Ode to the Green Roof

Emily Rogers

Every time I look out onto my balcony, you are in the forefront of my view. Although you are far from my apartment, beyond the roads and trees and low-rise shopping complexes, at the bottom of a hill lined with modern houses, my eyes snag on your old frame. Your green corrugated metal roof a verdant pyramid, and the long balcony with its dirty metal overhang held up by white wooden posts. The curious red brick chimney sticking out in the hot Queensland weather – of course I noticed you. 

But perhaps your most peculiar feature is the pigeons that like to roost on your roof. It makes me laugh thinking about the amount of bird shit you’d be covered in. Sometimes they opt for higher buildings, but you are their number one choice. I have a theory that an old grandmother inhabits your interior, feeding the birds every day, the birds who keep her company in return after her husband died of natural causes. She never remarried. Or perhaps a young couple resides in you – one wanted to live in the city, but the other hated modern architecture, so you were a perfect fit. The pigeons to them are just an annoyance that won’t seem to leave.

I tried to find you one day – I wanted a closer look, to solve the mystery of you. I opened a map on my phone then pinpointed where I assumed you would be and began my journey. But for some reason, after ten minutes of wandering around your supposed neighbourhood, you were nowhere to be found. Maybe you’re a mirage that only I can see, or maybe my navigation skills need some improvement.

The next week, I tried again in a different spot. I approached the top of a hill where I could see your chimney and looked around, but you weren’t there. I scanned every street in the area and every house with a keen eye three times over, and when I checked my phone, I realised I had been searching for thirty minutes. Time had swallowed me up, and you’d been swallowed up by something else too. 

It’s spring now. The purple flowers of the jacaranda trees complement your green. There seems to be construction happening. Maybe you’re older than I thought, and you’re falling apart. I have lived in this apartment for over two years, and you have strangely become a comfort to me. When I leave here and eventually die, you will remain. You could even be the last building to survive after a nuclear apocalypse. Imagine that – desolate land except for a lonely, square house in the middle of a crumbled suburb. 

A small group of survivors come upon this unusual house in their search for food. They find some non-perishables in your cupboards and decide to stay a while. Your fireplace keeps them warm. Days turn into weeks, then months, then years. They seem to like you like I did. And once again, you are whole.

Emily Rogers is a Brisbane-based writer who enjoys writing scripts, short stories, and editing fiction. Her work tends to talk about feminism, the complexities of human relationships, and mental health. You can find her binge-watching anime or hunched over her laptop rewriting dialogue over and over until it sounds human.