I didn't expect to see someone else up here.

I had just finished with classes and after waving my roommate goodbye with the same practiced smile, I'd climbed up fifteen flights of stairs just to get to the rooftop of the tallest building on campus.

For a moment, I could only stand there silently, watching the figure before me stand a food away from the edge. He was as still as a statue, with his hands hanging limply at his sides, and his face turned up to face the setting sun. A slight breeze had started to dance through the air, coaxing his dark locks into a waltz. I swallowed, starting to turn away from him, but my hands went against my wishes and decided to open the door much too loudly.

"Hello?" His voice was hesitant, perhaps even a little confused as to why I was up here.

Letting go of the door handle, I turned around and offered him a quick bow before smiling apologetically. "Sorry, I didn't know the rooftop would already be occupied. I'll come back later."

I grabbed the door handle, planning on making my escape as fast as my greeting, but he stopped me again.

"I'm not taking up this entire space, so you can stay... if you want, that is."

"Ah, of course."

I ended up sitting down as far away from him as possible with my legs tucked against my chest and my chin resting on my knees. I had wanted to keep this place for myself for when my thoughts kept me from doing anything else, but as one student out of thousands, someone was bound to find this place.

My eyes went from the cement rooftop underneath me to him. Coincidentally, he had been watching me and when my eyes met his, he swiveled his gaze away. His fingers tightened together in slight embarassment. I continued to stare at him, wondering why he had kept his eyes on me for so long.

"Why do you think I'm up here instead of studying for exams, going out with friends, or visiting family?" I asked, casually switching my eyes to the bruised sky above me.

Today, it mirrored my battered heart.

Silence started to fill the space between us, but he stopped it before it could continue to stretch on infinitely.

"To think."

His response was simple. But it was also vague enough to correctly answer everyone's reason.

"About?"

"Self-pity."

For a moment, I was too surprised to speak, but I regained my voice.

"Self-pity?"

He didn't look at me. "Usually, when we think, it's about ourselves, isn't it? We're always trying to define our self-concept. We're always trying to answer that constant question that asks us who we are. Sometimes we can't get past our pitiful selves and our pitiful pasts. It seems a little cheesy, but that's the topic we dwell on the most when we're full of thoughts."

I let out a puff of air, smiling to myself. "You really captured that perfectly, you know? I come up here a lot, thinking about how it would feel if I took the easy way out and decided to step on that ledge with unsteady feet. Sometimes, I wonder how free I would feel if I could fall from the highest building." Closing my eyes, I tipped my head back. "It would feel as if I were flying."

"it would be short-lived."

"Right?" I turned to face him. My passive face had already started to crack, brows coming together and lips wavering from their smile. "It would be, wouldn't it?"

"it's hard to stop the self-pity, but having someone with you while you let it out would be better."

"It's even harder to tell someone."

"You'll feel freer," he said. "It wouldn't be temporary. You would feel freer than flying for only a few seconds."

We didn't talk after that. There was a budding understanding that grew instead, taking the place of those unspoken words. It sounds cliché, but we were there for a long time, watching the bruised sky until it turned the darkest shade of black.

~ e.h.

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Cover photo by @iwakurashiori on Instagram.