26 August 2018

Disappeared (Part 3)

Traipsing around the rooftops and decrepit, debris-laden concrete slabs of these industrial relics swiftly became a favorite pastime on weekends when the weak acid of involuntary solitude became too much to bear. Post-abandonment dilapidation birthed a fascinating scenery rich in opportunities for the eye and the lens. Therapy in an office setting has its benefits, but there is a wealth of prophylaxis in capturing broken beauty as it displays in sunlight or outlined in snow.

The plainness of that notion hit with the force of divine revelation one winter morning as I stood shivering on frosted grass. My fingers and toes were going numb after some hours of snapping pictures before the sun raced too high. The camera was behaving strangely. It was hesitating, as if critiquing my choice of composition through fits of mechanical petulance. Thoughts of getting back to the car with its heater crowded my brain. I was determined to get just one more shot. Angle was set, button was pushed, the shutter leaf unfurled. Then the camera buzzed, and died. It gave up. I took this as a sign it was time to go home, reckoning the final image of the day was in the can.

The camera was freezing. That much was obvious. It returned to life upon resting in the warmth of my apartment. As it turned out, that last frame revealed itself to be one of the best photographs of a building I have ever taken. Best by my personal reckoning, anyway. Tone. Mood. The marks of time plainly visible in the stone facade with its windows like empty eyes. The pathos and faded dignity of it, shot in black and white, touched my mind and my heart in ways catalytic to the appreciation of beauty in decay.

That slice of infinity pushed away the indecisiveness that kept me from taking a deep dive into the interior. An expedition was planned and executed.

My boots scraped across cracked concrete. A peculiar crunching sound arose, a byproduct of the rubble and debris strewn across the loading dock. A faint breeze wafted out of the black hole in the wall in front of me. The tang of machine oil and mildew stung my nostrils. To the left and straight ahead I could see almost nothing beyond the first ten feet, faintly lit by the background sunlight that seeped in under the dock roof. To my right the inside of the building glowed with soft luminescence, refulgency tinged with green. I had made up my mind that I would determine the source of that light. All I had to do was walk about seventy feet through dank, unlit space.

I had, on previous occasions, stood and stared into that blackness. That there were parallels in my life away from the ruins did not occur to me at the time. Seems obvious now. Gaping holes, darkness, surrounded by crumbling remains. My attraction to it perhaps driven by the familiarity of it. I felt at home amongst the corporeal reality of the factory. Mirrors. I stood before the black holes in the walls and gazed into mirrors. When I left the world I had known for nearly twenty years, expelled by life gone sour, I crossed the Rubicon into a new decade of despair and ecstasy, of wisdom and ignorance, of beauty and ugliness. All of which I was totally unprepared for, but there was no way to go but forward.

The basic problem was that, for all my planning, I neglected to bring a flashlight. Nor did I have a hard hat. More deference to prudence would have kept me out of the building, but curiosity was beating the daylights out of caution. I took off at a brisk walk across the concrete toward the light.

It didn’t take long before I nearly fell flat on my face. Protruding from the floor was an anchor bolt, unseen by me due to the gloom. It snagged the leading edge of my right boot. The hangup caused a stumble. I windmilled my way through the dark, in what I am sure was a hilarious parody of a bat as I flailed my arms in a desperate bid to maintain balance and avoid face-to-concrete contact. Curses echoed off the walls to be soaked up by the darkness.

I skidded to a halt not far from the edge of the glow that was my destination. I caught my breath, heartbeat pulsing in my ears as the surprise of the near-fall wore off. At this point it was laugh worthy, so I did. More echoes in the cavern of light which revealed itself to be a broad, deep space populated with wooden columns. The green tinged light emanated from above. A series of serrated vaults formed a sawtooth roof above, half of which was formed of translucent fiberglass panels. Age, neglect, and dirt had given the once white panels their green hue.

In that mausoleum light, time, pulse, and thought decelerated. I heard the susurrus of blood whispering to the vessels in my ears. As far as I could tell, I was the sole human being in the building. In a flight of fancy, I thought maybe I was the only human being on earth. There were no others, yet the traces of those had been were in abundant evidence. Industrial-era hieroglyphs patterned the walls, spray bomb celebrations of invective, insults, and crudity. I stepped forward to study them, puffs of glassy dust rising from beneath my boots. It was here in this temple that I began my rites of transformation. I was ignorant of that which waited for me in the ruined black.

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"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...