I was not spying. I do not spy. Now or ever. •
I’ll never forget the first time I fell off the roof. WhamThump! EEEOwww!
It happened fast. One minute you’re up on the roof, and the next thing you know, you’re so not there at all anymore. Whump!
You don’t get a lot of time to really examine the moments from when you’ve completely departed the roof but you haven’t yet arrived upon the ground. It can really get away from you. Like, snap.
However, the second time I fell off of the roof, thump! Damn! It did seem to slow down more. I remember thinking, well, here I go; I’m falling off of the roof again. And I’m looking around for anything to grab onto. Then I happen to notice a lot of leaves in the gutters and make a mental note: don’t forget to clean the gutters when you get back from the hospital. And for God’s sake, try and be a little more careful up there.
By the third and fourth time I fell off the roof, it started slowing down quite a bit. I was hearing dogs bark and birds chirp and I could identify three different kinds of leaves: maple, elm and oak.
Now the sixth time I fell off the roof. Thump Crapdamnpisshell. I remember thinking, I should quit going up on the roof. But I did manage to savor the time immediately following the clawing desperately at the roof tiles but before the actual hitting the ground. I thought to myself, Hey, I’m in the air. It was that time I remember seeing four or five sparrows chasing a crow. The sparrows had good, quick looping moves and took turns pecking and all Mr. Crow could do was try and get the hell away. I wondered if any of them noticed me, still in the air, my arms flailing, and pondered, what’s that thing doing? It was five sparrows I now recall. Then it was over pretty quickly. But while you’re in the air, you learn to make that time last because, believe me, before you know it, WHAM! Helldevilcrapfuck! It’s over.
Now the seventh, eighth and ninth times, I have to admit, sort of ran together. The tenth time really hurt when I landed. I guess we’re talking about re-breaking the same bones again and again. But also the tenth time seemed to me by far the longest I spent in the air. There were lots of clouds that looked like they just came out of the dryer they were so white, clean and fluffy. I saw distinctive shapes. One of them had the body of a lion and the face of the Gerber Baby but then it turned into a sort of reclining buffalo. And then into a woozy version of Monument Valley. And then I think I saw the same crow but it was being chased by a whole different bunch of birds. Swallows?
Now if you’re going to ask, what’s with you going up on a steeply pitched Victorian farm house roof, sitting on the roof, walking around on the roof, traipsing around the roof and generally acting like the star from the show, Fiddler on the Roof, you’re going to get a blank stare from me. And if there’s one handy, I’ll pick up a magazine and impatiently flip through it — rear to front — shaking my head that you don’t get it and you’re never going to get it and we don’t have anything to talk about.
If you think I’m going to go into the “…there are two kinds of people in the world…” you’re even more off-base.
However, if you were to ask me, by the way, what happened on the fifth time you fell off of the roof? Now that would get my attention. I would slowly close the magazine and put it down and regard you with a whole new level of respect.
Yes, that was no casual omission. That was the time Connie yelled at me.
When I fall off the roof, it’s usually down the east side of the house onto the driveway near the juniper bushes and the grease trap. But on the fifth time, I went down the west side. And I fell past Connie’s window. Connie is my wife; she has her own room. As I went by, I might have glanced in but it was too dark to really see anything and I certainly wasn’t trying to see anything. I was falling off the roof for God’s sake. Then I landed on the slate walkway near the irises. A few minutes later she came out of the house and stood over me for a while before she said anything.
“You were spying on me, weren’t you? Don’t ever do that again, hon. It’ll really make me crazy and you don’t want me crazy.” Then she headed out the driveway, got into somebody’s waiting van and took off. I couldn’t see who was driving.
Spying on her!
As best I could, I yelled after her that spying is not exactly something you achieve by trying to see in someone’s window you’re falling past at that incredible speed that falling things all travel at. I’m certain anyone who has ever had any success at spying can verify that fact. Spying is a real dig-your-heels-in kind of chore. It’s not done on the fly. If I had been able at that moment to drag myself into the house, I would have gotten the Policy Director of the CIA on the phone to verify that their spies do not jump off roofs or out a window to grab a peek into another window. Even for a government that’s not exactly known for being cost-conscious, that would be a pretty inefficient use of their highly trained personnel.
I was not spying. I do not spy. Now or ever. But that was the fifth time.
• • •
I had to make a compromise with Dr. Goldberg or he swore he wouldn’t be my doctor anymore. I had to promise I’d only go up on the roof if there was an absolute roof emergency. Or if there was a flood and the whole house was floating away. Connie and I could sit on one of the dormers tightly holding onto one another. A little scary but romantic.
We didn’t go too deeply into what would constitute a “roof emergency,” but as soon as they take these screws out of my jaw and forehead and the brace comes off of my head, I’ll be able to sit at the kitchen table and make up a list of what would “constitute” a “roof emergency.” A loose weather vane would probably qualify. That’d be one.
…that is, if we had a weather vane up there... ◊
(This piece was originally published in The American Bystander #1, October 2015.)