The Thing About the Guy Friday, Feb 15 2013 

Once upon a time there was this guy, and he was a very distinct character. Everyone could tell what a character he was because of the hat he wore. It was an extremely distinctive hat.

Well, it goes without saying that such a distinctive character of a guy couldn’t possibly go for very long without doing a thing that somebody would notice, and sure enough, he did. This guy did a thing that was so incredible, everyone was talking about it. And I mean everyone. All over the place. They were just super excited about this thing this guy did, and they couldn’t help being extremely interested in him because of it.

At first the guy liked that everyone was interested in him, because he knew that when everyone is interested in someone, it means that person is very special indeed. He liked the idea that he was special. But pretty soon, it started to annoy him that he couldn’t go anywhere without people knowing who he was, or asking about the thing he did, and when was he going to do another thing. He was kind of scared, to be honest, because he wasn’t sure that he could do another thing. Not another thing that special, anyway. He got so fed up with people recognizing him everywhere that he even tried taking off his distinctive hat, but it didn’t help. Everyone already knew what he looked like. So he suffered through, and he got used to people knowing who he was, and he tried to be patient about it.

After a while, people stopped coming over to him in restaurants or at the grocery store. He figured it was because they had gotten used to him, and they had. But the truth was that another guy had done a great thing, and everyone was getting really interested in that. Basically, they had forgotten all about the first guy. He stopped getting offers for endorsement deals, he stopped getting free liquor in the mail, he couldn’t get into clubs anymore without showing ID, and when he did show ID, the bouncers didn’t even comment. Nobody cared about him anymore, not even when he put his hat back on. In fact, one day some hipsters did recognize him because of the hat, but they just laughed at him.

“That hat is soooooooo ‘remember when I did that one thing?’” they snickered, in mean voices. It made the guy feel worse than ever. He took the hat off again.

He didn’t know what to do. He wanted to do another cool thing, but he didn’t know what thing to do. He thought about going back to his old job, but he couldn’t face it. He even considered doing a reality TV show, but the network wanted him to wear the hat, and unfortunately he had gained awareness that the hat was stupid. He spiraled into depression.

Then one day, he got an email. A college kid with a podcast wanted to interview him. He suspected that he would only be mocked, but he didn’t have anything else to do, so he agreed. And then, over Skype, talking to a total stranger, it all came out, like foam out of a baking soda volcano. All of the anxiety and doubt and self-loathing and fear of hipsters. It was like vomiting – he knew he was grossing people out, but he couldn’t help it. It happened on its own.

When he was done, the college kid with the podcast was quiet for a minute.

Then he said, “Fuck hipsters, man. None of them even wear clothes that fit. I liked that thing you did, and if you did another thing, I bet I’d like that, too.”

The guy thought about that. Really rolled it around in his brain. Took a good look at his hat.

“Thank you,” he said.

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The Roof and What I Found There Sunday, Feb 10 2013 

Turns out my roof is dumb as hell, which should have been the opposite of a surprise.

If you’re on the ground at a good distance to really look at my roof, it looks like it’s made out of terra cotta tiles, because it is. The curvy ones that fit into each other and kind of look like Fritos – you know the ones. There’s only about six rows of tiles slanting up, but that’s enough for most observers to reach the conclusion that, yep, that’s a roof all right, and not worry about what is actually hovering over most of the building to protect the occupants from the elements.

The answer, if anyone ever did wonder, is that if you climb up the ladder of some roofers who aren’t paying attention and then scramble up six rows of terra cotta tiles set up at roughly a seventy degree angle, you’ll fall about a foot and a half onto a flat roof surface covered in very fine gravel. Under that is tar paper. And under that is something else, I don’t know what but it supports human weight, which is why I didn’t crash through any sheets of gravel-coated tar paper and land inside the building. So that was the first thing I learned.

