Top of World
Top of World. Bottoms up.
It would burn on the way down.
And the bottle, passing from hand-to-hand, would be ice cold.
Our parents locked the liquor cabinet, so we grew up on freezer vodka.
We made our claim to this spot, Top of World. Right next to one of those giant radio towers, the red blinking kind. Beyond the cemetery. Just past the small control building, the one covered in graffiti since we could remember. Defaced with those spray-can promises. Profound philosophical revelations littered with expletives and credited appropriately.
“It’s a big fucking world.” — Somebody
Beneath this sage wisdom, in the dead grass beneath, were small shrines to the place—little sacrifices to the gods of bygone innocence: empty bottles, cigarette butts, discarded egg cartons.
Nobody knew how we found the place, originally. It seemed like we had always been going there.
We called it Top of World because from there we could see it all and no one could see us. Like a two-way mirror.
Like the stars were a focus group and each new car that passed on the street below was the subject of an interrogation.
Like we were in control. We could see it all and no one could see us.
The strip mall. The water towers. The distant, blurred figure of the paper mill.
It was usually late when we’d sneak up through the neighborhoods and climb the hill: laughing, shh-ing, running.
Sometimes two of us, other times five, six, eight. The location of this place was a secret one didn’t divulge lightly. Top of World was a Coca-Cola recipe, a Threat Level Red classified piece of intel. Those who did know were part of an esoteric order. The Royal Society of Hush-Hush Degenerates.
We’d sit at the edge of the hill, looking out at the city lit up below.
We’d pass the bottle like a talking piece.
“I swear I can see the movie theatre from here.”
“What did you get on that math test last week?”
“Man, someday I’m going to make it big.”
“To getting out of here.”
Other times we’d bring dates up there. A blanket and a sky full of stars were sure to impress.
It wasn’t love, but it was something.
When things got rough, stressful, we’d go up there. To get away. To think and clear our heads. To escape.
Every night, eventually, the stars would disappear. The sky would lighten and the sun would threaten to expose us.
We’d make the long trek back down from the top. Back from the clouds. Back to Earth. Back to real life.
Since those days we’ve moved away, we got out of there. Before we left we passed the secret on to a new generation.
I still know the way, if I ever need to go back.