This is a bit from My 2010 NaNoWriMo. I like the overall story and I’m spending some time with it, but I’m struggling to get the voice to a comfortable point. It feels like bad noir. It won’t feel that way forever. I edit more each day and I continue to get closer to the tone that I’m looking for. This is not complete.
It was too hot to sleep so he sat on the roof and smoked to distract himself. That’s how he justified it. He doesn’t like smoking. It’s a time filler more than it is an addiction. An activity to accompany a glass of wine at 2AM. A hobby that he picked up after retiring. It was something and it was better than tossing in bed for the next few hours. He lights one after another and shares a bottle with himself. “Beautiful city,” he thinks, wiping his forehead. “Just so damn hot!” This time he speaks, half in his glass and half enraged. It was late spring and not even the heavy bricks of the 1960’s building can resist the heat from the day that radiates from the roof and pulses in waves from the walls over the streets that are doing the same. It does it every spring. One major round of heat before summer. The oppression in the air takes whatever’s left from the day and leaves it exhausted by morning.
He blamed his own exhaustion on the heat rather than his lack of sleep and the only relief for that is water, submersion, but the closest he is to a pool is the wine in his now empty glass, so he pours one after another to compensate. He sits by himself as his wife works another erratic schedule at the hospital as there was nothing inside to draw him in. The nights were his. He didn’t like it, but it had been the same for years, on and off. In fairness to her, it’s been better over the last three or four years, but the nights are still hard and when he can’t sleep he drags himself to the roof with a bottle of wine and the pack of cigarettes he keeps hidden under the lip of the air conditioner mount. It’s self medication through self destruction.
He has no schedule so he sits awake. It was good, and he knew that. He had a busy schedule for over 30 years, from college to career to family. This calm was good but it’s what kept him pacing during the day when she was sleeping and it’s what kept him up when she was gone. He wasn’t the type to retire in the first place. Now 63 years into life and he doesn’t have a single obligation. His grandkids don’t live close with Scott having moved half way across the state and Steph won’t have kids. She can barely find her keys in the morning. But he knows how fast things can change. Leaning on the edge he follows the streets and rooftops out to the lake.
“Just a breeze,” he spoke to the neighboring buildings, “just a small breeze.” He spoke aloud but he swallowed his words as he always did when people weren’t around to listen. Even for Chicago it was hot, but he liked the roof as much then as he did when they bought the unit and he dealt with it. Their condo is on the 10th floor and they are the only residents in the building to have roof access. It was part of the home and it’s what sold them on it.
Back then it was for the party possibilities. He was 28, Carol 24, and kids were a few years off, if ever, but the roof made for great parties. Then the kids came and the roof took on a space of its own. No one seemed to mind the roof paper after a few beers but, with the kids, they sketched out a couple plans and turned the space into something liveable.
That’s where they spent most of their summers and, though it wasn’t of much use in the winter, he built a small gazebo which he lit with a few strings of white lights every Christmas. He never really saw them, but the neighboring high-rises did, so he put them up figuring that it contributed in some way to the overall cheer of the holidays. Even now, with both the kids gone, he hung a few stands or, rather, he left a few up. He told Carol it was because he never got around to it, but really he liked them being there. It was festive in the winter, in the summer it was ambiance, and on these nights it wass a night-light on the roof at 2AM.
He looked at his watch. Carol should have been home nearly an hour ago, with the commute. She must be staying late again he though. It was beginning to seem like she worked late every night, like she was slipping back to how she used to be. Last time she didn’t come home till almost 5AM. This wasn’t the retirement everyone talked about and it wasn’t the retirement he heard about at his party. There were supposed to be trips, vacations, dinners out. He hadn’t taken advantage of any of that. There had been excitement, but now he wanted a retirement with her. He knew he’d never get one. Carol loved her job. She was good at what she did and he liked watching her leave with the same energy she’d always had. It gave her life. He liked that, but he hadn’t planned on retiring alone. He also hadn’t planned on smoking. He hadn’t planned on much of anything that happened post retirement.
He took another long sip of wine and flicked the remains of his cigarette off the edge of the building, watching until it put itself out on the fall. He didn’t like being out there when Carol got home. She worried about him wandering around the roof at night and the fact that he had taken up smoking wasn’t something she liked knowing. He brought the wine inside, fully intending to finish it. He was of the mentality that a bottle should never be re-corked. This belief went back to his college days of guarding booze, which meant drinking it. The wine he had now was better than his beverage of choice in college, and no one was going to take it, but he couldn’t let it go of the habit.
He was tall, bordering on lanky, and his walk was marked with long, full strides which gave the illusion that both feet frequently left the ground in unison. His arms, which swung in beat with silence, only added to this image that portrayed him as casual, simple, and ambivalent, though only two traits could accurately be applied. He carried himself well despite his lanky appearance, and his methodic, almost rhythmic movements suited him because they matched his practicality. Even walking into the condo, halfway through a bottle, he moved without breaking stride, without having to correct a single motion.