I'll never understand what made him want to go to the roof every night. He lived in one of those walk up apartment buildings in the center of the city that housed ten times as many roaches than they did people. The hallways were covered in cracks and sticky spots with trash piling up in every corner. I'd always thought he'd deserved better than that.

He was in college, majoring for some artistic intellectual thing or another. He was always reading something when I ran into him, or he always at least had something to read with him. Except for when he was on the roof. Then there was just him and the night and me, when I came up to visit him.

I would hardly ever see him during the day. He'd be at school doing whatever they did in the classroom or I would be sleeping to get ready for the next night. On the rare occasion when I would see him while the sun was out our meetings would be brief. He would be in the company of his reading or, sometimes, with some of his friends. They'd always be laughing at some joke that I couldn't understand and I never wanted to embarrass him with my ignorance. So I would say hello and goodbye and continue down the street or the isle of the library or under the shade in central park. And those boys and the occasional girl would laugh a little louder at my back, asking him who I was and why I was wearing so much clothing in the summer or fall or whatever season it happened to be at the time. I don't know what excuses he made for me, since I'm sure he never told him the truth.

At night we would sometimes go places together. He was set on showing me just how everything went there and on showing me what there was to hear and see and do... He'd taken me shopping once or twice, introducing me to the world of denim, sketchers and Fiona Apple. I always had enough money to do whatever he felt and, with nothing else to spend it on, I'd spend it on him. He protested but I know he was secretly pleased by the little gifts I'd find for him. I never thought much of it... It was always only fair that I give him something in return for everything he did for me.

We'd go for take-out and take it in. I never knew there were so many ways to make something as simple as rice. Yellow, fried, mixed in with pork or beef or whatever fit your mood... It had always been plain and white before him.

He took me to the movies and showed me a world filled with cardboard punch lines and naked ribby women, or the explosions that never seemed as impressive as I suppose they were supposed to. What's so wonderful about destruction? I still fail to see its worth.

But then I never realized much before he stopped to explain it to me. For someone as old as I was and as old as I still am I seem to miss the most obvious things. Music, for example, had always been another version of noise before him. I think I fell in love with Fiona Apple because he was so in love with her himself. He would sometimes sing her songs for me in his soft almost embarrassed way. I still can't listen to her without hearing his voice held steadily over her own. Maybe it was the smiles he wore, or the way I was able to spend my time watching his troubles run away on the air for the brief time that they would leave him alone. I'll never be sure. I never asked him.

But out of everything I still have of him, the most important is the roof of his ratty walk up apartment building. I've never shared anything well, and he was no exception in that I always wanted his time to myself. I've always been told that I'm not the most open of people... That I hold too many secrets too close to heart, but I wonder why I'm expected to volunteer myself for someone who won't give a damn after the morning moon has risen. On the roof he would listen to my silence and share his own with me. And it would be fine, because on the roof we belonged to each other and we didn't need to share, no matter what everyone else had to say about it six floors below. As time passed and turned closer to his graduation and his departure, we spent more time up there, even in the winter when it was deathly frigid and his coat was no match for the harsh wind brushing across his skin. It was those nights that I could find him up there, shivering while he looked down at the street or up at the sky, and I could watch him turn and smile at my footsteps. Shift to welcome me as I sat behind him and shared my coat if not my warmth with him. Lean back against me and share the silence night after night after night...

And in the spring, as the ice melted and the flowers flowed we would frequent the roof less and less. We'd play games in the park which consisted of sitting quietly and watching the other "night owls" sit quietly and watch us. Or we'd just walk. And our shoulders and elbows would brush across each other with no reason to apologize for it.

We went to the movies once or twice more so he could laugh and I could smile and hear him laugh, and then we would get ice cream, ignoring the fact that it was still entirely too cold to be eating it. He'd eat his own and mine too, but I'd manage to end up the one with the sticky fingers. Every now and then, we'd still walk up the stairs to the roof to watch the pages of his calendar scatter on the wind, his graduation getting closer.

The last night had been warm. I remember walking up the few final stairs to see him waiting for me, for once not looking up or down. Just straight ahead. And it was then that I realized how final that would be, and I wondered why it had to be. If death can't be final, how do good-byes manage to hold that certain tune to them? His feet had carried him to me and his hands had carried themselves through my hair, pushing it back from its place in my eyes. He'd watched me for a long moment with eyes who'd bled their color into city darkness, kissed my cheek lightly and lead me to sit where we always did.

I still sit there. I sit there now.

But it was different with him that time. He'd leaned against me and twisted his fingers through mine, staring at his tan and my snow before smiling faintly. We had an odd kind of friendship between the two of us and it didn't end that night, even as I never heard from him again. I have no address, except for his roof, and I spend my time alone up there now with cartons of cheap fried rice and my only CD spinning in his battered CD player. I can still hear his voice whispering in my ears. And as the rice settles, warm in the bottom of my stomach, I can still feel his arms wrap around me under my coat, trying to ward off the chill he was leaning closer to.

We never said good-bye really, because the words never passed in the air between us. It had always been a soft wave and a quiet closing of the door while the stairs stiffened to let him in. We never said "good-bye" because we were too stubborn. We'd always just think it, assuming it would hurt a little less. Now I know it doesn't, because it leaves you thinking that maybe you'll see them again. And you won't. Because good-byes are final, whether you say them or think them or ignore them. They'll still stay with you while he's gone, and you'll always wish you had said it because thinking it wasn't enough and ignoring it did nothing for you. You'll be left, sitting on the roof of his apartment building, whispering what you should have said to him to the rest of the city instead. To the people in the theater, watching the high budget movie with the low budget explosion. To the owls playing quietly in the park and the ones discovering cotton and denim, and down into the fried rice stuck to the sides of your cheap paper container.


But it'll always manage to float back sounding empty.