My sister refused to leave. I was years ahead of what she had come around from, only to end up a little girl living at home. I went up to eat shingling. She climbed up to shake her head. I think they mean for you to brush the leaves out, she said. I wanted nothing more than to be a gruffly pronounced roof who had been flown in over their heads. To have nada above but sky and clouds, which plainly constituted more than what they lay below. I lived up there, climbing down into the attic window only to feign humanhood at the dimming-room table. My father knew when something uncool was happening. Boys will be boys, my mother liked to say. I knew it was time for another the talk. This round, they would do the listening. I came out inward from up, explaining, finally, what had been shingling inside me. Birds will be bees, I said. The table shot through the roof, presenting the long-since logical escape route I had been avoiding. Leaves really did mean leaving! Though not the kind I could clean out of the eaves.
We were at that drowsing age of browsing for butts between the promenade’s cobblestones. Promenade was a strange word, more of a foreign theme than an American shopping center conversion therapy. When we could spare our mouths, we called it lemonade or hand grenade. It was better than being home. Each week another worker attended to our obsession with a well-smacked cigarette pack and something ludicrous. One security guard told us about a girl from his school who had insisted. A skater, all ablaze in rickety noised motion, told us that when he was our age he dumped whiskey on a business suited bum sleeping, before dropping a match, firing the whole skin sack. The same suited one watched with scorched snout as we reached into each other’s emptinesses between the magazine racks.
Nothing happened if nobody saw. The only room we got was in the security cameras of the mall. The more people watched, the straighter we became. Eventually, we fit into the kind of life that brought us to the promenade for sure purchases payed for separately, strangers to each other, with whole families of teens waiting to defile each other into flames.