Clay is a sixteen year old going to school at a rehabilitation center called Daytop where teens can get help for their drug problems while continuing their education. When Clay's cousin Addison also shows up at Daytop, he is happy to be reunited with him. But shortly after, Clay and Addison find themselves chasing another member of Daytop on the roof of a building in the projects over some gambling money when police officers gun down Addison, mistaking his gun-shaped wallet for an actual gun.
After Addison's death, Clay has a lot of people trying to take advantage of him. I felt bad for him because he has these adult figures in his life who are trying to use the tragedy of his cousin's death to benefit themselves when they should be consoling and guiding Clay through his grieving process. For example, a black politician preparing for his campaign is constantly seeking out interviews and answers from Clay about the incident on the Rooftop. He claims he is trying to get Clay's story out in the open so that people can finally see how poorly African Americans are treated by police officers, when really he is trying to gain support in the black community for his upcoming campaign. If he really cared about Clay he would make sure that he only answered questions or talked about what happened when he felt ready to. Instead he pushes Clay for answers, and Clay, in his troubled state, ends up telling the politician what he wants to hear and not the truth.
It may seem like Clay's life is spiraling downwards after his cousin's death, but if you look at it in a different light, you could argue that he is starting to get his life together. After Addison's death, Clay realizes that he must take care of himself before he submits to the wants and wishes of others. He is also able to confront Addison's younger brother Darryl, and get him to stop selling drugs, which is what got Addison killed in the first place. These experiences only make Clay a stronger person who now confronts his problems rather than hiding from them by using drugs.
One of Clay's fellow members at Rooftop draws a picture of a person hanging off of a cliff. Clay tells him that he should draw someone rescuing him from falling off the cliff. But the drawer, named Angel, tells him that the person is not falling off the cliff, he is climbing to the top. I found this brief moment in the story to be very powerful, because it encapsulates many of the ideals from the story that i discussed earlier. If Clay is able to look at himself as not falling of the cliff that is his life, but rather climbing back to the top, he will be able to get through the stress and grief that surrounds his life and become a stronger person in the end.
After reading Rooftop, I was able to recall many times in the past when I felt I was falling off the cliff when I was actually climbing to the top, and getting stronger in the process. Can you think of a time in the past when you were unknowingly climbing to the top of your mountain rather than hanging on for dear life? Feel free to share this experience with me and the other users of the ning.