rooftops of hong kong.

-

"Wait, let's not go home, yet!" I whispered, and I dug my heels onto the ground in an effort to break Rob's stride.

He sighed exasperatedly. "It's two fucking thirty in the morning. There's nowhere you can go, Sophie. You're high as a kite, and you can hardly walk in a straight line. I think it's time we go home." Even then, he was trying not to grin at the words.

The neon sign flickered above, casting an advertisement for the convenience store, and it cast a blue sheen across his face. He looked sweaty and oily, and I giggled, because he looked like a martian. I probably looked the same, too. "For your information, mister, I am not high as a kite."

"Those x pills were like candy to you."

"But only because the first ones weren't working," I whined, and I shook his arm pleadingly. "Zhang said that one would do the trick, but it didn't, now did it?" Rob shrugged, but it was hard to miss the reluctant compliance in his eyes.

"You know, those things really fuck up your insides," he said quietly, and I rolled my eyes.

"But not if you do them once in a while, and I do them once in a while. I'm fine, see?" I opened my mouth as wide as I could and stuck out my tongue. "Anything wrong, Dr. Rob? Anything at all? Am I going to die from x overdose? Aaahhh."

He laughed, shoving my face out of the way. "You're disgusting." But it worked, mitigating his irritation.

"See? I'm disgusting, but not sick. So let's not go home yet, OK?"

"Aren't you tired?" he asked, but he was letting me backtrack, back up the hill where the Chinese man had been selling steamed buns. "It's two thirty in the morning."

"Yeah, but we're high as kites!"

-

We were in the middle of carrying in the second fragile box when the first wave of neighbors hit.

They came in all shapes and sizes, round and thin, tall and short, blonde and brown. They hugged Anne like she was some lost child, eyed my dad with feigned disinterest, and clucked names of their daughters and sons at me. "Oh, my daughter/son Ally/George/Jason/Stephanie go to the nearby school you just saw, Sophie! Why don't you ride with them to school next week?"

I smiled politely each and every time and said, "It's OK. I wouldn't want to trouble him/her." It was true. Imagine how awkward it would have been to have a stranger wedged in the middle of your car, stifling the otherwise natural conversation. It made me feel bad, because I wasn't very extroverted in the first place.

By the time I had all my stuff in my room, we had met approximately sixteen new faces. "How nice of them!" Anne enthused, and Dad grunted. I yawned again, sitting down on the grass and blinking languidly. She must have really wanted this move if the excitement was any indication. Anne blended well with a lot of people; it was her job, after all, to mingle and collect business cards from men. Her social contact was formidable, and I wondered how she would live in a place like this. It was like pulling a fish out of water and watching it slowly suffocate.

Feeling sleepy, I pulled my sweatshirt closer and lay down on the grass. It wasn't as soft as it looked, all hard and prickly, and the blades scratched my face uncomfortably. It didn't stop me from falling asleep under the warm sun, though.

-

I woke up around five p.m., when someone landed on top of me and effectively voided my ability to breathe. "Fuck!" Then there was a mad scramble, and I didn't open my eyes until I made sure I was breathing again. A boy was leaning over me, his mouth pulled into a laugh. His voice sounded apologetic, though. "Sorry, B. Didn't mean to crash into you there." The boys behind him were hooting and guffawing, bent over and ready to pee in their pants. I'm sure I would've laughed back in Hong Kong, too, but I just blinked unevenly instead, trying to take everything in. My chest hurt was hurting really badly.

The boy wasn't laughing anymore, his smile slowly pulling down when I didn't say anything. "Shit, you OK? Are you hurt or something? It really was an accident back there."

"You trying to ask her out after running over her?" one of the guys hooted, and they all burst into a fresh round of snorts and chortles.

"Fuck off," he replied angrily, his ears turning red, and he turned back to me with a shake of his head. "You're OK, right?"

I knew when someone wanted to run away from a situation. Everyone's been there once or twice, and I didn't feel like I had any right to make him more uncomfortable than he already was. My knees felt raw and cool underneath the cool jeans, and I wasn't sure if I could breathe properly, since he had ended up kneeing me on the side. It was three months ago all over again, no air in your lungs and the pain in your joints, only this time, I was by myself again.

"Hey, you need me to get your parents or something?" the boy asked, kneeling down, and he was completely serious this time. The rest of them weren't completely laughing either, and I rubbed my eyes in a sluggish manner. "God, I didn't think I hurt you that bad—"

"No," I interrupted, clearing my throat. It was dry, and I needed a glass of water. "No, you didn't. I'm—I'm fine."

"You sure?" He looked dubious, and he had every right to be, but he backed up nevertheless when I moved to my feet, brushing the dirt off the sweatshirt. "You looked pretty rough there for a moment."

I nodded and continued wiping my eyes.

"You're OK?" he asked one more time, an uncertain smile returning to his face as he picked up the skateboard and backed towards his posse, and I nodded again. I couldn't breathe, but that was all right, almost expected. Three months wasn't a long time, and anyways, the doctor said that I would always have these little panic attacks for the rest of my life. Said it would happen less frequently, but it would never go away.

I didn't want the boys to feel bad about what they just started, so I stumbled up the driveway and into the house.

-