The Ground Between Us | Justine Young

There was a story in the paper last week about a boy who fell off the roof of the high-rise bank downtown and died. He was only eleven years old, it read. He was playing on the stairwell while his father pleaded with a banker about a loan, and someone had left the rooftop door unlocked.

I was shopping with my mother across the street when it happened. We were in a Christmas store and she was smelling unscented prayer candles, talking with the sales clerk about reindeer-printed gift bags and extra copies of receipts. This was our fifth store of the day and I was her mule, my adolescent arms saddled with the weight of tightly wrapped glass figurines and variously sized wreath hangers.

I sat waiting at the front of the shop, next to the porcelain Jesus staring out through the glass facade, his crooked halo held up by balding pipe cleaners sprouted from behind his head. He wore floor-length white robes, his palms facing outward on either side of the fabric, like invisible ropes were holding up his arms. I followed his gaze through the glass, upwards to the top of the bank’s building.

The boy was sitting on the edge of the roof, his bare feet dangling freely in the open air. His soles looked dirty even from where I was sitting. Where were his shoes? He was leaning too far forward, hands resting limply in his lap instead of holding tight to the building like they should’ve been, and the wind twisted his dark, curly hair into wild knots around a loose lipped smile. A faded red t-shirt whipped around his torso, exposing smooth, tan skin to the frigid winter air, but he didn’t seem to mind. He sat there, still, a leaf waiting for fall.

Justine Young is a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English. She spends her days reading, writing, and eating a lot of ice cream.

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