They commence their journey up to the terrace filled with fear and excitement. He pauses to look into his wife’s eyes through the mirror in the elevator. He pushes the button with his elbow, and smiles at her with his eyes, she smiles back. They wear colorful masks, carved out of the carcass of an abandoned shirt. They exit the lift, and walk cautiously up the final flight of stairs leading to the terrace. They pass a lady on the way up, perhaps a neighbour, they haven’t met her in the four years they have stayed in this building. They stick to opposite ends of the narrow staircase, hold their breath and smile politely at each other.
They emerge through the door and breathe in the sunlight. The terrace is empty but appears gainfully employed. Stray clothes hang on steel racks. Potted plants look up at them, eager, loyal and coy. They cant remember the last time they have been to the terrace. They also cant remember the last time they smiled at each other with their eyes.
They spot a rust colored rusty staircase leading up to a level higher. Curiosity is one of those raw emotions that doesn’t have discernible parentage. You murder because you are angry, you may be angry because you are jealous, you may be jealous because you are insecure and so on. You open a box because you want to see what is inside, the end.
He trudges up first, to check whether the stairs are capable of continuing to fulfill their sole life purpose. He pauses just before the last step, to catch his breath and allows the pain to peak and subside within his legs. He grimaces and takes a final step up and looks down on his wife with encouragement.
She joins him a minute later. He puts his hands on his hips and takes a deep breath. It mimics that infinitesimal moment, when a precocious child in a swimming pool comes up for air after holding their breath underwater, where one simultaneously experiences relief that you can breathe and panicking that you cannot. His wife joins him by his side, and they sequentially evaluate their surroundings. Terraces all around them, at different levels, he pictures jumping from one to the other, doing double somersaults over the empty roads, the optics make the jumps appear doable. All the terraces had a varying combination of the same intruders; the diligent walker, purposefully strutting to get nowhere really fast; the young lover cooing on their phone to a young lover on another terrace somewhere; and the fitness enthusiast who comes armed with kettle bells and stretch bands, they do not mean to judge you, but if you feel judged, doesn’t that imply that they just did?
Pigeons and crows were the one constant, it was after all their home that was being intruded upon.
They sit down next to each other on the patchy concrete finish. The sun is a heady mix of orange and pink. He stares at it hoping to catch it setting, but it plays dead, immobile and resplendent.
They can see the ocean beyond, calm, gray and morose , not the instragrammed blue that they had grown partial to. A few kites glide steadily up, tracing a calm helical path, higher and higher till they are brown specks of dirt on a pale white cutting board. Two stray parrots shoot past, in a dull green squawk filled blur. The sun starts to set, they can suddenly feel the evening breeze, emboldened by the shade, flirt confidently with their hair.
They sink back down towards their home in silence, replaying the quiet moments of togetherness in their head. They would resurface to the terrace tomorrow, maybe he could catch the sun in the act this time, he pondered.