I was fourteen and Kenny was seventeen and kind. He was a charachter...loved guns and knives, raised by his single mom. We hung out all that summer.
He'd met this girl who was in between our ages and early one heatwave morning we went to Manhattan to meet her. Her apartment was in a dilapidated building on Sullivan Street and her name was Cory. We spent a little awkward while in her room and as we headed for the door she bent over the couch where I hadn't even noticed a body and said "Mom, I'm goin out...". Her mom was skinny and pretty with messed up skin....couldn't have been more than 30. "Don't stay out late" she slurred. It was still before noon. She nodded out before her head....lowering slowly....even hit the TV guide.
We walked around, sharing a beer with a straw from a brown bag....got Italian ices and the two of them walked hand in hand. I trailed a few steps behind. Jealous.
She was beautiful. Greasy short hair and brown crying eyes. I liked her. A lot. But Kenny was my friend. I was still a nice guy. And the sum total of my self esteem was zero.
We got exhausted and hot and returned to Corey's place and filled coffee mugs with chilly water and brought them up to the roof. Unlike the building where I grew up which had seven stories and a roof from which you could see Manhattan and Queens and Brooklyn in between, this roof sat just above the canopy of lush downtown trees. Across from and above windows and fire escapes, Hells Angels and squirrels, I felt like I could live right there forever. All the electricity and art and dirt I craved without having to look anyone in the eye.
The edge had no fence or gate, just a slight incline where I knelt and then lay down....on my stomach, fingers and chin dangling. Hot roof on my belly...burning sun on my back.
Kenny and Cory were on another part of the roof, probably fooling around. I grew suddenly pissed off at Kenny. Their giggles stung and I got very sad and wanted to go home.
But the home I knew was hope-less. Joyless. Harsh.
With nowhere to go I quickly wrote a scene where I got up and kissed Cory (tho I wasn't sure how to) and then running for the edge and swan diving into oblivion. Leaving them both sorry. In awe. Regretful.
Or I could do a handstand. Right there. On the edge, impress Cory....and then arch back and be done with it. I would pass thru the maple leaves and land on the wrought-iron fence below. Folded in half backwards, impaled and dead like that angel-dust girl I'd seen in the Village Voice.
Rain drops hit my back and then thunder.....BOOM. I heard the staircase door open and shut as Kenny and Cory got out of the suprise downpour. I lifted my elbows and prepared to push my body up to standing and get to shelter but when I pushed off the resitence was surprisingly great. I felt very heavy. Wind was whipping and rain pouring and I was completely stuck. As if glued there to the hot tar roof.
An hour earlier, in fact.....I had lay down on a hot tar roof. And now I was indeed tarred.....glued...to a hot tar roof.
In seconds I was drenched. And stuck.
I squirmed and contorted and was able to peel myself up, leaving bits of fabric and drool where I had lived and died for the past hour.
I got inside the rooftop door and those two laughed when they saw me..all tarred and torn up
They laughed their asses off and just before I was about to cry, Cory took my hand and led me down the steps...her laugh trailing off but her lovely smile persisting...to her apartment, to her bathroom where she locked the door, got me a couple of towels and helped me dry off, get undressed, then into a motorhead t-shirt and a pair of her junkie-moms dry cut off jean shorts. She ripped fistfuls of long strawberry-blonde hair out of her moms brush and smiled as she ran it through my still-wet mop.
Then she kissed me on the cheek.
My memory has it that she just disappeared, since I have no recollection of ever seeing her again. But that's not what's important.
We tend think of salvation as something that would arrive in the form of a spirit-animal or an arc or a winning lottery ticket. But I've been saved probably more times than I've earned. A few times by an injured bird who needed my help more than I needed to cower in my own private pergetory, A few thousand times by a radio song that reminded me that I'm not the only one who feels. And I believe that on this day I was granted a stay of execution by a poor little punk girl who gave me the time of day.
And who.....I think it may be fair to say....liked me.