It’s been raining for days, light but persistent. The clouds turn red, turn light, turn gray, turn darker, turn red. Night comes, and with it, a deep and distant hum.
In the meantime, I get up and get myself ready. Stop by the flower shop. Buy something at the little kiosk at the train station. Wait for the train. Allow myself to be transported by it, along with all the others. Take the elevator, go about my day, and do my work.
I perform the rituals: take the stroll in the city, stare at something in the shop window, sit in the train and let it take me home, lay myself back down, then awaken once again. I am but a knot.
The birds on the waters, the fish in the sky – we are moving in a swarm. The others and I, we depart from an underground station. We choose our paths in quiet balance with each other. We flow.
Nevertheless we collide, because suddenly:
- someone throws away a pastry wrapper,
- turns to look at a map of the local area,
- is pulled away by the hand of a child,
- maneuvers a huge plasma TV in a box,
- or walks with a cane,
- or must first have a seat,
and interrupts their own pattern of movement.
Next to me someone puts a voice from the tele plateau up to his ear; I wander further into myself. The swarm keeps us on the path to a line of people; a line which starts at the foot of a staircase; a staircase on which the first step will also be the last, and the last step will be the first, in a loop.
In front of me, someone steps on the metal plate at the base of the escalator. It goes “clonk” and provides a light resistance to their step. I step on behind them, and onto a new stair, which has grown out of a fine line in the floor, between the edges of the other stairs. Behind me, someone else steps across the metal plate. We ride.
The sounds of our steps on the stone and metal reverberate back to us from the wall. The sound of the train in the tunnel exit deafens me. Classical music lurches along, mixed with vague discordant announcements made by an artificially arranged female voice, with phrases filled in by the guttural murmur of some local-sounding voice, which issues from megaphones mounted on the support columns. The clattering stairs push me upwards. I find a quiet here, which takes me back to a lost dream of the night before.
The birds rise up from the shore and take to the air. The fish dive back into the sea. The mass of people scatter to the intersection crossings on the surface. I enter the island factory over a bridge, via the deliveries section. The factory is still. In the basement, I put on some coffee in the wood-paneled kitchen break area, I retrieve my tools from the broom closet, tie up my hair, place my offerings into a bucket, fill up a thermos, and press a button set in the concrete wall of the corridor.
A grinding sound pierces through the wall, the double doors slide up, and I pull myself into a narrow space. I see my reflection and turn away quickly.
The walls, the floor and the wings of the double doors are all scuffed by countless gazes, and by the dark marks of rubber sneakers.
Before me, there were others here. I press a button on the strip. After me, no one else will come here today.
This room is the only one in this entire section of the building that can go from the basement level all the way to the building’s ceiling. Wherever this room happens not to be at the moment, only a dark pit remains behind.
About a week ago I was fed up with work, and I decided to pass the time by hopping up and down in the elevator. The ghosts on guard duty in the building explained to me afterwards that a room which can access all floors of the building tends to be a frail piece of equipment, that rates leaps as a hazardous deviation from its normal function and therefore remains wherever it happens to find itself within the elevator shaft for safety reasons.
After the last visitors have been ushered out of the exhibition, and the entire complement of staff have gradually called it a day and trickled out, the empty building then belongs to the ghosts on their guard duty, and I am the last person remaining in this world. In the elevator there is also a button with a bell symbol. Push the button, and you are connected by way of the tele plateau with the ghosts on guard duty. The ghosts will then in turn make contact with beings who are familiar with the habits and behaviors of the elevator and its shaft, and who are therefore responsible for its maintenance, and responsible also for my extrication.
The spatial distance between all beings is bridged in the flash of a mere moment, by way of the plateaus. But there are obstacles involved, such as questions of availability and responsibility, but also difficulties involving comprehension, and disorientation. Despite the many nodal points there are bottlenecks in the network. It can take long hours. I was all by myself and had the bucket with me.
Today I wait quietly until the elevator has reached the ground floor. I drop by the sentry station and share the flowers, the candy, a small bottle of liquor and the thermos. The ghosts on duty hardly make a peep, but I hope to myself that they are happily enjoying themselves, and that they remain favorably inclined towards me. We freshen up our coffee with three sips of vodka, and eat sweet things in silence. Thousands of light bulbs in the outdoor lighting system flicker to life, and bright light shines through the windows of the reception area. For the ghosts, it is now time to make their first round around the island.
I begin in the foyer of the former factory. There in the foyer stands a blackened monolith, with a flap built into it. Lift the flap, and a small shrine is exposed, the centerpiece of which is a single light bulb. On the sign on the shrine’s pedestal, the text reads, “This bulb provides light and warmth from fifteen centimeters away. The sun provides light and warmth from a hundred and fifty million kilometers away.”
I hold my hand close to the bulb. It throws its light around my hand and into the dark room, and I can feel its warmth.
I work my way up to the top floor, and then stand at the window: the streets below wind their way along the riverbank and disappear. The buildings all look like copies of each other. A street lamp flickers, until some kids kick at the base of the light-pole and extinguish it. Cables are stretched across the streets and at the corners of the intersections. Do spaces turn into invisible spaces as soon as one or two cables are hung above them? They need only be a bit thicker than common household electrical cable, and are best hung in a tight fashion, like the heavy, fragrant hair of a woman, and there should be a sense of urgency to their inter-weaving.
Or a space could simply be obscured by a yellow sign.
When I make my way to work or back home through the city, sometimes I find that someone has constructed a monument or a bench right in front of an invisible space. You can either sit on the bench or lean up against the monument, and if you hold quite still, until the edges of your field of vision begin to turn milky white, and the whiteness creeps slowly into the center of your vision, you can peer into the invisibility. I must blink before blindness sets in.
Through constant movement
- by escalators and elevators and rubber or metal moving walkways
- by even stranger conveyances, and half-finished bridges, narrow corridors and impassable open spaces
- time and again through:
- partly destroyed
- partly expanded
- partly added
nodal points, in its own time, every space that I set foot in disassembles itself.
If I were not to scrub out their connections day in and day out, I would lose myself. As long as I am able to clean something, I can manage. By cleaning something, I am able to gain awareness of it.
Meanwhile, I can solve networking problems through other ritualistic actions: I give the nodal points a kiss, give a clap to the corners, or I simply light up a smoke, in order to give those poor congested nodal points some time to just sit in peace. I sacrifice some small offerings: flowers, candy, or three sips of vodka. It helps.
On the train home I press my face against the window, looking into the reflected ghost train, and then through the window at the tunnel walls with their interweaving cabling, until the tunnel dips into the earth, and the train enters the station up on a bridge, and further on over the surface of the wastelands, and onto the goodnight-train-tracks, and past a grilled chicken concession stand perched in the solitude. Standing under a divider bridge, disheveled children wave at the train. A bit further on, in a construction yard, an old man waves from his folding chair. A fire burns in a 55-gallon drum. It was a beautiful day.
From an unseen place above the clouds, the sun imparts her light and glowing warmth upon all of the nodal points, and all of their connections.