The Rooftops of China

By Isabel Brown

        Flynnigan used to tell me how he discovered the ache of loneliness at the age of 5. He grew up an only child and he liked to personify huge twigs. Out in the countryside and over the hill was a lone schoolhouse. When it was chilly out, his nose burned red, as if wasps robbed his dignity the night before. 

        Lonesome without realizing it, he named the pushy wind “Frida” after reading a biography on Miss Kahlo. Flynnigan enjoyed reading and picked it up real easy, and because of this, he had no relatable interests with other 5 year olds. Anyways, he talked to Frida on his walks to the schoolhouse. “Do you think Gianna’ll be mean to me today?”, or “is there a reason you’re extra windy this morning?”

        Gianna was a bastard. Even now, I remember her scowl as she kicked rocks. “That oughta be you next, cowgirl,” she’d tell me after spraining her big toe. While she picked on me, she got more pleasure from torturing little Flynnigan. During recess, he’d cling onto teachers and follow them around the playground. 

        “Darn you, boy, go play with the other kids!” Flynnigan would shake his head, “they can be so cruel, Ms. Harold…” the teachers just wanted to gossip in peace. He eventually gave up, and sought comfort in flower fields.

        It was late spring. Pollen was high and so was mucus. Everything around us schoolchildren was in bloom, including dandelions. Little Flynnigan made a wish. There was no push from the wind. “That’s your cue, Frida,” he growled. I stood behind him in my embroidered skirt and cartoony t-shirt.

        “Who are you talking to?”

        It was then that he realized talking to the wind was foolish because nobody else needed conversational gusts to reassure them. You were put in this world to make human connections, not rehearse them into Earth. “Nobody. Ain’t speaking to nobody.”

        Even still, I tried my best to reenact the wind the best I could. 

****

        As teenagers, we made love under moonlight. Thinking back on it, we were truly reckless. Like the wind, I wanted to be everywhere and to never sit still. I was difficult to pin down. Flynnigan loved that about me.

        My dream was to be a blues singer. I started praying for it when I was 7 and a half after a blind Reverend told me death comes to your house and doesn’t stay long… all with a banjo in his hands. I started performing in bars, gentlemen clubs, and, if I was real lucky, a jazz bar across the state.

        My road crew ran into a flat tire in the middle of nowhere one unfaithful night. It was the one night I had forgotten to pray. “Unless we get a miracle, we oughta be stuck for quite a while. Get comfortable…” my tour manager murmured. I damned the stars, then I damned them again.

        As I did so, a flashy car drove by. It was a bright red and sparkled like a gold mine on wheels. It halted for us. As the driver hopped out, I recognized him as the Governor. “Y’all seem to be stuck there. Anything these old bones can do for you?”

       I figured the Governor was bored, because he stayed on our tail for the rest of my singing career. He took over most of our schedule and landed me even bigger gigs than a small town girl could imagine. I always asked him if there was anything I could do to repay his generosity. He would say “your smile is enough, darling.” each time.

       After the Governor booked me my most mountainous gig yet, as an opening act for the biggest rockstar in the country, we were placed in the same hotel room. We were drunk from the after party and I missed my country boy. I could hear the wind blowing down leaves as the Governor undressed me. Me and Flynnigan were truly reckless. I was worse; way worse.

****

        My tour ended early after the Governor got busy with campaigning for election season. Flynnigan was more than happy to see his bluesy lover return home. We were bedridden for weeks. When I started vomiting everywhere and tested positive for pregnancy, we told the whole world.

       When the Governor heard the news, he came into town. He disguised it as a “visiting-for-campaigning-purposes” kind of stop, but in actuality he came to check on me. He dropped by me and Flynnigan’s house. He assumed the baby was his.

        “…And I solemnly swear, I will do what I can to help raise our baby!” His beer belly bumped into our coffee table, knocking over the iced tea I had made for him. Flynnigan whispered to me, asking how I was so familiar with him as the Governor bumped his head under the table, attempting to clean his mess. “He was my tour manager, that’s all.”

        “Then why did he say ‘our baby’?”

****

        Me and Flynnigan fought like we had never fought before. Broken dishware, tilted chairs, glass hidden in fur rugs, you name it. The wind roared outside as I was cussed out by my fiance.

        “How do you know that baby’s mine and it ain’t the Devil’s?”

        “It’s just a mama’s intuition, Flynnigan. I know it’s yours.”

        “Maybe you’re just confusin’ that feeling for your harlot tendencies.”

        He reached for the doorknob. I saw him as little Flynnigan, reaching for twigs and asking Frida if she could push more. I asked him if he missed how human we once were. I asked him if he missed our stargazing days, and I asked if he missed rehearsing the Earth into us. He stopped on his tracks, but refused to look at me.

        “I have never felt human. Not a day in my life, Agatha.” He shut the door and never came back.

        Flynnigan drowned himself shortly afterwards. My baby Juniper discovered loneliness at 6 months, when the photo of her father never jumped out to kiss her forehead.

****

        Anyways, that’s all in the past now. I dislike the beer in Macau and the food is bitter. Not a single soul is aware of my wrongdoings. The Chinese zephyrs aren’t that strong, either. Every now and then, when the wind does pick up, I weep. I fear I was always lonelier than Flynnigan.

        Baby Juniper grew up to be big and strong, and mama tells me she’s a debate captain, graduating with honors. They say that one’s face is a product of your parents’ love; a mosaic of all of your ancestors’ deepest affections. This must explain why she hates how she has her daddy’s eyes.

         I hate myself: I really do.