China-focused Satire, Social Commentary, Comics and More

Dear People of the Rooftops

Dear People of the Rooftops,

We see you sometimes, black shapes crawling over unfinished buildings – black because of your distance and the dulling grayness between us and also because of the jackets you wear and the hair on your head. You are the toilers; the transformers of the cities; the ones who knock it down and put it up. However, it would be too easy, and a little cruel, and perhaps inaccurate, to compare you to ants. You may be small and black, but you do sometimes stop working.

In fact, there are times, watching the skeletal towers that surround us, that we do not know you are there at all, not until you step out from hiding to the edge or up to the peak to check the health of your rooftop plant. Without harnesses or even ropes, you move easily on over those high beams, swinging hammers and guiding the hanging loads of cranes. You seem to belong in those high places. Look up to any rooftop, on any day and in any weather, on any tower wrapped in green, and you will be there. Black shapes, looking down, probably thinking how ant-like the moving bodies far below appear.

Even up so high you try to enjoy yourselves. One day we watched a show you were putting on. Rockets whisked and shattered noise, along with a little light, above the neighborhood. Unroped, unsupervised, unconcerned, one of you perched on the edge of the roof and lit the fuses of those mortars, which launched from a colorful box set amid a lumber pile. For extra effect, a string of firecrackers had been wound up the scaffolding and the explosions seemed to climb upward like a crackling spider. That was the same day that a building burned, unintentionally, in the not-so-distant city of Shanghai. The scaffolding of that high-rise caught fire and spread into a raging blaze. The cause of the fire was only a spark, but the results were disastrous. I do not suggest that a rooftop celebration was involved, but that day, with safety on our minds, we watched from our balcony across the open air as puffs of smoke added to the sky’s grayness, covering our ears as each blast rang out, and felt that we might witness a parallel tragedy. Perhaps your show was in honor of the disaster that day; perhaps it was in response to it, an attempt to ward off a similar accident; or perhaps it was unrelated to the earlier events. Whatever the reason, your building remained, and still remains after other explosive shows. And you, the people of the rooftops, still come and go, like tiny laboring inhabitants, from the woodwork.


This Ridiculous World

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