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Firebreathers

January 24, 2013

Dragons are coming out of the subway,snorting clouds of white steam, puffing their way across the street where more dragons smolder under manhole covers. Dragons are curled on top of buildings, emitting great clouds pierced by the occasional pigeon. On the sidewalk, if feels like everything is happening above you. It is morning and it is winter and the dragons are on the move.

By the time you shove your way through the revolving door, which seems to prefer to be frozen in place (and can you blame it, in this weather?) and tumble into the marble lobby in your boots, a size too big for extra socks, you feel like you’re halfway through the battle of the day. And you haven’t even had your first cup of coffee.

Eight floors up, you peel off your onion layers, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and get to work. You write a blog post (the paying kind), read a stack of articles, make a few lists, write for a while, and have a Skype conversation with people in three places and two different countries to discuss big ideas about history and music and someone calls an untold tale a “three beer story,” which you like very much. When it’s lunchtime, you sneak up the unheated back stairs (no dragons behind the door, thank goodness) to the ninth floor, and come out in the tiny pantry. You notice a new friendly red sign with white letters tacked to the wall over the coffeepot:

KEEP
CLAM
AND
PROOFREAD.

This is the same floor that has named its printers “Calvin” and “Hobbes,” the same one that has painted its walls apple green. It’s a nice floor.

You spend the afternoon moving from room to room with various stacks of paper and various people. When you finally hit your 4:00 meeting, the one that’s supposed to last a half an hour, it actually goes for a full 123 minutes. This would not be okay in most situations, but the person you are meeting is a very old friend, and while it is very much a meeting about work, it is also very enjoyable and you haven’t seen each other in a long time and neither of you notices that it’s been two hours until it suddenly seems very dark outside the window.

You head back downstairs to your desk where you briefly toy with finishing the budget you’ve been trying to get right all week before putting it off for yet another day. It takes 10 minutes to figure out what you need to bring home and another 5 to reinstall your body armor. By the time you make it to the lobby, the fountain has been turned off and the revolving door locked up tight for the night. You slip out the side door where the dark hides the dragons’ breath and the honking of the flotilla of cabs hides their roars. You stride down the street listening to a song about a sinner and you descend into hell where you will catch the train that goes under and over water before spitting you out a few blocks from home.

You run into your family on the street. You are coming, they are going. You climb 53 stairs to your apartment, extract yourself from your outer layer and one or two more besides, and, because you’ve missed dinner, pour cereal into a plastic cup, top it with milk and eat it with a spoon without even sitting down while reading about a red dress.

The heater swishes, the dishwasher hums, and the floor buzzes slightly, as if the energy of your day is escaping through the soles of your feet and bringing the building to life. Soon everyone will be home, but for now, there is only you and the newspaper and the electricity between them.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2013 7:54 am

    So the places you don’t go–the unexplored places– have “here there be dragons” mentally printed on them? I’m thinking of the character in the movie The Sure Thing who goes on the roof of a college library, assuring his friend that “this is America. You can go anywhere.” I especially like the part here where to go home you have to “descend into hell.”

  2. January 25, 2013 8:02 am

    Yes, that’s part of it (the other part is the way the whole city steams and stamps when it’s cold), although not so much in an I’m-afraid-to-go-there kind of way but in an everything-is-an-adventure way. As for the subway, I think that at the risk of blasphemy, it’s a completely accurate description and I am most grateful that it doesn’t take me three whole days to rise again.

  3. eleanorio permalink
    January 25, 2013 8:35 am

    This is one of your best blogs ever. Thanks.

  4. January 25, 2013 4:01 pm

    beautiful descriptions

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