05. Seeking Solace
Tommy’s favourite place had always been the roof.
When his family had moved downtown when he was six, the room he had been given had a skylight. It had fascinated him, and he had spent many long hours pondering how to get up to it. It had taken a clever combination of the bed, a stolen step-stool, and a few large encyclopedias, but he had finally managed it, and had wriggled his way out onto the roof to spend an entranced afternoon staring out over the city before his mother had found him and pulled him back inside in terror.
But he had gotten out again, of course. And after that, the roof had been where he had gone whenever he wanted to get away. When he got into a fight with his best friend at school and suddenly found himself lacking in playmates, the roof was where he went to forget about it. When his parents started fighting and he couldn’t bear to listen to them shouting for another minute, the skylight could close and block out the sound. When he developed a crush on a boy in his biology class in tenth grade, he laid back on the dark slate tiles to think it over, and when that same boy later broke his heart and left him, the roof was the only place he could go to cry.
It was no surprise that even years later, long after he had moved out of his mother’s house and travelled halfway around the world, his first instinct when he was upset was to seek out the nearest rooftop.
And the rooftops in Spain were far more fascinating than the ones in his hometown in southern Ontario. It was no surprise to him either that every now and then, late at night when he felt the wind and the clouds calling to him more strongly than any other time, he would walk the rooftops of Barcelona, slipping from shadow to shadow like a ghost above the empty streets. He had never intended to do it—it had just happened one night, just like leaving home and going travelling and hitchhiking across the Pyrenees and settling down in a country where he didn’t speak the language had just happened. And for whatever reason, he had decided not to stop.
He had always been drawn to rooftops, even when he was a child. In more recent years, he had got the sense that he was searching for something, maybe just the comfort of high places, or the thrill of doing something dangerous, or the adventure of walking an unwalked path—or maybe something more, something profound, something he had travelled half the world in pursuit of and had never been able to find.
Whatever it was, the closest he had ever got to capturing it—or recapturing it—was the combination of wind and moon and clouds and Barcelona rooftops under endlessly questing feet.
Some nights, it nearly made his blood sing.