The air is cold and sharp up here on the rooftops, cut with pollution it catches at the back of the throat while the sunlight fights a valiant battle with the shimmer banishing shadows from forever dark corners. A plastic bag lofts gently in the breeze like a child's lost balloon. The sounds of the city below are muffled by distance but the hubbub remains as a dangerous undercurrent to the gusting winds. The roof is flat and nearly empty, singing aerials and satellite dishes all enclosed in a chest high wall of crumbling bricks and mortar, a desolation only pierced by an open door leading into the building below.
Observing the scene is a pale shell of a man, skeletal thin and deathly white, protected from the early autumn winds by a blue and white striped robe which flutters around bare legs in tattered disarray. Sunken eyes, shaven head and blemished skin betray a malignant illness lurking below the surface. Clutched in one fragile bird boned hand; an awkward garish tube and a brightly coloured envelope. It takes an eternity for the figure to drag his painfully weak frame up onto the parapet, breathing jaggedly he arranges his gown modestly and regards the city spread out like a tapestry below.
An envelope joins the aerobatic display, flitting with litter and almost lost balloons as it drifts down into the chasm between buildings. The card within is child simple, bright colours and bold script bringing a get well soon that evokes a wry little smile. The missive comes from a kindred spirit, an old soul, the humour not lost but cherished with childlike glee gifting us our first sound, a chest racking chuckle. Inside, the writing is densely packed, in a spidery copperplate desperate to make the most of limited space, skipping the salutation and diving for the text.
Once upon a time, in a far away land, a mighty King was consumed by nightmares. Summoning the wisest in the land, he gathered sages, seers, philosophers, wizards and storytellers. In the great hall he tasked them to go out into his kingdom and beyond.
Bring me something that can make me happy when I am sad.
An anything that will make me sad when I am happy.
One by one the wise returned to the King empty handed only to be dismissed by a flick of the wrist. When finally they stopped coming the King sat desolate in his great hall, he wasted away, refusing food or even a simple audience. Finally he called the fool who spoke this simple truth.
Sire. This, too, shall pass.
It may be the wind or simply emotion that causes a glaze to appear over his eyes but the smile playing around his lips is unmistakable. The card is closed with simple reverence and placed beside him on the wall. Staring deep into the middle distance he almost forgets the other gift. By some childhood instinct the container is open in his hands. A smile. Blowing on the little loop of plastic produces magical creations that gently waft away, floating down into the city, a procession of bubbles, drifting wherever the wind may take them to disappear upon the instant of contact. The rooftop is empty again except for the sunlight and shadows.