Monday, September 28, 2009


I turn the key and step out onto the roof. Autumn blankets me as I settle onto the wooden bench.

I smile to myself as I put the key into my pocket. I borrowed the original years ago. Lied straight into the face of hardware store owner who questioned me about the ‘SECURITY KEY DO NOT COPY‘ markings on it. A little white lie, nothing sinister. Only self-preservation. Everyone needs a place of their own.

I lost the other one and I’m in big trouble, Mister. I could lose my job.

Tears welling up in my eyes. He nodded and turned to his workbench. When he finished cutting, he took the shiny new key and threw it on the floor. With the heel of his boot, he ground it into the cement. He flipped it over and worked the other side. Then he took some sandpaper and softened the edges and finished by rubbing some black stuff from a jar under the counter into the new scratches. It was aged well enough to match the original. Apparently, I wasn’t his first damsel in distress.

"There you go, hon. That’ll be $2.50."

Ten years ago, I could easily pull that off. My slow tumble into middle age makes the damsel much less convincing. No regrets, but as I am off into the unknown, it’d be a good skill to have.

Two weeks ago when the world was completely different, I’d lightheartedly hoped for adventure… a little controlled uncertainty. I’ve got a plan, a map and the number of Kurt’s cousin in Cahersiveen. I love the illusion of control! That was before planes began crashing into buildings and red-bereted soldiers with tanks and M16s patrolled my route to work. I’m not sure what I am looking for now.

I wrap my hands around my first cup of coffee of the day. I inhale its Costa Rican warmth and take a small sip.

Aaack! Too hot!

I knew it would be and went ahead anyway. Story of my life. I put the coffee down on the arm of the bench.

I look out over the misty Potomac River to where the mighty Three Sisters Islands hold their vigil over the City of Washington. The legend says that the islands sprung up at the place where three Manahoac sisters drowned while crossing the river to their lovers on the other side. A warning of the dangers of jumping in with both feet and both sisters? Or a monument to the importance of following your heart no matter what? Maybe both.

From his perch atop the neighboring USATODAY building, a peregrine falcon takes flight. He darts up and catches an air current high over Roosevelt Island. Wings straight, eyes forward he lets go and floats in ever-widening ovals. Willing to go wherever the wind takes him, he lets himself be carried and I, in turn, let him carry me. Around… around… around. Intrigued by his dance, the sun peers out, etching the horizon with the first scarlet cracks of dawn.

Alarm clocks wail. Newspapers land on front stoops. Lights go on. The city slowly awakens. I take another sip of coffee in my perfect solitude above it all.

My second day working here, Nelson Mandela walked up to my desk and shook my hand. I think I stayed out of fear of missing something. It took me a while to settle in, to fit in. Many wonderful things did happen to me here. I grew up, I grew stronger, I got on with it. And I stayed because I felt secure. Secure in the stress. Secure in the busy-ness of it. Secure in being needed. Now it is time for me to leave my nest on the 23rd floor.

The sun pushes through a crack in the horizon over Roosevelt Bridge. Drivers in their cars impatiently shield their eyes from the light as the red-gold dawn illuminates buildings on the horizon line one by one.

I open the paper bag and pull the crunchy caramelized top off of my perfect lemon poppy muffin. The Rastafarian baker calls it the Muffin of the Gods. Steam escapes from the center. Crumbs fall onto my scarf as I take a bite.
Life is good.

The falcon turns suddenly midair and descends toward Roosevelt Island and his unsuspecting breakfast.

My pager goes off. It’s time for my last day of work.

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