You people look at those old pictures
of yours, the black and white and blurry ones with the age spots and dog-eared corners, and you don’t see how any of the people
there could have ever possibly been real
. They’re like cartoons to you and you know, you just know, that something more than the fact that they’re inherently different from you because they lived in a totally different time period
, and totally different world (you think), separates their lives and their existences from your own. Without their modern little baubles
, without cars and busses and cell phones and leashes on their kids, but with their bowler hats and canes and cumbersome dresses and parasols and buggies and carts
, you can’t imagine them walking the same streets as you, rounding the same corners, waving to acquaintances, going about their lives just like you. But you change and they change- or did change, when they had the chance. And I change, too, though not in the same way. You grow upwards
, and outwards
or more brittle
, or thinner
, and then you die
. Flat out.
I have to say I envy you in that respect. I just crumble.
But you don’t think about why you’re here, either. Probably because you don’t need to, don’t want to. Oh, you think about what you’ll do with your life, all the great things you’ll get to if you have the time, all your little destinies to fulfill- but you never have to consider the fact that you were created and exist simply for one purpose. Because you weren’t. You people are generally formed out of acts of love, they say- the direct result of an impulsive decision, or some such nonsense. So you just float around for the next century, firing off nerve impulses and taking up space and wasting oxygenand trying to fill voids in each other’s lives and working your fingers to the bone, completely without a purpose, really.
All those little unplanned existences. Unfathomable. Life is different when one is created purely to house the offices that serve as the manifestation of one man’s life dream. That’s me, you see. You wouldn’t remember the man, Jeremiah P. Blaylock, who once was young and handsome and full of life; one of the few exceptions to the theory of generally meandering human existences, his P stood for nothing but he stood for everything, it seemed. A lawyer, a fine one, 1885 Harvard Law graduate who moved up in the ranks of the firm he joined soon after college, who made it perfectly clear he needed his own place after a while. It was something he’d wanted his whole life, I heard him say to so many people visiting him in his spacious, third-floor office suite- in confidence, he thought, but he never knew I could hear everything. He was a great man but not so great to understand the working consciousness of the walls around him.
So there I came, but slowly. Construction took a year, through baking hot sun and the slow winter freeze, the spring defrost; then one dewy April morning, early, there was a ceremony. A ribbon was cut. Blaylock shook hands with the county commissioner and his wife clung at his elbow, teary-eyed, as the small crowd gathered clapped lightly. And I stared out over them all, over the narrow rutted street and the sun half risen. By the end of the week I was full up of lawyers, secretaries, frenetic clients. I was finished. Complete. And terrified.
There was nowhere for me to go but down. It would be a slow process, I knew, because I seemed sturdy enough but I saw the buildings up and down the block, their weatherworn facades, their rotting porches, their shattering windows and peeling shingles. I hoped that somehow I could escape that fate, that withering, wasting fate, but I knew I couldn’t. Ever. Because I saw them. And I felt it inside me.
I had a view they could never hope for, though they liked to think they knew everything there was to know about Cherry and 3rd; Mason’s Hardware was directly across the intersection, which was no more than a glorified rock path at the time, and enjoyed announcing the arrival of the sun every morning as it struck his backside, though it was clear from my perspective that the sun was truly making its way into the sky a good fifteen minutes prior to his morning proclamation. He was just blind, low to the ground and incredibly old- oh, and I was that young whippersnapper, that high-falutin’ office building, didn’t know nothing about being a building, a proper one! Didn’t know my place, didn’t know when to be quiet, to stop my complaining, to just let myself settle. But he didn’t know, and never knew, that time felt like a weight to me, pushing down on my rafters, rusting my door hinges and cracking my front steps, every day since the day the last brick was laid. It was as real and as present as the rippling sensation of the constant opening and shutting of my green glass doors, which I had to get used to (too), though I never let Mason know- Mason, or Bartley’s Inn across 3rd, or St. Ignatius across Cherry.
I didn’t need to tell them what they already knew. That we are built just to crumble. That no matter what people say about their new renovation techniques, about preservation and reconstruction and blah blah blah, it’s just postponing the inevitable. Put off and put off and put off and as a structure, as a building, you are helpless. You are at the mercy, utterly and completely, of whosever supposed hands you wind up in. Transactions and wills and auctions and all these other forms of possession: you are nothing more than chattel, though you are bigger stronger older wiser than the people- the people!- that love you and leave you, like they say. They take what they want, they use you for what they want, then they pass you on. Or push you over. Or blow you up.
Fortunately, I have only been passed on.
Jeremiah P. Blaylock did some passing on as well; had he been a building, a true one himself, it would have been a wrecking ball that sealed his fate. But he was just a man, and he was hit by a train, and though I assure you I would have survived such an event with little damage sustained, it was the end of him. A car stalled, straddling the tracks. Not enough time, not enough time, not ever enough time. It was the end of his wife Dahlia, too, who sadly was the one to whom my custody was surrendered in his will- a most unfortunate chain of events that, eventually, left brother Percy Blaylock as the sole proprietor.
Thus, I became a bank (for a time). And the weight pressed harder.
It has not stopped.
I have seen others like me come and go. Mason, Bartley, St. Ignatius- all gone. And a dozen others, up and down the block, from fires and wrecking balls and plain old age, abandonment and safety hazards and building codes- all gone. And all forgotten if not for those glances in those old pictures of yours (the black and white and blurry ones with the age spots and dog ears, where the people don’t seem like real people, though they were- maybe realer). And yet I am still here, somehow. A relic. A relic with a plaque, sparkling and new, glistening in the sunlight, shining in the rain. For what?
For being solid, I suppose. But also for crumbling- just more slowly than the others.