, after letting a wolf whistle escape from my lips but before I cringed at my own stupidity, not for the last time that evening.
Have you mistaken my direction and purpose? Can't you see that I'm coming instead of going? I mean, really! For a moment I stood dazed and confused, wondering how anyone could let this beautiful woman escape their grasp. How do you mean? Seriously? Dressed up but nowhere to go? You should've knocked on my door, babes! Cringe, second time in ten minutes less than ten minutes. I looked down for a second, ashamed about my failed attempt at flirtation, ashamed that it all was doomed by my over-watching of cheesy late night movies, with writers who get stoned too much and loved too little. I was pondering my plan of action for my evening alone when she interrupted my train of thought. Sure, where are we going? I looked up from my old, worn vans-sneakers and into her melancholy eyes, lit up by some strange emotion but still retaining the reflection of the darkness inside her heart.
Now I had a problem, a small problem. When I asked her out I didn't really mean to ask her out and therefore I was unprepared to take anywhere, so my dilemma was as follows: Where to take her? Luckily my instincts never fail me, so I calmly, and coolly and totally collected said: Anywhere the night takes us! After the exclamation mark. That's where more cringing took place.
She started laughing, but I grabbed her hand anyway, and we ran out the door. I was ecstatic, I was in love, I was free from the memory of Roxy, I was alive!
The police headquarters' not a great place to spend a Friday evening, yet that is where I found myself, feeling great. Now before you get the wrong idea, there's no murder mystery to be solved, or a date rape charge to be resolved, no Why am I here though? I'm here because some total ass came up to us in a club and stuffed his stash into my jean-pocket just before the cops raided the place. The pigs burst in, screaming and shouting, arresting the whole lot of us, and detaining us all until they could search us. I, a love drunk drunkard hadn't noticed the E in my pocket until I had sobered up a little and found myself in a dirty cell. Jail isn't that bad if you're not staying for too long, I'm pretty sure it gets worse as time progresses, but what interesting people you meet! Tonight, in the span of five hours, that's most of the time I was incarcerated for, I met a drug dealer, a pimp, a wannabe gangsta (His words, not mine. I would've called him an idiot.), a male prostitute and a young vandal booked for smashing up some jock's car, and tagging his house with very naughty words. I feel so happy. I wonder why. I mean, a few moments ago I had a head-ache, but Jimmy (He's the pimp), gave me an aspirin, so I'm feeling much better now.
I think I'll call the guards. Hey, dude, you in the uniform, I didn't do anything wrong! Let me out! They don't seem to be hearing me. Hey piggy, piggy!
Ey, shut up, we've been listening to you for two hours. Stop it, it's obviously not working! That was Joshua, the drug dealer.
Yea, before I have to shut you up myself! And obviously, Sid the thug, or gangsta as he prefers to be called, he only pretends to be mean, I'm pretty sure he's a nice guy. Finally the guard comes around, probably after about an hour of screaming and shouting. He unlocks the gate and stares at me. Hey, white-boy, you're free to go. I ignore this antagonism from one of our cities fine protagonists, getting up from the small, hard wooden-bench; I get my skinny white ass out of there before he changes his mind. I walk down the hall, astounded by all the pretty colors, and my mouth hangs open when I see Leticia standing in the bare reception room, a vision, a stunning vision of beauty.
What are you doing here? I ask, dumbfounded. She smiles. Daddy's a lawyer, was no problem. I laugh as we share a friendly embrace; a very friendly embrace, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
The decrepit old block of flats bids us no warm welcome as we enter through the old glass door on the ground floor. Walking up the steps I can't help but wonder what she sees in me, if she sees anything in me, that is. Timidly she takes my hand. Her fingers are cold as I grasp them in mine, we continue up the staircase to her flat. She unlocks the door, turning the handle and slamming her frail body against it to open it. She turns to face me, smiling as softly as always, as if she succumbed to happiness completely she might die. Without a word she kissed me. Kissed me passionately, mashing her lips into mine. Then she stopped, and before I could find a grip on reality, I found myself standing in front of a closed door.
For a week I heard no word, nor saw the solitary shadow of Leticia. I was starting to worry. I mean, you don't just kiss a dude and disappear. That's like kicking a guy where it hurts and running away as he tumbles over, clutching his jewels. Not cool. My ego is still sobbing like a little boy
Another week has passed. I wonder where she is. I went to her flat this morning and hammered on her door. There wasn't anyone home. Someone should call the cleaning people though; the smell on her floor is something atrocious.
Today the police were here, they broke her door down. Found her in the bath, stewing in stagnant water and blood, an empty bottle of anti-depressants floating in the putrid bathtub. There was a note.
To whom it may concern
I can't take it any longer; this life's too much for me. I can't face the future knowing that happiness will always elude me.
Max, know that I really did like you, I liked you a lot. Almost thought it was love, but you didn't call thanks for being my friend. I'm sorry. Good luck with everything.
Leticia My mind echoed her name, echoed the image of her, those sad, frail eyes. How long had she been here? How long? Why didn't anyone come and look for her? Was her existence truly so solitary and lonely that no-one came looking for her? They say the corpse is two weeks old. Why didn't I call her? Why didn't I knock on her door that night she kissed me? Why? I failed the test, and now I've lost everything. In a near comatose state I walk up the stairs to the roof. Standing on the edge, I scream curses at the world, at God, at everything. How? Why? Maybe if I hadn't been so self-absorbed, maybe I could've saved her If only I hadn't spent that first week waiting for her to call me. Your so cool Max, she can't resist you, she'll come knocking at your door at any moment', I killed her. I should've called. I should've called. I look down, towards the cars and people. It's quite a way down. A long way down. I remember the night I met her, she was standing where I'm standing now; was she thinking what I'm thinking now? I close my eyes, feeling myself sway. I hear the cars; I hear the shouting of a pedestrian as he notices me standing upon the roof. His words are total gibberish, but his intention is clear. He doesn't want me to jump. I didn't want Leticia to die. I fall. Time stops as I feel the wind against my face. I'll see her again soon. Leticia. I think I love you.
Copyright: Andre Darius Labuschagne (16 September 2008)