Jay and Warren sat above 352nd Avenue, their feet dangling 1,500 meters in the air as they ate sandwiches and synthetic fruit from their lunch pails. They worked third shift; it was just after nightfall.
“The Jubilee holiday is coming up–you have any plans?” asked Warren. The big man crossed his ankles and swung his legs in the warm night air like a child.
“Nah. You know I’m not into that state religion stuff.” Jay spoke around a nectarine pit he’d been sucking the sugar from. He plucked it from his lips and tossed it down into the angular canyon of the city’s inhabited levels, like tossing a coin into a well–a well filled with light, which is of course not water, but just as vital for life. He added, “I don’t even pretend to practice anymore–not even for my mother.”
“You don’t need to practice to have plans. And it’s not even really a religion, it’s more of–”
“Don’t backpedal. I know what you were trying to say.”
Warren wiped plum fruit from his square chin. “I was trying to say you could spend the day with me and my family. If you didn’t already have plans, that is.”
They focused on their sandwiches and let the relative calm of the Roof swaddle them. Few people ever came up here, above the megatowers that covered the landscape. No, not covered–replaced the landscape, with an exoskeleton sculpted not by plate tectonics and the weathering of waves and wind, but by city planners and engineers, their hands surely doing the work but gently guided by the strongest of the fundamental forces: politics.
Skilled laborers working the night shift–such as Jay and Warren–were the only people who ever saw the stars anymore. They had access to a primal state of contemplation that most no longer knew they’d lost. It was no wonder the Roof workers had such high numbers of unbelievers.
Jay finally broke the silence. “Actually, maybe I will come over.”
“Really?” Warren set down his sandwich and put a hand on Jay’s shoulder. “We’d be happy to have you.”
“Yeah.” Jay put his own hand on top of Warren’s. “I think I want to get drunk and hit on your sister.” He laughed like a jackal so hard it put him into a coughing fit.
Warren withdrew his hand and his face went sour. “I’m just trying to be a good citizen. Why do you have to be an ass?” He packed up his lunch pail and scooted away from the ledge.
Jay just stared blankly into the city lights. “Did you know that Jay’s not my real name?” he asked.
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
“My legal name is Jubilee.” He threw his food scraps over the ledge and got to his feet. “My parents named me Jubilee. How’s that for some bullshit?”
The night was frozen for a long second. Then Warren dropped his pail and doubled over, grabbing his stomach with both hands and filling the sky from the Roof to the Mesosphere with a baritone belly laugh. “Mysterious ways,” he said, still laughing. “Life works in mysterious ways, my friend.” He wiped a tear from his eye. “Come on. We have work to do.”
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. This piece is only inspired by the image and is not a part of Project 77. Image used with permission.