The place itself, the physical structure, was built to produce a return. It’s all right angles and flashing from a tube, inoperable windows, and two-tone exterior panels of artificial masonry. But it’s where we do it. Each morning we drive in from all points of the compass to the center, gathering together as befits us, to produce work. That’s the key, really. To produce work. To offer something up. The flimsy walls don’t matter. The dropped ceiling and droning lights. The rattling ductwork. The flat beige interior dotted with random images from our past– welded pipes and glycerin-filled gauges captured on film that remind us of what we did last time.
None of that matters.
It’s the people and the ideas that make it real. The ones right now. The frustrations and the perseverance. The jokes that nudge us into a different timeline. The bitching in the offices, the break room, and the foyer. The resilience. The quirks and hang-ups, the stunning hubris, the fuzzy-headed pencils, and the perpetual pining for fairness. The pressing against one another’s souls. Asking all day for things we simply don’t need or understand. Washing into and smoothing one another out like stones in a spring river.
It’s late, and I step outside– find myself eye-to-eye with the faint gray suggestion of a moon, and it’s resting on a crescent of glowing reddish-orange. The space shuttle used to look just like that when it was crashing down through the sky. There must be an invisible flame out there in space none of us can see, a black river of heat expelled by the sun on which the moon floats. Venus sits nearby, gleaming.
Why do we have a security system on the building when we have that?
The lot is mostly empty, a windswept enclave sheltered by a ring of driven snow piles. A place for looking and seeing. My heart is an astronomical body, too, a drifting silence pockmarked by collisions– a wholeness, mostly hidden, with one side illuminated by an invisible wind.
The amount of communication required to bind a motley collection of half-built lives into a single movement is staggering. The chance of flare-ups and sparks– of crossing wires– often holds steady right around 100%. Identities crackle. Things chirp and buzz all day. E-mails appear from over the horizon like a steady river of pilgrims. They don’t know I’m not ready yet, that I’m just a man behind a curtain. They don’t care. They’re not that type of pilgrims. All day, hopefully singing, hopefully in rhythm, we paddle up a river of information. We give the pilgrims bread. A pat on the back. The message they came for.
You start to think you’re immune to Alcyone’s blue whim, that your world is truly in plain sight. A scope of which you can conceive. If only this one thing could get pressed free of wrinkles. Just this one thing. That would be nice. You’re working on that. Everyone else is working on something else. From a dimension adjacent to our own, this box of beings looks like a bazaar quantum appliance– a washing machine for scrubbing the daylights out of our tangled thinking. Coffee cups and computer monitors are swirling in circles. White boards are sloshing in the center. Ideas are blossoming everywhere at once, then collapsing, like a militia of churning soap bubbles. Schedules are banging around like old boots. But everywhere you look it’s the eyes that draw you in. Eyes all over the place. We’re a cloud chamber full of eyes. Miffed eyes. Hot eyes. Cool eyes. Heavy eyes. Not-on-my-watch eyes. Brown and hazel ones. Eyes trained to listen before speaking. Eyes that want to get to the fucking point. Hungry eyes. Knowing eyes. A trusting pair. Unwavering, been-there-done-that eyes. Blue eyes. Not me eyes. Eyes that draw lines everywhere they look, like ink jet nozzles torn free from a Hewlett-Packard.
The trick is to walk in there in the morning like a white sheet of canvas the Buddha stretched, realized was perfect, and set to idle in the sun while he made tea, and then to walk out in the afternoon or evening in just the same way. Clean and whistling to the birds. Ready to look the moon in the eye. Then wink at Venus.
Some people don’t like this kind of thing. Getting up in the morning, going in to the washing machine. Getting scrubbed. Pressing soul against soul. Being pushed and pulled by the soap suds, friction and gristle. Coming out covered in the ash of detonations. But when I’m honest, I see how brilliant this is. This cosmic appliance of life. Where else can we get all of our bullshit and resistance into one place, where we can see it? And clean it. Let it be rinsed away.
I don’t know.
It seems to be working, anyway.
How could it not?
You chuck a flotilla of saints into a wormhole. Put the moon kettle on boil. And you brew up something everlasting.