Sunday, July 05, 2009

Gilded Building

A dark narrow street opens and expands into a large open air plaza. The large square space is covered in smooth pale bricks that approximate the colors of earth and clay and dried grass. The differently hued bricks trade places with each other and create a speckled palette for the eye. There are dozens of tourists and gray pigeons that mingle in the plaza, all of them walking slowly, gazing at the ground, at the buildings, taking in the bright sunny day. In the center of the plaza is a short waterless round fountain that is nearly invisible with the throngs of people surrounding it. Men in shorts and T-shirts have their cameras in front of their eyes, attempting to capture the architecture around them.
To the left of the entrance and on the right side of the plaza is a simple one-story building which has an open, dark hallway cut through the middle of it. It houses the maintenance supply room and a small gift shop. There is an air of stillness and mystery that surrounds the darkened hallway. There is no one moving through it, either into or out of the square. Directly in front of the entrance are two tall rectangular buildings, each covered in white stucco. To the left of the entranceway is a grand and imposing building covered in smooth white stucco. Its bottom resembles a rectangle and in the center is a large arched doorway made of planked wood. Many thin plate-glass windows line the front face of the building, each one is outlined in dark blue trim. The center of the roof is domed and covered in gild. In each of the four corners there are clusters of squat gilded towers of varying heights. The dome and towers gleam in the bright sunlight.
Inside, the domed building is crowded with row after row of long wooden bench tables and back-less wooden benches acting as seats. Upon all the tables are place-settings of tan porcelain and white linen napkins and crystal goblets. The seats are occupied by men and women who sit shoulder to shoulder. The women are in matching maroon dresses that have low horizontal necklines and reveal plump bosoms and lacy camisoles tucked beneath the maroon satin. The bust-lines are tight and synch at the waist, but the skirts are made full with white petticoats. Each woman has her hair held back in a woven hairnet that has pearls embedded in each crossing thread. The men’s suits are made from the same maroon satin. There are matching trousers and blazers and white shirts with ruffles that protrude from the chest and rise to the collar. On their heads are brown brimmed hats adorned with red feathers on the right side.
Each man and woman practices lifting their spoons in perfect unison. The lifting of their hands, the way each expertly holds their spoon, reveals the insignia tattooed on the small piece of skin between their thumbs and index fingers. There is a maestro at the front of the room, a thin woman who has the posture, body, and dress of a man. She holds a thin metal rod to communicate with the group in unison.