The roof of the hotel is silent and cold. A gentle wind pushes dead leaves across the concrete, tossing them off the edge to tumble slowly towards the street below. I lay on my back, looking at the foggy sky, and listen to the phone ring for a long time before anyone answers.
“Who is this?”
“Hey, mom.” I close my eyes. “I’m ready to come home.”
“Has it been a week already?” Her tone is unenthusiastic. “Did you finish the assignment? What was it again?”
I swallow hard. “It was a study on humans. My final paper, remember?”
“Well? Did you find the information you needed?”
Silence, for a long time. I can hear her breathing on the other end, can see her standing in the kitchen, holding the phone, staring at the stars.
My voice is flat. “They’re afraid of death, and they don’t know how to escape it, so they eat Subway sandwiches. Sometimes they kill each other. Sometimes they dance.”
“That doesn’t sound like much of a coherent thesis.”
I sit up and grab at a passing leaf, crushing it in my hand. “Are you coming to get me or not?”
“Patience.” There’s a sound like a chair sliding back, or maybe the bedroom door squeaking open, and the line clicks, and she’s gone.