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.