Maybe it was the light speed thoughts inside his head. His brother’s death. The fact that he had a father, out there roaming the earth—could be—laughing, crying, functioning as a human being. Making zero effort to reach him. Maybe it was just boredom that drove Jayden up to the roof.

No stars. A cover of clouds threatening to smother him. The air was still muggy in early October and he wondered if it would ever turn cold. He relished the chill in his breaths, seeing it leave his mouth. He enjoyed how it awakened his senses until it numbed them.

He set in his ear buds, and let the song scream out. Music spoke to him in a way real live humans could not. It entered his ears, swam in his blood, took his breath and shook his limbs. Jayden ran his hands over the gritty shingles on the roof, his lips moving to the lyrics.

The music had saved him a few months ago, when he’d allowed himself to go to the edge of the roof, blurry with tears, slipping to the brink. Almost.

He’d thought a lot about it before. His sorry funeral. The kids at school gushing about how he died, how they figured it would happen sooner or later. Then the bell would ring and they’d scamper off, making plans for the weekend.

Almost. He’d gone to the edge that night, but the music had held him. It had reached for him and promised to never let go.

Music understood him. It didn’t judge him with its eyes. Vicious eyes that cut so hard. It didn’t look past him, the way teachers glossed over him, figuring it was best to just get him through the work and let him go on to mediocrity. It didn’t berate him, like the beloved football coach had, making sure he knew he was not being worthy of a t-shirt with his alma mater. No, the music lifted him, it took him places he’d never dreamed of going. It trusted him.

He absorbed the song and the song absorbed him. It took the laughter, the taunts, the slights, the solitude of school and threw it back with vengeance. It gave him solace in an unfair world, and it never asked why he was alive and his brother, his beautiful brother, got sick. Music took him how he was.

And so Jayden lay under the clouds, singing quietly, speaking to the song that spoke back to him. And for a moment, as the heavy clouds hung over him, weighing down on the world, everything was okay.


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