Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Sacred Chamber

There is a rectangular room without the human-generated lights of man. A room with four walls and two doorways, arches really, that can lead to either the hallway or a room crowded with two computers, four desks, and three arm chairs. The lights in the hallway and the crowded room are off and they are mostly dark, the shapes of them lit only by the glowing, dancing lights of tiny flames in the rectangular room, a room alive with moving candle flames. Most of the candles are encased in a thick wall of clear glass and the white wax within glows slightly just below the dance of the flame.
There are two sizes of glass candles, one that is a little over a foot tall and the other which is half that size. The larger candles have smaller wicks and smaller flames, while the tinier candles have an inch and a half long flame which glows brightly, waving like a flag in the summer twilight. Around the room, in opposite corners and along the middle of the wall, where the carpet meets the long surface of the wall, are candles on small hand-made ceramic saucers.
The longest wall, a wall covered mostly in plate glass which faces the street outside, is covered by four thick panels of black velvet curtains that dangle unevenly a few inches from the floor. The edges of the panels are clipped together and there is tape on the two outer panels, each bit of tape brings the curtain to the wall beside it to prevent any escape of light and movement from the room into the world outside.
In one corner of the room is a non-working fireplace. The frame around the open hole of the fireplace is decorated with small square tiles depicting a country scene with ox and wagons. Below the decorative wall is a narrow flat ledge of bricks which once would have protected the floor from flying sparks of lumber. Now, it holds two large votive candles, some lit, scattered tea lights, a bright green house plant in a terra cotta pot off to one side and a book with the title, INSTRUCTIONS. The mantle above the fireplace is wood and painted with a shiny coat of white. There are six candles, two small ones and two large ones spread out over the mantle ledge as well as a handful of small white tea lights encased in thick aluminum which are interspersed among the glass-encased candles.
Above the mantle, on the smooth white wall is a square photograph mounted onto foamcore. The image is mostly blue with small bits of purple and pale pink and depicts a holy mountain with small, almost geometric shaped figures scaling the edges of the mountain. Directly below the photograph, in the center of the mantle, is a turquoise ceramic chalice. The edges and handle of the chalice are thick and there is a small, button-shaped bit of clay in the center of the chalice with a square cross on it.
The space of the room is mostly free of any furniture, no chairs or end tables, though there is a small Formica cabinet that houses several DVD players and a stereo, above which is a long, rectangular flat screen TV which is dark.
In the center of the room, on the ground, is a thin layer of foam covered by a thin pale purple cotton sheet. Above the sheet are two outstretched thin, plush blankets. One is pale green, the other is light blue. The improvised bed takes up almost the entire room. Sitting above the soft bed in a triangular-like circle are three people. A man and two women. Each has their hands on their knees, their eyes are closed and their breathing in unison. The sounds of their inhalations and exhalations are like white noise, it is the only sound other than the occasional popping of a flame.
The soft yellow glow of candlelight flickers over their skin and on the surfaces of the creamy white walls which now look gold in the firelight.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


My body is cradled in the strong nylon grip of an old hammock. The purple, blue and red material is faded from the incessant heat and mild salty air, the colors remind me of old beach towels left in the far corners of a linen closet, but the lack of rainbow brilliance is compensated in the tight weaving of the thread, an iron grip which for me, on a wooden platform fifteen feet above the sandy beach below, feels as secure as the cradle of a mother’s arms.
The ocean, no more than two hundred feet away, is calm and dark blue. Rhythmic waves less than hips height, roll in on shore, creating a calming, constant roar on an otherwise quiet beach. In the distance, I can see the silhouettes of a couple, a slim woman in a small bikini, a tanned man in long swim shorts. They are too far away to see any of their features or to hear their conversation or laughter. They walk away from me, their shapes mostly darkened as the sun creeps slowly downward in the sky. They are the only people I see, the only moving shapes besides the blue water stretched out like an open, living canvas in front of me.
A gentle warm wind sways the hammock, and my naked body within it from side to side. Above me is a thin roof which blocks out the direct rays of the sun, but does little to stop the incessant heat which rises from the bright white sand fifteen feet below. The hammock is but one in a row of fifteen which hang suspended from the wooden rooftop. Towards my right, I see the long, single row of one-room cabanas, the wooden platform that stretches the entire length, the rooftop above that shades the platform and hammocks. Each cabana is raised fifteen feet from the ground, a handmade wooden ladder extending from just outside each cabana door to the sand below. Swaying in the breeze, I cannot tell if the beach is prone to flooding or it was just built to give a clear view of the entire beach, a long cove etched between a series of two cliffs that are about a mile apart.
The other cabanas and the other worn hammocks hanging from the overhanging roof are empty. The unfilled carcasses of faded nylon sway slightly in the breeze, moving as gently as the one I rest in, a crisscross pattern etching itself into my slightly tanned white flesh.
Resting high above the sand, I can see both ends of the beach lined with old hotels and cabanas, all looking like relics from another era. Almost all of them are vacant now as the rainy season approaches. The waves roll in to shore, their roar is the only sound.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Angular Tube

It is an angular tube made of slick paneled walls brought together by plastic joints and hidden metal screws that evade detection. It is a long tunnel in the shape of a hollowed out rectangle stretching at least a hundred feet, curving ever so slightly in the middle towards a goal I cannot see. On both sides the walls are shiny gray plastic without reflection or texture. They are simple, sterile. If needed, they could be disassembled in a matter of hours.
We wait in a single-file line within the tube. I cannot see the beginning, I cannot see the end, there are bodies in each direction. Most are dressed in long-sleeved dress shirts that button to the neck. They are men of all shapes, sizes and skin-tones. They all shoulder either a black computer bag or a small black suitcase with wheels and elongated collapsible handle. We wait, each facing forward, just a few inches from the person before us.
The man in front of me taps the plastic wall with his finger impatiently. He is tall, reaching nearly seven feet. His outstretched arm, covered in a cotton pin-striped plaid design, can reach easily from one side of the corridor to the other. He rests his right palm on the wall and taps his index finger in quick agitated bursts.
The dull sound of strangers is all around, the sound of communal silence unbroken by questions or laughter. We stand, waiting, all looking forward towards the corridor’s curve into a future which cannot be seen.
Overhead are evenly spaced strips of florescent lights that glow through narrow plastic frames embedded in the ceiling. There are lights every five feet, providing the plastic tunnel with rays of yellow illumination in an otherwise dim, windowless chamber.
The black plastic floor below my feet is covered in a pattern of raised circles the size of silver dollars. Somewhere behind me a small suitcase rolls relentlessly over the plastic bumps, thunk thunk thunk thumk. The rhythm adds one more layer to the soundscape. On both sides of the ground where the walls and floor meet, stretching the length of the tube, is a foot-wide striped yellow and black plastic sticker indicating a warning of some kind.
Close by, an idling plane hums, its roar finding us through the plastic walls, its constancy unable to drown the silence of strangers.