The second thing I learned was that being on a roof when you aren’t used to it is super weird, and a little bit disorienting, and that I have a piss-poor sense of direction, or spatial relationships, or whatever stupid specialized ability I would have needed to figure out from the position of the ladder where my apartment was beneath me. Fuck you, it’s harder than it sounds.

So I spent a couple of minutes worrying about that, and then I spent a couple of minutes worrying how soon the roofers would come back, and then I realized that figuring out where my apartment was didn’t matter that much, because what I was really looking for was the other side of that trap door, and what were the odds that any of the other apartments in my building had a trapdoor that led up to the roof? Pretty slim, I thought, based on nothing. The truth was, I had never been inside any of my neighbors’ apartments. It was entirely possible that all of them had trapdoors. Maybe trapdoors were a thing now, and everybody had one and I had somehow missed that trend, like the time I decided I really wanted to start wearing overalls about two months before they went completely out of style. Maybe that trapdoor had always been there, and I had never seen it before because I was crazy or had had some undiagnosed disorder for years that was only now beginning to subside on its own.

And then I actually looked around for a second and realized how totally flat the roof was. Within the area defined by the terra cotta perimeter, there was pretty much nothing at all except for a flat expanse of tar paper a la gravel. No doors. Not to my apartment, not to anyone’s apartment. Nothing. No. Thing. It answered my question, but it didn’t really make me feel better.

“Hey, what are you doing up here?”

Shit. The roofers. Be cool, I thought.

I was not cool. “Oh, um, sorry,” I said. “I was just checking whether my… laundry… was up here.”

This was so stupid that they didn’t even bother responding to it. They just looked disgusted at me.

But they were nice enough to get out of my way so I could climb back down.

In Isolation, An Idea Forms Saturday, Feb 9 2013 

I’ll start by saying I’m not proud. But today there were some guys over at our building, checking out the roof. I don’t really know what they were doing up there because I didn’t talk to them, but it must have been something pretty involved because they were there all day. In fact, they were here yesterday too; I know because I kept hearing them clomping around above my head and I kept worrying that one of them would fall through on top of me.

 So when I heard them setting up again this morning, I was pretty irritated. I tried to tell myself that whatever they were doing was almost certainly for my benefit, cleaning out the gutter or repairing the roof or whatever, but they were still pretty annoying and it was my day off. A woman deserves to be able to not fear a giant hulking stranger will fall through her ceiling on top of her when she’s in her own home. And my landlord hadn’t even called me.

 What I should have done is, I should have gotten out of the house. I could have taken a good book and treated myself to breakfast somewhere, or I could have done some hiking, or visited a friend. I could have done any of a thousand things that would have made me a better person, but I didn’t do any of them. Instead, I sat in my apartment and listened to the stomping overhead, and I stewed over it. I also watched The Price Is Right, because come on. If you’re home on a weekday, it’s practically obligatory.

 It was a really good Price Is Right, with Plinko and everything, and I got so wrapped up in it that it was almost the end of the Showcase Showdown when I realized that there hadn’t been any booming from above me for a while. I wondered if the workmen were gone, but if they weren’t, I didn’t want them to see me checking on them like some crazy rude apartment shut-in. I needed a plan.

 There was only one thing to do, really, and I didn’t like it, but there it was. I had to wash the dishes. The only two reasons that any adult person stands in front of a window for any extended period of time is because they’re a crazy snoopy witch, or because there happens to be a window at their kitchen sink and they’re washing dishes. That’s why I always left my dishes until there was something outside that I needed to look at. The window at my kitchen sink faced the courtyard of our apartment building, which was the rear of our apartment, but it was facing the right direction to give me the information I wanted. The courtyard could be exited through a gate into an alleyway that would accommodate vehicle traffic, and parked in the alley jut outside the gate was a pickup truck with three big, burly men sitting on the tailgate, sharing a pizza. Based on their clothes, their attitude, and the general nature of their dirtiness, I deduced that these were the men whose footfalls had been terrorizing me, taking a lunch break. I also noticed that they had left their ladder up against the side of the building. It was in the opposite corner of the courtyard from where the gate was, in the crook of the building where it turned and formed an L-shape. And nobody was watching it.

