#FridayFlash: Sunshine Came Softly

Sunshine Came Softly

by Tony Noland

The steel door rattled, and Sunshine came out onto the roof.

I guess I should point out that I didn't know her name yet. I'd never seen her before, so as far as I was concerned, she was just somebody intruding on my second cigarette. Although I shouldn't say 'intruding', since the roof was technically a public space. She had as much right to be there as I did, which, to be honest, probably wasn't that strong of a case. I figured that if the building manager had known I was coming out onto the roof to smoke, he'd have told me to knock it off. It gave the act of going up there a little tinge of danger. When she came out, I felt like I'd been caught at a misdemeanor. I resented the fact that there was now someone who could rat me out to the super.

Juvenile and paranoid, I know, but I'm telling you this just to give you some context for what happened next.

She seemed as surprised as I was not to be alone. The steel door closed behind her with a thunk and she looked back at it. Later, she told me that she'd thought about turning and leaving, but that she didn't want to look foolish and timid. On the other hand, she'd come up to do a little sunbathing and she hadn't planned on having to do it next to some freak with a book and a pack of Lucky Strikes. Ours was the second tallest building for several blocks around, twenty-eight stories. As long as she set up on this side of the air conditioning vents, she was screened from any binocular-wielding pervs over at the Landsdowne. As the private side was also the sunny side, she'd had it pretty good all summer.

It was also the side of the building facing onto the alley, away from the noise on 132nd street. Which was why I always sat there at night. After four months of a rush coding job working 70 hour weeks, I had some time off coming. I was going to relax away from my computer to let my carpal tunnel subside.

Lawn chair in one arm, bag in the other, she stood looking at me. I ignored her and went back to my book. That was what people did in New York, right? They ignored each other. After a moment or two, she ignored me right back and set up her chair about fifteen feet away. It splayed out for a full recline. She propped her bag next to it, took out a can of mace and set it prominently in view. With a grunt and a cough and a couple of other attention-getting noises, she adjusted the spray can to make sure I could read the label: DEATH-TO-MUGGER SPRAY.

Then she took off her clothes and lay face down in the sun.

She had some difference in coloration from her back on down, with her buttocks being slightly paler than the rest of her. From the peripheral glimpse I'd gotten through my eyes-front focus on my book, her breasts were also somewhat paler. So, the all-over tan was either a new thing with her or something she did only occasionally.

After just half a minute, she turned her head to casually look at me, the way you would do to somebody on the subway. She made sure I wasn't staring at her, adjusted the spray can with another cough, then settled back down.

I mentally replayed the scene of her undressing. Sneakers and white socks. T-shirt and tank top, no bra. Jeans, no panties. No bathing suit of any kind. Therefore, she'd come up here intending to sunbathe in the nude, and this wasn't something she was doing just for my benefit. The fact that I was here was an irritant, but it didn't stop her from doing what she came here to do. She had a plan and she implemented it; even if things weren't going exactly according to that plan, she had a goal and she was pursuing it.

Lying before me, gently roasting in the late summer sun, was the distilled essence of what it meant to be a New Yorker. You decided what you wanted out of life and you made it happen, simple as that. If she was so unstoppable in such a small thing as getting a tan, what must she be like in other aspects of her life?

She was incredible. Not sexy or alluring - her nudity was too straightforward for that. She was just... impressive.

"Excuse me," I said.

Her hand flashed to the spray can and she sat up quick to face me.

I held up both hands. "Whoa, slow down. I'm just leaving. Before I went, though, I wanted to tell you that ... well, I'm not from New York originally. I try to be blase about stuff and just roll with it, but I guess I'm not up to this kind of a level yet. I'm just amazed that this is a city where somebody can," I waved at her, lying naked in the sun, "do whatever it is they want to do as long as they set their mind to it. I hope I can be that ballsy someday." I stood, slowly. Her hand gripped the can and kept it pointed at me as I crossed the roof toward the door. "See you around," I said. I opened the steel door and stepped through.


I turned. "Yeah?"

She'd put on the T-shirt and was sitting up. "I moved here from Kansas City six months ago. My name's Sunshine."

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Whew! Hot one Tony. Great descriptions.

    This sentence threw me a bit: "She seemed as surprised to I was not to be alone." Did you mean "as I was" instead of "to I was"?

