‘Across the Rooftops’ by Kevin Barry

I could select any number of Kevin Barry stories for the joy they create from his use of language. Here, an unnamed twentysomething narrator wrestles with himself as he tries to figure out how to make the first move on a young woman he has desired for at least three months which for him seems an eternity. The story is filmic and the camera is close up, so close that we see the “opaque down of her bare arms, each strand curling like a comma at its tip.” After a kiss that doesn’t take, the young woman leaves and his heart opens and takes in “every black poison the morning could offer.”

From Dark Lies the Island, Graywolf Press/Jonathan Cape, 2012. Available to read online at pen.org

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