Monday, October 20, 2008

Inner Jungle

It is a moonless dark night and the streets of the city are empty and covered in a misty sheen. There are no cars or buses casting their beams, no late night lovers on a clandestine stroll. Only a couple of the iron street lamps are working and the air is thick with abandonment and fog. Dozens of old apartment buildings line both sides of the street. They stand like tall soldiers, side by side, sharing conjoined walls and not a bit of breathing room between. Each 3 tiered building is made from bricks, marble and a slightly different hue of cement, although in the dark night, they all have taken on the same grayish color. Each building has a set of marble stairs leading up from the street, the steps are long and narrow and end in the darkened caves of the unlit landings. They are mostly apartment buildings and an occasional office space, occupied by singles and families, but at this hour, there is no living human presence. Only the buildings themselves and the paved streets and the subtle embellishments of the long-dead carpenters that have left their marks over the doorways and around the windows provide any proof of life or creativity. Inside one of these nearly identical buildings is a flight of stairs. They begin in the center of the building, close to the roof and lead down, eventually passing the basement and journeying further into the earth. There are no windows or doors in the center of the building, only the narrow decline of a never ending staircase which contains itself, taking very little space despite its sheer length. Architecturally, the steps are laid in sets of eight, after which follows an even landing of hardwood which is a small square of 3x3 ft, and then another set of eight steps continue, beginning at a 90 degree angle to the left of the landing. Each floor is the same, the same color, the same sight, the same odorless smell. There are no lamps or light bulbs to be seen, but everything is washed in a bright yellow light, like late afternoon light cast through a florescent filter, but its source is hidden. Each individual step of the staircase is made of a medium colored wood. They are well worn, but still somewhat shiny. There is a wooden banister that follows the descending flight of stairs, like a geometric snake that coils in exact increments; it’s supported in spacious intervals by carved vertical beams that connect the stairs to the horizontal banister. There are slight embellishments along the vertical beams, deep grooves that were carved with a steady hand, simple wooden flowers and leaves designed to almost be invisible among the rich grain of the wood, yet it adds a slight hint of elegance to the internal staircase. The top of the banister is smooth and shiny and slightly cold to the touch. Continuously and without the interruption of doors, windows, picture frames or decoration, is the clean eggshell white walls on the right. Despite the measured sophistication and clutter free interior, another life form adds its chaotic breath. Sprouting with abandon, poking out from the walls like weeds and dripping from an invisible source above is a thicket of psychedelic foliage. Their density is a jungle of colored vegetation, only there is no moistness in the air and the space is devoid of bird cries. Thick, dinner platter sized leaves in shades of red, orange and yellow fill the narrow staircase, their lushness leaving only a 2ft x2ft clear tunnel in the center, three feet from the floor and a couple from the walls and banister. Thick vines swoop from above and connect from wall to lower wall, mocking the straight edges of the banister with their sweeping lines and cascading shoots.