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The Woman on the Roof

The last time they felt this excited was the day of the layoffs, when the last elevator brought the last unemployed person down to the lobby for the last time, and they drank until every last one of them was wasted. They told themselves they were sad—“I’m so sad for Jerry . . . Janelle . . . Jose-Luis . . .”—but they couldn’t help but smile at seeing the orphaned plants on the windowsills, the empty desks next to their own. And they couldn’t help but smile now, as they sipped their green juice and watched the woman on the roof. “What is she doing up there?” asked Josie from Marketing, though the way she said it showed she knew exactly what the woman was doing up there; they all did, of course. It was why they were watching.

Jordan from Creative saw her first. He was always one of the last people to come in—he got his morning juice from a different juicery, one that was a little farther from the office—and no sooner did they hear his steel-toed boots on the carpet than they heard him say, in the nonchalant way Creatives speak, “So how long’s the lady been up there?” No one knew for sure, though Jayden the Intern insisted it couldn’t have been long because, as he said on his resume and during his interview, he has a great attention to detail, and a woman standing on the roof of an abandoned building in the middle of downtown was a very important detail indeed.

“The building’s not abandoned,” said Jessa from Finance, which was true, but everyone rolled their eyes anyway because what was someone from Finance doing on this side of the kitchen? The building was merely under construction, but this woman didn’t look like any construction worker they’d ever seen, with her white sundress and her white toes curled around the red-brick ledge. “Someone should call someone,” Jessa from Finance said again.

“Maybe you can call when you go back to your desk,” Jude, also from Creative, said in the pointed way Creatives speak.

“Oh fuck off, Jude,” Jessa from Finance said, though she’s the one who ended up leaving.

“We should really call, though,” Josie from Marketing said, once Jessa from Finance was safely around the corner, and everyone nodded, but no one moved.

“We’ll call if she’s still there by lunch,” said Jordan from Creative.

“I’m out of juice,” said Jacob from Project Management.


She was still there by lunch, the woman on the roof, but no one called because they assumed—at this point—someone else must have. All morning, they’d pretended they weren’t watching, but now they asked Jayden the Intern to deliver their lunches to the conference room on 8, where they could sit comfortably at the long wooden table, dip sushi into soy sauce, and speculate. Jacob from Project Management said he was certain the woman was a barista at the Starbucks over on Summer Street. Josie from Marketing said no, she was a cashier at that fancy grocer on Arch.

“Hold on a minute,” said Jude from Creative, squinting at the woman in disbelief. “I think I’ve actually slept with her!”

“Maybe that’s why she’s on the roof,” said Jordan, also from Creative, which made everyone laugh until wasabi stung their sinuses, until the floor beneath them spun, as if they were staring down at it from a great height.

Liz Breen
Liz Breen is a writer living in Boston. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and her work has been featured in Cleaver Magazine, Columbia Journal's Catch & Release, and CHEAP POP, among others. You can find her online at and on Twitter at @beinglizbreen.