Roof Work

Maybe there’s a reason former maids’ quarters shouldn’t be converted into “apartments” for modern folk. Not just because modern folk are far less “hardcore” when it comes to enduring untenable conditions, but because, well, old things that weren’t well-maintained to begin with (solely because poor people lived there) tend to fall increasingly into disrepair. Despite knowing this, Jean and Florence took the apartment that wasn’t really an apartment, so much as a strange spatial no man’s land just beneath the rooftop of the building. Which is why the walls sloped in unexpected places, prompting one to bump their head if they weren’t constantly mindful of the “design.” A.k.a. living inside the rooftop’s triangle. Was there a chance it had even been a barn before, and this was the area where, say, chickens were slaughtered? Could be. It didn’t matter now. The lease was signed.

And in the months since it had been signed, little incident had occurred. Too good to be true, Florence might have known. She being no stranger to having the worst luck when it came to every building she inhabited seeming to need some kind of without warning “upkeep” that signaled the loud and ceaseless appearance of construction workers. Yet she had imagined that, by leaving Paris for an outskirt, this would be less of a problem. There wasn’t much efficiency out in the country, after all. That could be good, she thought, wanting everyone to leave her the fuck alone. It was only Jean who still had to go to Paris now for work, making her the hausfrau. It was the equivalent of being Betty Draper holed up in Ossining as Don Draper went to work in Manhattan. In other words, when the workers materialized apropos of nothing to start hammering away on the rooftop, Jean didn’t care. Because he wasn’t ever around. The noise couldn’t bother him in real time. He was safe, subjected to more “pleasant” “city noise” instead. This prompted her anger when she told him about how they just showed up, how jarring it was to see and hear them scurrying about like rats. Per Jean’s confirmation, the landlord hadn’t said a word to him about any maintenance transpiring on the roof. Not until he was texted by Jean himself, prompting him to then reply with an off-handed, “Oh they should be gone by the end of the week.”

But they weren’t. How could they be when they were slowly re-tiling an entire roof? There were only two of them, to boot. And they would show up late only to knock off at around five-thirty, so Florence was not about to believe the lies of the landlord regarding the one-week timeline of completion. No, this was going to be at least a month-long job at their languid pace. But again, Jean didn’t seem bothered by such a possibility. It was a removed phenomenon for him. He could instead relish the quiet of his office space while she suffered in this form of cruel and unusual punishment. And what was her crime? Being unfit for the outside world? Only to have it pervade her apartment just because she had managed to avoid it for so long. Was the universe genuinely that concerned with forcing her out of her comfort zone with a stick of dynamite, so to speak? These were the type of narcissistic musings for ordinary people, not Florence, and she hated herself for having them.

Just as she also hated herself for feeling obliged to remind Jean that it was she who was alone in the trenches of this household. Naturally, Jean would bandy the old chestnut about how it wasn’t as though he was out having a good time—he was working. Providing for them what Florence could not. It was a bitter source of contention that often came up in instances like these, when Florence wished Jean could have more empathy for the challenges he viewed as all imaginary. The petulant complaints of an ungrateful housecat. She knew that the more she complained, the more he would come at her with something like, “Well, I’d be happy to switch places with you if you’d prefer to get a job instead.” That always shut her down. Jean knew there was nothing scarier to her than the threat of getting a job. Not just because she had no social skills in order to both secure and maintain one, but because her agoraphobia had only gotten worse in the years since she had been “out the game,” as it were. This also being part of why the infection of her home space was so traumatic.

Worse still, even if she had been able to surmount her agoraphobia during the day, there was nowhere to go in this small town for a respite. No coffee shop, no bar. Just a lone grocery store. The people who lived here were expected to fend for themselves when it came to any “outside” entertainment. And that meant, more often than not, staying inside. Yet it was impossible to do so in these conditions. Not without going slightly mental. Maybe other hausfrau types would have offered them lemonade or some such, seen fit to “be polite,” welcoming. Alas, Florence couldn’t be something she was not, and one of those things was welcoming. Least of all to people who were ear-raping her.

As the days went by, the hammering on the roof became indecipherable from the hammering in her head. It was like the space beneath the roof was her mind palace, and they had slowly hacked away at the top to enter it. Come on in boys! she imagined herself screaming with her pussy out. And then this fantasy pussy of hers would shoot poisonous darts in their faces, and finally that would be that.

Her murderous thoughts grew by the day. Why don’t I just push them off the roof? she wondered at times. Who would really care? That’s when she knew things were getting dire. Dire enough for her to actually start packing a bag (okay, a giant purse) to go to the city for the day and muck about hoping that her anxiety wouldn’t be worse off among the tourist-packed crowds of Paris. Hence, her bag being filled with many soothing medications should the occasion call for it. And then, just as she was about to lift the bag from her bed and onto her arm to leave, a cacophonous sound unlike anything she had ever heard ensued before one of the men came crashing down right on top of her head, flattening her body like a fanned-out concertina in vertical position.

It was the last thing she would experience before the crushing of her figure, further ensured by the second worker also falling on top of the first one, then the barrage of roof tiles that fell through the hole and onto them all. That was certainly one way to no longer put up with this misery, even though she would have preferred to at least make an attempt at roughing it in the outside world before the advent of sweet death. The only plane of non-existence where true silence and blissful solitude could be sought.

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