the Optimist

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. How could an estate sale list get any sadder, she thought? Making her way up the dark stairs to the bleak rooftop, she reviewed the list in her mind.

“Baby shoes, new. Never worn. $2”

“Various romantic movies, DVD. 50 cents each.”

“Four slot toaster, two slots never used. $3”

Pushing the heavy iron door open, she felt the cold rush of mist and winter move against her nakedness. She pushed ahead anyhow. Pigeons fluttered away, annoyed by the intrusion. Stopping, the door still heavy against her bare hand she watched them fly higher into the grayness, escaping one bleakness for another.

A pair of reliable leather shoes kept no secrets as she moved nosily toward her favorite perch on the edge. As she sat down on an old “Maui No Ka Oi” beach towel, the heavy iron door announced it was no longer interested, booming shut.

One last cigarette appeared magically as she rolled the nearly empty box in her hands. Fishing the clear disposable lighter from her worn paper bag she fought with the flint to get one last flame out of the remaining fumes. It had been her only successful method of controlling the addiction. Never stocking up. Yet, only buying when she had run out had not delayed anything. When the building Super had noticed that of her once, he had shaken his head slowly, like old men will, saying she only tortured herself.

He had no idea.

Sitting on the edge, her feet dangling over the thirty vertical window gardens below, all abandoned, she inhaled deeply. This had really been the only lover she had ever been able to count on, these kisses of nicotine moving through her soul. Drawing a second deep breath she watched the traffic below and continued going over her list.

“Queen sheets, 400 thread, still in package. $4”

“Scented bath salts, various. $3”

“Love chair, never proven. Free.”

She twirled the now exhausted lighter in her hand, wondering how such a good friend had worked against her all along. Crushing the cigarette box before throwing it on the roof with the lighter she wondered for a moment if it all been a conspiracy. “Of course,” she laughed loudly, disturbing only the stubborn pigeons who had yet to fly away.

The Super, a man that reminded her of a father she might have had, would at first think she had taken a weekend with a lover, perhaps out to the mountains. But, then he would come to collect the rent and find her still gone. Perhaps after another few days he would let himself in, saying out loud that he was there to inspect the pipes.

Reaching into the bag again, she pulled out a handful of bird feed, the kind that was always on sale. Pigeons weren’t especially picky eaters. There was enough room on either side of her to spread it out evenly, on her left and then on her right. The varied colors had always fascinated her, even as a young girl. No one, though, had ever been able to explain why some of the seeds were one color or another. Another mystery, she thought, that she would never solve.

A moment later, the pigeons crowded her perch, feasting, as she flew.

The Super, she envisioned would find her very organized instructions in the book, and her key sitting stoically on top. He would open it and flip to the first page.

“All money to be donated to the American Cancer Society.”

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