The days’ heat still rises from the cement sidewalk as the sun slowly paints the sky in the west with an ever changing palate. Pinks, purples and blues spread above the horizon.  Today the colors seem more vibrant, as if in high definition. How is it I have never seen the sunset with the same acuteness? The same sharpness of each color? My shoes move evenly, with little sound, as the soles and sidewalk meet comfortably, like old friends, no words necessary. The nearly still air passes over my forearms sticking out from my shirt, a gentle touch piquing my sense of the movement. I am impressed by the coordination of my body parts. Left arm swinging forward in time with my right leg moving forward. Then my right arm moving forward with my left leg. I try to move both my right arm and leg together, feeling awkward by having to focus on a simple task. Clicking, like a distant timer, comes from my right knee. I envision the ligament popping with each step. No pain really, just a bit of noise.

 I turn the corner and see the faded greyish steel door. The sun, after years of blistering heat, has tarnished the door to a matte finish.  The black and red symbols of a tagger reminds me where I am. The desolate and deserted warehouses, empty and discarded like the beers cans and cheap liquor bottles on the paper strewn, cracked sidewalk. This area is always like a hangover on Sundays, dull and dirty, a wasteland.  A silver thick plate holds the large steel handle. From a distance the door is sealed to keep out potential trespassers. The down and out, the lonely, the homeless. A fine dark line can be seen as I approach, a slight opening of the door, a promise kept by the stone lodged inside the jamb.

In resistance, the squeaking door tells its’ guest it is in need of oiling. Not likely to happen. I step through the doorway with my left foot, my right foot on the threshold, the rise of the plate along the floor makes its’ presence known by the rub on my instep. I kick the stone into the building. The darkness beckons me as I wait for my eyes to adjust. Cool air carries a steely, musty, chemical smell to my nose. As I inhale, I can taste the smell and feel the dryness of the air. 

Closing out the fading light behind me, I control the closing of the door, holding it until I hear the click, sealing out any intruders. Slowly my eyes adjust. I look around at the familiar cavernous environment. The stillness and quiet contrasts with the clamour of loud voices, machinery humming and motors running during working hours. In the dark, the height and length of the storage panels, are creature like, opening its’ jaws to snap down on me, crushing me into pulp. The overhanging lights dangle from open rafters, church bells waiting to be peeled.

This building isn’t the tallest in this town, standing only ten floors high. I know it well. Coming here for more than seven years, five days a week. My comfort and sense of intimacy of my surroundings, made this an easy choice. Deeper I go into the cavern, feeling the spaciousness. I can reach out in any direction and my arm passes through the thick nothingness that is never ending. How does something so palpable be nothing? Disappearing into the void of the darkness, I am caressed and held gently. I move slowly forward, sure – footed, without caution. The stairwell is at the back wall, next to the elevator. Running the ten floors of stairs was common for me as I delivered the needed parts and materials. It was often faster than the elevator. With the saved time I could smoke a cigarette, on the loading dock that is used for storing machine parts, without being missed. Touching my left chest pocket of my jean jacket, I feel the roundness of my red lighter and the hard edges of my cigarette package. Quitting smoking was something I thought of often, however when I did this, it took away the pleasure of the feel of the hot grey smoke curling its’ way past my throat into the craving of my lungs.  So I stopped trying to quit. Why not enjoy the experience until the experience no longer existed?

The door to the stairwell is metal. Its’ round knob was smooth and cool to touch. It fits into my hand like it was molded just for my use exclusively. Inhaling a deep slow breath and exhaling as slowly, I took my first steps to the top. I am not exactly sure when I made this decision, to climb  the ten floors of stairs. Like a shadow always close, the need following me, nagging me. The steps are old, worn down slightly on the edges and the tread a bit small. not meeting the building codes of today. The balls of my feet carry most of my weight, my calves stretching, assisting in the push off. The tightening of my calves extend to my thighs and hamstrings, an orchestra in synergy, each playing a significant piece that make the whole of the action. Diffused light from the exit signs at each level going up is surreal. I had many nights dreaming of this light, the quiet, the aloneness without fear. Talking to me in whispers like a lover. Waking in sweat drenched sheets, I would sit at my bedside, surprised I was in a dream. This was always followed by half a cigarette. The ember extending in intensity as I inhaled deeply. The square lettering of the number eight informs me I was closer. I daydream of a beautiful wife, lovely children and a playful dog. It wasn’t really far out of reach. I had to make an effort to socialize, to make friends. This was never easy for me. Somehow I was the one left out, left behind, teased. Standing outside of life became my friend.

The door by my side; reliable, without waver. Painting the letters was one of my many responsibilities here. Meticulously, the letter stencil was taped to the wall, ensuring it was level. Then I sprayed the black paint. Working alone kept me free from demands that would interrupt my work. Most didn’t know it was I who changed the light bulbs, painted, and other seemingly insignificant tasks. Like a mother watching me, I proudly exhibited my best work at all times. It feels good to do something well. Floor ten came into view. The red exit light glowing like a beacon. I breathe deeply, my lungs expanded to a tight balloon, as I stand before the door to the rooftop. Exhaling slowly to a count of four, I insert the key into the metal lock and walk through to the roof top. The door slams behind me. The air that blows my hair off my forehead is cooler than the air on the street. Whirls of wind dance around my body, embracing me then letting go. I hear the crumple of the paper in the right pocket of my jacket. I touch the round metal button to ensure it is closed. The loose gravel crunches beneath my feet as the little stones roll with each step as I move towards the four foot wall. The view is familiar. Cleaning the roof vent screens in the wind, rain, snow and searing heat, was also one of my jobs. The view offers the twisting of the fast moving river, maneuvering around sandbars and large branches from the hemlock trees that lined the river walkway. Looking down are the ant – like tiny people walking, running and biking. The cars are moving in timely coordination to one another.  A typical Sunday. Lazily busy. The noise from below is a whisper of sound, barely strong enough to reach me, caught in the dancing air currents, ensuring me this isn’t a dream from which I would awake. I step up on the wall and have never felt so alive, as I step off the wall.




Share this article

Like Pamela on Facebook and Follow on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *