Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Opening paragraphs from: "Observatory Mansions" by Edward Carey

I wore white gloves. I lived with my mother and father. I was not a child. I was thirty-seven years old. My bottom lip was swollen. I wore white gloves though I was not a servant. I did not play in a brass band. I was not a waiter. I was not a magician. I was the attendant of a museum. A museum of significant objects. I wore white gloves so that I would not damage any of the nine-hundred and eighty-six objects in the museum. I wore white gloves so that I would not have to touch anything with my bare hands. I wore white gloves so that I would not have to look at my own hands.

I lived in a city, as many people do, a small city, an unspectacular city, a not very famous city. I lived in a large building but had access only to a small part of it. Other people lived around me. I hardly knew them.

The building we lived in was a huge, four-storey cube in the neo-classical design called Observatory Mansions. Observatory Mansions was dirty. Black stains like large unhealing scabs fouled the exterior, and sprayed on its grey walls in red and yellow car paint were various messages delivered at night by some anonymous vandal. The most immediately noticeable being: And even you can find love. The building's only notable features, save for it's plainness and size, were the four simple columns that supported the entrance portico. The columns were badly scratched and dented, one in particular was inclined to slouch. The building's only other irregularity was the dome on the slate roof, directly above the entrance hall. In this dome, once upon a time, was an observatory. An observatory now lacking telescopes, now an unproclaimed sanctuary for pigeons, their shit, their young, their dying, their dead.

Observatory Mansions sat in the countryside, surrounded by outhouses and stable buildings, parkland and fields. In time the city crept up to it, covering with each new year more fields, until it reached the parkland, which it smothered in asphalt, and the outhouses, which it knocked down. Only the house itself, that large grey cube, remained. They built a circular wall, ten foot high, around the house, a barricade, a statement that this was as far as the city would get. But the city carried on, way beyond our home, building more roads and houses. And as the city continued, the roads that neighbored Observatory Mansions became ever wider and more frequented, a river growing in confidence, until an ox-bow lake was formed and Observatory Mansions became an island. A roundabout, a traffic island, surrounded by the city but forgotten by its quickly flowing business.

I often thought of our home as a solid, hairless and ancient man. This man, sitting with his flabby arms hugging his round knees, stares hopelessly down at the traffic, at the smaller, modern, neighboring buildings, at the countless people rushing by. He sighs heavily; he's not sure why he's still here. The old man is not well, the old man is dying. He suffers from countless ailments, his skin is discoloured, his internal organs are haemorrhaging.

This was our home and we were even tolerably happy living there, until a new resident came.

1 comment:

  1. Holy oatmeal, this man is coming to visit us?! Wowza.