The moon was perfectly round, a huge glowing lantern against the night sky. Tom leaned out over the railing, resting his bare forearms against the concrete, and took a long drag on his cigarette. The whole town was asleep by now, every last window darkened, but the moon and the stars were more than enough to light the streets below.
Tom lifted his chin, exhaling a haze of smoke that clouded the picture postcard for a brief moment before dissipating. Beyond Mongi was Naples, and he thought maybe if he squinted, he might be able to see the city lights from here. They'd gone there that evening, Tom's arms wrapped around Dickie's chest on the back of a Vespa, the wind lashing their hair back against their cheeks and Dickie yelling that Tom was breaking his ribs. The jazz club had been loud and smoky and nothing like the ornamented concert halls Tom had always imagined when he'd thought of Italy, but in Dickie's carefree smile, Tom had thought he finally understood what people saw in that kind of music. Beyond Naples was Rome, and then Florence, and then Venice, and Tom knew he would go there, too.
Leaning forward, he pressed his chest to the balcony railing, spreading his arms flat against it, pulling it into a tight embrace. He wanted to hold onto it all, this whole big universe of beauty and beaches and music and excitement that the Greenleafs and the Logues of this world took for granted. It was his, too, all of it. He could make a better martini than Marge, now, and he was learning to sail, and Dickie had said Tom could wear his clothes. Tom extinguished his cigarette against the railing and let it fall to the ground, watching it land. The last ember at the tip gleamed for a final moment before fading into blackness.
Tom had seen someone fall from a balcony once. He'd been walking up the stairs from his apartment when the old guy from the fourteenth floor had landed on the street in front of him with a dull thud, his neck snapped back and his chin pointed up toward the sky. For days afterward, everyone in the building had speculated about why the guy had done it, whether he'd secretly harbored such a horrific pain that there had been no way out but to end it all. Tom had known better. When your whole life consisted of eating and sleeping and eking out a living so you could come back to some rat-infested New York apartment and do it all over again, sometimes you felt like stepping off the edge just to find out what it felt like to fall fourteen stories through the air.
But as he looked out over the empty streets of the village to the infinite possibilities that lay beyond, Tom thought that maybe, if he stepped off the edge, he'd be able to fly.