July 14, 2004

True Names and Power Outages
Though the sign-posts still stand, the sign itself has been removed from the lawn of our apartment building. The spell is broken. The building, which is older than the 20th Century was long, has forgotten its modern name and fallen back on its old personas. It’s thinking of the hot summer days before the window-mounted air conditioners and the electric ceiling fans. It’s recalling the men in sharp-looking white suits who delivered ice to the little room in each apartment with a special doors and locks just for his visit; we keep our refrigerator there still, in case his ghost stops by. The building remembers the pop and whiff of the gaslights, the way sunlight fell through the courtyard windows onto plate racks around the dining room and the way the nighttime dark gathered at the center of the flat, away from the windows and the summer sounds on the street down below.

In the dining room it’s the 1890s, with textured red wallpaper and candles on the mirrored buffet. Where the emergency lights in the hallway fall through the blinds on the front door, it’s 1934 and hats are hung on the rack by the hall closet. The 60s are in the bedroom, leaking out of the old AC unit and smelling like incense in the sheets. Outside the sunroom windows it’s tonight, and somewhere out there a motorcycle is accelerating out of this minute and into the next.

In the morning the men with jangling belts will come to restore electricity and the property managers will hang a new name around the building’s neck. Until then, we let it sleep like an old man in his chair, young again and a hundred summers away.


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