 So, that gave me an idea.

Overhead Friday, Feb 8 2013 

There is a trapdoor in my ceiling.

 I’m pretty unhappy about it. I live on the second floor of a two-story apartment building, and as far as I know, there is little to no attic space above my ceiling. Which means that this trapdoor must open directly onto the roof. I see this as undesirable.

 The thing that upsets me the most about it is that it wasn’t there two days ago. I’m not sure if it was there when I woke up yesterday morning; maybe it was and I missed it, but I know for a fact that I never saw it until I got home from work last night, and there it was, nearly in the middle of my living room ceiling, slightly obscured by the ceiling fan.

 I have issues with the ceiling fan too, but at least it didn’t sneak up on me.

 Since you haven’t seen it, you’re probably trying to come up with a rational explanation, like a burglar climbed up on to my roof while I was out or asleep and cut a hole downwards to let him or herself into my place and steal all my stuff, but this trapdoor is far more sophisticated than that. It isn’t jut a simple hole. It’s a full-on door, with a frame and a latch and hinges, the whole nine yards. It’s a door that somebody took some time making. I just don’t know when. Or who. And the one thing they didn’t do was provide an obvious way up to it – my ceiling is at least seven feet off the ground, and like I said, the door is pretty close to the center of the room. Maybe there’s a ladder folded up inside of it, that would come down if the door was opened. I don’t think I’m going to find out, though.

 I haven’t said anything to my husband about it because he hasn’t said anything about it to me. I’m a little worried that I can see it and he can’t, which would add a whole new level to the problem that I am frankly not prepared for, especially if the door ends up going away again on its own. That’s kind of what I’m hoping for. I don’t think that that’s what going to happen.

 It’s supposed to rain tonight, and if that thing does just open up onto our roof, there’s going to be some serious damage to the coffee table, and maybe the couch. I always hated that couch. I wonder if we can afford a new one?

Starting Fresh Sunday, Feb 3 2013 

I was just getting over a week long flu and I had finally mustered the strength to get my laptop to my bedroom and plug it in, in the hopes of squeezing out a few words as I convalesced. Unfortunately, whatever string of Ns and Hs had made up the particular virus that knocked me out seemed to have burned up any story ideas I might have had, because I was coming up with zilch. The blank screen stared at me accusingly; even projects that I had been outlining before I got sick seemed worthless, or I had forgotten what they were supposed to be about. Meanwhile, my cat had noticed the computer’s power cord running across the bed.

The first thing that happens when my cat sees anything long and dangly is, she starts chewing on it. Maybe to see if it’s a noodle; I don’t know. She won’t eat dry cat food but she will eat powdered donuts. Anyway, this thing she has with dangling objects means I constantly have to pull extension cords out of her mouth, which is always stupid, but somehow stupider when I’m sitting up in bed while I do it.

So there I was, propped up with pillows, my computer in my lap, my cat trying to electrocute herself, my mind utterly blank, when all of the sudden there’s an explosion at the apartment building next door.

I should mention that we’re pretty sure the apartment building next door is just a flophouse for meth heads.

Which is to say, an explosion over there couldn’t be considered as surprising as an explosion at, say, an elementary school, or a strip mall, or just a regular apartment building with tenants who pay their rent like citizens and don’t cook methamphetamines. But still, an explosion. More exciting than the flu. I went to the window to see if I could get a glimpse of anything – like the building burning, or… actually, I really just wanted to see if the building was burning. I sort of hoped it was.

It wasn’t. I could hear a couple of the meth heads arguing, but I couldn’t see them. No one was screaming, so presumably there hadn’t been any injuries either. I went back to bed.

And there was that blank screen again, a nineteen-inch screen of blank nothingness, reminding me of how I would never make it as a writer.

I wished that something interesting would happen, to inspire me.