You are a building, so you have been quite indifferent up till now. In fact, you had notreally noticed until a moment ago, when a fat old man tried to flush a toilet and the pipes burst. Water is now overflowing from your ducts and saturating your carpets. You are to be closed for a week, empty and alone.
The plumber comes. He says that your pipes are old and that your walls are weak and that mold is creeping up from the basement. He says that you should probably be torn down for the benefit of the community; you should be torn down for the benefit of the children you love so much. The plumber promises to return, and once again you are left alone.
You cry. Water continues to leak, dripping slowly and thoughtfully. The children stop coming by. A long skinny policeman drapes cautionary tape around your outskirts. He does it almost lovingly. He used to come to you, when he was a little boy, and then, afterwards, he would return and visit, first weekly and then monthly and then eventually, if you were lucky, once a year.
But, here he is, once again, standing gangly on your sidewalk. He looks up at you and breathes in slowly. He licks his lips, and crooks his head to the left, twisting his mouth from a frown to a smile and then to a frown again. He pulls a broken tissue from his back pocket and blows his nose. It is cold outside, a windy day. His eyes are watery and red, but he stays, a standing rubber band, braving the elements simply to stare.
You yearn for him to enter, wishing he would once again roam your halls, leaving greasy fingerprints on glasswork. You want him to jump up and down the staircases and leap in vain to touch the fluttering sign that was left from an event years ago. Imagination gobbles up reality and suddenly he is inside of you, his voice roaring, sounds echoing and reverberating endlessly, until you once again feel whole. Only reality returns, and he is not inside of you, he has not moved. You are empty once again. He stands and stares and you both cry.
He leans onto the weak yellow tape, head hanging and body bouncing like a bobble-head. He leaves, of course, they always do. You think about how he stood, shivering, unable to break away. Yet he did, somehow; he turned and walked to his car, started the engine and drove into foggy haze.
You are always the one that gets left behind. But, it has never affected you this much before. Previously there was flow; currents of people came and left and returned, but now there is nothing. Sure, several passerby still come, but it is different now. Mothers drag their toddlers, stretching out their arms, rushing them past your yellow-taped borders. Few walk along side you anymore. Most cross the street to avoid your stench. No one wants to look at you, and if they do it is out of shame and pity, not reverence and love.
Another, taller man has rippling muscles and shiny skin. He looks like the bodyguard who stood in your front entryway for the past two years. His hair is short, with the same sheen and shading of a well-washed cast-iron skillet. His backside is strong and broad, his butt tight and bulging. He hits his fist mechanically against your wall and winces when he hears you reply with a hollow thud. “Yup, it’s definitely time,” he says.
They all nod and you notice a not-so-broad-and-brawny man. You look again and realize that the small man is in fact a woman with brown-cropped hair. She has square frameless glasses and is wearing a yellow plastic hat. It is the same type of hat people wore when you were being built. Only, you were built a long time ago and hats were different back then. And, things change.
The woman is carrying a clipboard with sheets of paper. Strange figures are on them: boxes, squares, triangles and dotted lines. She is dressed differently than the men. She too has a tool belt; only hers is fitted over crisp black slacks and a matching blazer. The top three buttons of her pink ruffled blouse are open just low enough to see the slightest sliver of cleavage, which the men seem to notice. They gravitate to her and stay in her orbit as she walks inside you and takes notes.
You see her open and close her mouth, but cannot make out what she is saying. To be honest you do not really care. People like this have been inside you before. You have already decided that it is best not to fret about updates. So you half-heartedly watch the men as they do their job. You daydream and become excited at the prospect of reopening. You think about people flowing back in and the children finally returning.
You are daydreaming so vividly that you hardly notice the plumber shutting off your water system completely. You are barely aware that the banana-skin-colored man is nailing planks of wood over your windows and that the shiny man with broad muscles is wrapping heavy chains around your door. Suddenly, you feel the slight pinching sensation of a stake being driven into the ground, but realize in a haze that you no longer have eyes with which to read it.
This time is different. You can feel it. Never before have they nailed wood over your glass windows or chained your doors shut. Now, you wish you had eavesdropped on the woman. You want to cry but you cannot. Your ducts are empty and slowly drying out. Your inside is pitch black. You are being held hostage in the same location at which you have always been.
The whole week next week is torture. The shady area between your withering bushes is defecated on daily and people spray their names in piss on your brick walls. A young white girl with tattoos and braids attempts to break inside of you; only she cuts herself on your glass, swears, and runs away as car alarms blare repeatedly in the distance.
The fist-sized hole, does allow you to see, however, and you can finally read the sign. It has a lot of little red script on it: something about the mayor, and a word or two about the future, but what really catches your attention is a date and a word you have not seen before. The date is tomorrow and the word is D-E-M-O-L-I-T-I-O-N.
Now, people are coming. Large congregations of people are joining and holding hands around you. Some are smiling, some are jumping, a few people that you recognize are frowning and sniffling, but they are the minority. You feel slightly appalled that your old friends are not happy to see you, while everyone else looks overjoyed.
Out of the foggy haze comes a large yellow vehicle with a tall crane and a long thick chain with a ball on it. In the drivers seat is the banana-skinned-colored man with the cropped-haired woman to his right. She is clutching the same clipboard as before, only now her dotted lines have signatures on them. The big yellow vehicle stops and the woman climbs out with a cone shaped instrument. She parts the sea of people, brings the cone to her lips, presses a button, and begins to speak.
“Today, we are all here for the same reason. For the betterment of the community,” she is saying. The instrument is picking up her voice and bouncing it off of your façade, making her words sound grand and profound. “We all have gotten to know and love this building, but even the greatest things cannot last.”
She paused, and now she is continuing, “My team and I went through and tried our best to salvage what we could, but it was too late. This building is simply too far gone.” Right now, one of your friends is letting out a loud whimper and everyone is turning and staring, but the woman is quickly redirecting the attention to herself, a trait that you note she seems quite efficient at.
“We promise to reuse as many pieces as possible from this building in the new one, which, by the way, will happen to be a few miles from here in the safer neighborhood,” she is saying to you and everyone else while nodding and smiling. “Also, do not forget to elect me as the local municipality alderman.” You are now hearing the majority of the crowd hooting and cheering. “Let her rip, boys,” the woman now orders.
The yellow machine with the ball is beginning to hum. It is wheeling away from you. Now, it is rushing toward you. The ball is crashing into your side. Bricks are flying. Your shingles are ricocheting off of the grass. People are ducking for cover. Some are still cheering. Some have not moved and are watching, entranced. Now the big black ball is wheeling back once more, and pounding into your windows, shattering your glass. It takes a while before you realize that you are being destroyed.
You do not know what to feel. You think that you should have seen this coming. You should have seen the signs. You want to escape, to run away, but you cannot. After all, you are only a building. Right now, you are dying and you have decided to spend your final moments reflecting as the ball continues to pound away at what is left of you.
You are thinking about all the people, about all the people who left you, all the people who let this happen to you. You are thinking: Why could I not have just left them? Why did I always have to be the one to lose?
And now, you are realizing. You are laughing a sad hollow chuckle of self-pity and understanding. The ball is taking its final swing. And now, you are dead and all of your questions have been answered.