It begins this morning on FM1960. There are many, many empty storefronts, small shopping plazas with different fronts and colors. This one has a poured concrete overhang, the bulbous front pressed with dozens of stone chips and the walls around the dark windows light columns of grey or beige brick. The 80’s are drowsing here, the great dark windows like aviator shades blank to your perusal and the overhang heavy above. If a fuschia sylph pushed out of one of the doors, insect bright, insect fragile--black lace gloves grasping at her own conversation, you might have heard Tina Turner following after.
Instead, the entire place passes in seconds and the street shows another empty face. There are few people out in the brutal heat of late morning. Mad Max is laughing at us, whispering taunts in a digital stream that breaks across the internet ocean; a dry, dry day at our fingertips.
If we slip from the morning to the early evening, we find the blank shapes of thundershowers in the distance and the bloom of the heat lingering in the car, despite the all-the-way up a/c. After a brief stop, we bring food to the parking lot of quiet four-story building and eat in a parking space under a tree, the sun diffused over the dash. A few breaths might center us here, but we don’t really want to be here, so we turn up the radio and listen to the bad news of the day.
Money and drought share an image of a closed and broken spigot. They keep talking and the fries and chicken fingers lose their savor. We have been warned not to come late to the door, to risk only a quarter of an hour past six and so we hurry in at 6:05 pm.
Most of the offices are quiet but few are dark at this hour. At the end of the hallway, right beside a glass exit, is the door to the stairwell. Stepping in, you see another glass door immediately to your left. You can exit either from the public or the private side, but one is tempted to think that you would come out in entirely different landscapes.
The stairs themselves begin under a low ceiling and the straight rise to the second floor brings you past this drop ceiling to stairwell straight to the fan at the ceiling. It is dark in here. The bulbs are on as required, but the light is not bright.
By the time we reach the second floor, the public building and the outside are hidden from our sight.
Still, we are climbing to the fourth floor. We do, only to find the stairs continue. At first, the fan, open to the day, distracts us. Then we see a missing ceiling tile and a dark space revealed. Sunlight comes from some opening and blinds us to the coils and giant transistors we seem to see.
It’s the opening to a box of dreams, to a box of steampunk magic, to a box that only an engineer would hold.
Here we are in the stairwell. There is a door and a place to be. There is no maintenance person standing in the dim of the stairwell, the top of his building open to our eyes. We can’t see the leaves that are falling in the mid-August haze. There is no sound of children outside, beyond the rusty fan that has not yet begun to turn.
It has not been stopped for us.
And yet . . . it is stopped. The ceiling has exposed the brilliance of the sun’s evening fingers lying against the mechanism and the deep blue of the sky above the fan. There are more steps.