    Now I must go do something mundane. :)

  2. I guess the Kansas girl was made for NYC. ;) Nice story.

  3. Only in Kansas! Actually, that IS the beauty of NYC -- folks from everywhere doing their thang. Sweet story. Peace...

  4. Ah, New York. The city that never sleeps and never judges.

    He will be that ballsy someday. :)

  5. Thanks for the comments, guys. I've never lived in New York, but I've known native New Yorkers as well as transplanted ones. It's all about the attitude.

  6. Sweet - almost a love song to the inspiration of New York itself.

  7. And the DEATH TO MUGGER spray. Excuse me? SPRAY! ARRRRGH! I was going to say I admire....MY EYES!

    Nice work Tony. :)

  8. @Carrie: I had a funny bit where she points the spray at him and he says, "Um, you don't want to do that."

    "Oh? Why not? It's not pointed at me, you know."

    "Oh, I know, it's just that you're downwind of me. If you use it, you might get hit more than I will."

    Then she has to admit that she's not such an experienced New Yorker after all, and it's all awkward and cute, etc.

    In the end, I just went for the silent nudity.

  9. "DEATH-TO-MUGGER SPRAY" was a winner for me.


  10. New York is like Florida--everybody comes from somewhere else. Good story. And I love the title.

  11. the implication is that they get together is that right? That this isn't a one-off meeting. Seems very symbolic that these 2 come to learn how to be a New Yorker on the roof of a very high building somehow...

    Marc Nash

  12. I like Sunshine - she's a FAR braver person than me!

    I'll have to admit: I had a childish giggle at the thought of someone referring to a naked woman as "ballsy"...

  13. I like the kind of comment on their identity to do with their city, how its kind of assumed in the beginning. Nice piece.

  14. There were a couple of bits that could be tightened slightly, but otherwise, masterful as always. Good character study, great descriptions, fun scene.

  15. Nicely done!! You pretty much captured NYC in a nutshell. Good job.

  16. Tony, I'm moving to East Harlem in a few weeks - and I hope this very thing happens on the roof of my building.

  17. Very quirky Tony, I like it. It makes sense.

  18. Excellent! I'm in Los Angeles, and no one here is actually from here, either. But your characters have way more personality than the folks here. :)

    Love this one, and DEATH TO MUGGERS spray is awesome.

  19. Excellent story! Loved how they acted around each other, neither allowing the other to dictate their plans.

  20. I wonder where this relationship is going ... not sure if they would be so compatible ... but it's a very cool story. I also wonder if she was always that strong-minded or if the city has brought it out in her ;-)

  21. I enjoyed how his studious not-watching provided every detail to her actions. So much for the DEATH TO MUGGERS Spray--not enough of a deterrent for his gaze.

  22. Weirdly enough, this applies to more than just New York - Londoners are famous for never speaking to each other, and I take very badly with it as I'm from a part of the UK where you happily strike up a conversation with the person behind you in the queue! So I can sympathise with both of them, not wanting to say anything but being palpably relieved that the other one isn't a New Yorker too!

  23. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone!

    @Valerie: I'm always interested in getting better. If you'd like to offer specifics, feel free to fire away.

    @Icy: I think it's a function of any big city. It's so crowded, and you run into so many people once (never to see them ever again), that it's a waste of time and energy to try to form social bonds with every contact. To preserve the integrity of your life, you leave others alone so that they will do the same to you. Crowded together on the subway, a restaurant, an elevator, a rooftop... these are occasions to share a space, not share a life.

    Of course, that same social distancing also means that big cities (and the people from them) can be seen as cold and unfriendly. The social cues are quite different in low-density vs. high-density populations, and misinterpretation is almost unavoidable.

  24. Nice job, Tony. I love how they both try to pull off the New York attitude.

  25. Wow, do all New Yorker women have this cool attitude with their bodies? I thought that north European people were this comfortable with their nakedness. I kind of admire your Sunshine Tony. :) Good for her!

  26. Love this story Tony. I could almost hear the faint sounds of the city below as I read this. Love the two characters and the voice. Great all around.

  27. Loved it! Yes, New York women are ballsy, at least the ones I've met. Good for her doing what she wanted and not letting him deter her. I liked it that he was the one who backed down, not her.


  28. An advert for moving to New York if there ever was one. Single bloke attitude aside this was a very astute observation on how identities are shaped by urban landscapes. That said you showed us two believable individuals.

  29. Sorry I'm late to this one.

    You're right, Tony ... It IS all about attitude. I'd say you nailed it.


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