Some People Are Tanning And Others Are Pretending to Work on a Rooftop

With the first consistent amount of sun of the season (if one can call anything a season anymore), Bianca–appropriately named for her current pallor–was eager to set up shop on the terrace where she planned to while the day away underneath the sun’s rays. The only trace of the hard work she had put in last summer were a few errant moles beneath her chest. She knew that if she wanted to keep any further undesired moles or freckles at bay, she really ought to put on sunscreen. But oh, how she wanted to burn, and fast. The only body was a dark body as far as she was concerned.

From the roof directly across from her terrace, the Senegalese workers distracted by her practically nude figure seemed to disagree with her stance. They were perfectly content to ogle her, pale skin and all. So much so, that she couldn’t help but notice that all form of progress on the resurfacing of the roof had ceased over the next couple of days. When one of those days happened to be Sunday, she had to ask herself: what were they doing working on the weekend anyway? It took her longer than it should have to realize what was happening as she was a rather dazed and oblivious sort, lost in the book she was reading at the moment–a play, actually–Jean Genet’s The Balcony. She herself had always dreamed of playing the role of Chantal. She didn’t seem to note the irony of wanting to embody a prostitute as she showcased her ever-browning figure to the workers who could no longer really be called that as they hadn’t been working in weeks.

As the revelation dawned on her that their toil had been put to a stop because of the free show she was providing them for hours every day, she questioned whether or not whoever was paying them under the table might soon fire them. But of course they wouldn’t. It was likely that the men had promised to complete the job by the end of the summer and that, in order to collect the money they had been promised, they would manage to pull themselves together long enough to finish the task within a couple of weeks at the end of August. This meant Bianca would have to endure the voracious eyes she was now all too aware of every day unless she figured out either a new location to tan or a way to partition off the terrace from their prying irises.

Of course, she knew she could give just one word to her government official husband and he could have them deported, but then she would suffer from far too much white guilt despite no longer technically being white thanks to her diligent devotion to the sun. No, she would have to handle this problem on her own. A problem she had wanted so badly to ignore precisely because of her liberalism, but could no longer do so as, one day, it appeared as though the original trio of workers had brought a horde of their friends to join them for a picnic as they watched her bake like an already burned pie crust. She had moved on to a new book by now–a collection of short stories, actually–Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin–despite finding it difficult to concentrate on the content with the background knowledge of how intently she was being studied. Was a group masturbation session to be next at this rate? She wouldn’t be shocked. And though she had reached out to several theater friends hoping she could inveigle them to invite her to one of their vacation getaways, none of them were receptive to her desperation to flee from the city. While, sure, she could try to tie her wagon to one of the wives of her husband’s colleagues, the thought of enduring their banal chatter while she tried to tan in peace sounded almost as bad as putting on a not so private performance for half of Paris’ migrant population. It occurred to her that she could just stop tanning altogether, succumb to her true essence of liliedness and put her time to better, more practical use, like memorizing lines for auditions or maybe writing a play of her own. But no, the pull of the sun’s rays was too strong and, if she had to admit it to herself, she was starting to appreciate the attention.

It had been some time since Ferdinand had bothered to notice how much effort she had put into looking appealing, her commitment to bronzatura being a part of what she thought was that appeal. She wanted him to sustain the same amount of fervor he had displayed for her beauty at the outset of their relationship. But to him, it seemed, that was all but an aspect of the smoke and mirrors relegated to the “courtship” phase. Oh how she despised the pretension of that word. As though men were entitled to treat the “woman they loved” like shit (synonymous with treating them like they were invisible) once they clocked in enough hours spouting honeyed words and paying attention to anything other than themselves or another woman nearby with a potentially better physique (the male imagination also preferred other women because they were more fun to mentally undress, having never done so before to that particular set of tits with a vagina).

It was all enough to spark the rage that had been dormant within her for their past five years of marriage. Or maybe it was the sun that was finally lighting her on fire. Whatever the reason, she found herself caving in to those pretending to work on the roof with little flourishes–bombastically taking her bathing suit top off when she turned to lie on her stomach, slowly and seductively reaching over to turn up the speaker on which she just so happened to by playing sultry R&B hits of the 90s or sensually licking a popsicle when she sat up for a break from the direct sun while still exposing her breasts. She feigned all the while to have no idea that they were looking. But how could she not? Word had traveled throughout the city, from the looks of it. And entire crowds were gathered to observe her each day on the terrace.

By the end of July, Ferdinand caught wind of the rumors circulating about his wife. One of his friends had overheard a man who was doing some regrouting in their kitchen and bathroom lasciviously gush to somebody on the phone about how it was the hottest show in town. He added, “Best of all, free. Why bother going to Pigalle?” When the worker told whoever he was talking to the address of the rooftop where they would meet later that afternoon, Ferdinand’s friend immediately put it together.

So it was that that very afternoon, Ferdinand came home early. Bianca was blissfully unexpecting of his arrival, turning the sound up extra loud to add dramatic effect to, for the first time this summer, also slowly removing her bikini bottom to the tune of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?” The sound was so loud, in fact, that as her eyes were closed and her face turned down, she hadn’t the faintest idea that her husband was taking out every member of the audience with the sniper rifle he had recently been bequeathed by an Iraqi warlord. When the song was over, his work was done, and he slipped back out of the house without so much as a whisper to Bianca, lifting her head to see that her legion of admirers had been massacred.

***

Bianca spent the rest of the summer sequestered after having a nervous breakdown in the wake of that gruesome sight. The one she couldn’t explain fully to her husband without telling him the whole story, having no idea that he already knew everything. Upon espying it, she screamed in a manner so blood-curdling it prompted one of the more deaf and therefore easily scandalized old lady neighbors to call the police. Bianca would scream like that uncontrollably for the next few weeks whenever she had to pass the terrace. Ferdinand suggested she go to Corsica and “sort herself out.” They would have many events to attend in the fall and he couldn’t very well bring a psychotic date. So she obeyed. But now, every time the sun touched her skin it felt like ice, shocking her back to the memory of those dead pretend workers on the roof. Without them to worship her, she was no longer a goddess, but a mere mortal banished to an island where no one would look twice at her.

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