Up on the Roof

Shannon Wardell
Up on the Roof
With that giddy excitement which irregular practice habits illicit, 4c raised his trusty trombone and warmed up with the “Camptown Ladies” bass line. “I still got it,” he thought while playing, “A few notes off-key, an occasional lip-flutter: but practice makes perfect!” And he launched into another run, this time paying more attention to that fifth rise after the first verse.

The distractions of the day had begun to mellow into that happy hour between work and play, when a whole evening promised so much more than what the work day had actually delivered. A special coolness filled the air from the last night's rain which had broken the first August heat wave. That morning, mini-skirt-ladies and body builders had reluctantly worn pants and long shirts against a chill that felt more like October than the dog days of Lugh. “Summertime, and the livin' is eaasaayyy,” 4c blew with deep brassy glory, winking at himself in the wall mirror while relishing that bass-frapping buzz. That Erica said it sounded like distended flatulence was just another sign of her own neglected musical education.

A semi-loud double “Bam” told 2b that someone on the third floor – either 3b or 3c – had energetically slammed their windows closed. Of course 2b could hear the blatant bass blare through the central airduct, yet to him it was more of a mild gray noise, like the trash truck rumbling down the street with its progeny of linguistic novelty and diabolical smells. Currently trying to channel alpha phased nuggets of conceptual inspiration, 2b lay prone on his bed in a room utterly darkened with thick curtains. “Napping, again” his friend Tanya would have quipped.

As 4c tried to recall that Seeger classic “Old Time Religion” (“D? Na, E then A, no B7, that's it, then E to A ...”), 3d scanned thoughtfully through her CD collection, her fingernail pausing indecisively every now and then until … the Supremes was definitely the sound she wanted to hear right now instead of Elmer Fudd upstairs farting his campfire tunes.

For 4b, the sudden Motown groove was like a sip of Rum n' Cola back at Hawlies in the days before kids: “Stop! In the Name of Love - ” It was really loud through the open windows, loud enough to nearly cover up the bass Bronx cheers from next door, and she found herself recalling a feeling that was young, flirty, thrilling and thoroughly Hawlie. She popped open another wine cooler as the mac and cheese came to a simmer. “Think it O - O- Ver … ” she sang with sass reaching for five plates out of the drying rack.

Urban digitalization has yet to update the interpersonal encounters of isolated apart-mental living environments separated only by the gauze of architectural wall conventions.

The Balkan jazz exploded obviously from the Hungarians in 5a. “Silver Bird” started the hit list off with its Fender amplified harmonica riff, guitar grind, swelling bass wave and percussive drive. Even the pillows clamped against 2b's ears could not insulate against the lively gypsy clang that seemed to vibrate the very walls.

He tried to focus his thoughts upon a certain void of nothingness which often geysered when he needed an idea. The ideas were rarely new, but sometimes helpful. Readymade urinals tumbled over a waterfall into a spiral jetty of labyrinthic exploration. The pigmentary colours of his skin, blood, eyes, brain, fingernails, hair and liver shotgunned in splatters across a white canvas wall. Geese imploded into pillows on legs. Young naked females, dipped into a special blue paint by their ankles, were swished over white canvas on the floor as a tuxedoed audience gawked, the orchestra playing one solitary tone for 20 minutes before 20 minutes of silence.

Linearity, a proud patriarch for over two thousand years of Euro-American human development, wakes up after a power nap and realizes with wide-eyed shock that he has been glam-bammed, his place on the stage already taken by a trio of soul sisters whose succulent voices, big hair and sparkling, curvaceous hot pants have completely stolen the show. As a rejuvenated incarnation of Macbeth's Bewitching Ladies, they undulate their fannies in his face so he can read their names embroidered there in graffiti tag style: Caprice, Liberté, Lovage.

Linearity sees his belovedly straight timeline warp and blur into double-helixing spirals. Time realizes that it is now time to leave what has become a mere utilitarian partnership with Linearity designed primarily for one-dimensional satisfaction. Time would rather condense the past, present and future into a tesseract of perception that leaves an observer suspended in a moment of enraptured timelessness.

It is time for wondering what happens to time when time stands still. It is time to measure how fast time flies. Time to take Time out for dinner. Time to set a time bomb to blow away the illusion of linear logical necessity. Time to take time off the wall, off the wrist, off the pixified screen. Time for zoning where time can be legally killed and carding those who buy it immaturely. Time for saving the mind from devices that promise to be time-savers but really just enslave us to a gadget. Time to reintroduce silence as an ingredient in invention. Time to hear the slow drip of rain water from larch cones somewhere miles away from honks, amplified tonal compositions and melodic expressions of emotive verve. Time to see figures juggling non-objective depictions of visual acuity. Time to listen to the whisper of wind telling its secrets through needled branches. Time to smell mushroom-rich earth somewhere on a high mountain up on the roof of the world. Time to spend a month's earnings of labored hours on a few days wondering how the clinging of cow-bells is never dissonant with the soft buzz of flies. Time to feel how reduction is, was and will always be the tonic that lets excess be savored at all. Time for a pipe up on the roof.

Looking down, 2b imagined that he could see sounds blowing as colored confetti out of the windows in syncopated time to the diverse music blaring out of the various apartments below: Cole Porter, Carole King, an indie beatbox rap, the Balkan-jazz hit list on the go, a trombone tooting “La Bamba”.

Glancing at the clock, 4c broke off the refrain while turning to the open window, levering the spit valve open and blowing a hefty squirt out to the street. “An intense practice today,” he commented to the mirror in passing as he gently placed the trombone back on the stander in the corner. Noticing the cacophony outside of children screams and dissonant music genres, he closed the window with a sigh, “Neighbors...” Walking over to the remote control on the coffee table by the couch, he clicked on the flat screen for the news, “It is time for …”
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