by Lynette Mejia
The door to the roof slams shut with a bang and I jump, involuntarily. For a moment Roger is nothing but a dark figure illuminated from behind, and then he is reduced to the orange pinpoint of his cigarette as the light from the doorway is extinguished.
"You okay?" he asks. The orange light glows brighter as he takes a drag.
"I needed some air," I say, leaning against the iron railing at my back. I turn my head and look out over the city, twinkling and perfect from this height.
Roger stops a few feet away from me. Though the light up here is muted, I can still make out the deep grooves lining his face and the slight stoop of his shoulders. He exhales with his upper lip pursed above the lower, releasing the smoke in a stream like car exhaust.
"First time's always the hardest," he says. "It'll get easier. Hell, I didn't say a word for the first six meetings. Right now the only thing that's important is that you're there. Show them you're making an effort."
"I wouldn't be here otherwise," I say. My fingers tighten around the rail, dislodging flakes of rust and sending its metallic tang up into the air. "This is just a condition of my early release from the rehab unit."
"I know," Roger says. He stands there for a few moments, staring out over the rooftops. When he speaks again, his voice is quieter.
"They called me Roger Ramjet."
With a final exhale he flicks his cigarette to the ground and grinds it under his heel.
"Kids in school. They called me Roger Ramjet when they found out I could fly. I couldn't have been more than six years old at the time, I guess. My parents told me to hide it, but everyone was talking about the Black Swan back in those days, how great he was, how many people he'd saved that week--they couldn't get enough of him. They admired him, you know? So I told them."
I chuckle. "My six-year-old self would have called you a dumbass and invited you over to my house after school."
"That's the thing, though," he says. "People like us don't come around very often, do we? We're kind of destined to be alone."
The silence sits heavy between us. I swallow the nausea rising in my throat.
"The third villain I ever fought killed my parents," I say. "He tortured them, then left their bodies for me to find."
"That's not your fault," Roger says.
I look up and meet his gaze.
"How do you live with it?"
"That look in the eyes of the ones you can't save. The moment when both of you realize you won't get there in time no matter how much you want to."