The Building by Mrs. Emery
The Building hummed at the intersection of transient and gentrification. People were all around, going about their business. Pigeons contributed to a growing pile of droppings on the corner. Soon the pile would rise up and become its own building. Sometime The Building laughed to itself that that’s where buildings came from, but it knew that wasn’t true. It was raining. People were darting in and out, trying to dance between the raindrops. Parents dragged screaming kids into the library, dodging the unemployed huddled under the awning smoking. Twenty and thirty somethings sat at the coffee shop. The poor slumped at the bus stop soaking wet and envied the unreachable while they waited.
The Building enjoyed these busy days. It wasn’t long ago that the neighborhood had been all but abandoned. All of the buildings deteriorated and its streets were full of trash.
The Building was erected a good many years ago, too many for the Building to keep track of. It was so long ago, the streets weren’t even paved. There were already a couple of other buildings around it when the final touches were placed on its roof. It was a block long and three stories tall. The Building had a lovely brick exterior with nice molding on the corners. It had room for eight or so different businesses on the first floor, and then apartments on the second and third floors. Across from it was another building that ran the length of the block, but was only one story tall. Next to it there was a building that was one floor taller, and to The Building’s embarrassment, a little more ornate. They both welcomed it to the neighborhood.
At that time the town was the center for a meat packing plant and other companies. Cowboys used to herd cattle right through the center of town. Cows were a delight! Their moos and lows were so pleasant to listen to. The Building hadn’t seen a cow in ages. The Building was grateful when the town was annexed in to the larger city that had crept closer and closer, eventually swallowing it. More people walked and rode and drove by it every day. They paved the roads and made it much cleaner. The dust aggravated its allergies. The Building had enjoyed watching the trains and all of the cows. Cowboys were a particularly colorful bunch, and The Building delighted in their antics. Several of the other buildings housed girlie bars for the cowboys. There were also a good many bars. A good many. The Building had often wondered if it was normal to have so many bars in one place. It had felt fortunate not to have a bar in one of its rooms. They were much too noisy. It housed many businesses and tenants over the years. In the beginning all of its store fronts were full. The Building always had something to do.
The neighborhood even had the honor of hosting the state’s centennial celebration. It was a grand time. The Building got to see some big time entertainers like Roy Rogers and Harry Belafonte. Lawrence Welk and his whole orchestra were there as well. The centennial was one of the happiest times for The Building. There was so much to see and do. But it was also the beginning of the end. The businesses started to close. The Building would overhear people on the street saying the neighborhood was “going downhill”. It didn’t know what that meant, but it guessed it wasn’t good when people started to leave. The Building’s storefronts were empty, and it was very upsetting. The cowboys and bars were gone. People wandered the streets looking lost and alone. They languished, neglected, for so long. The Building didn’t think anyone was ever coming back.
One day, they opened a library in one of The Building’s bottom rooms. A corner store opened in the building across from it. The Building noticed more people in the streets. More businesses opened. Families came back to the neighborhood. The Building got such joy from watching children on the street!
Now the neighborhood has shiny, new streets and bustling businesses. Now The Building was never lonely. Cars drive by, bikes whir, and dogs walk.
The Building often boasted of its newfound popularity to the pigeons. The pigeons turned their heads and pooped off the roof of The Building. The Building didn’t even mind the pigeons anymore. It belonged to a community again.
The Building liked to watch the comings and goings and how people’s lives were going. There was the odd couple that sat at the bus stop when it wasn’t raining. The waitress at the café had a rotating cast of boyfriends. There was a weird lady that walked in circles all day. The woman that ran the coffee shop in one of his downstairs stores was just delightful. The Building felt it was closest to an old man who had lived in the neighborhood longer than anyone, as far as The Building could tell. The Building remembered starting to see him as a young man a few years after the centennial celebration. He used to have people with him. A wife and children. He watched the children grow up. He watched the couple get old. Then The Building didn’t see the wife anymore and it was just the old man. He walked every day from the same small house and ate breakfast at the café.
But all The Building could do was guess what was going on in people’s lives. All these people that walked around him every day. The Building didn’t really know. He witnessed moments and flashes. Sometimes he would witness an intensely personal moment in someone’s life, but then it never saw them again. What were these people like? What was going on in their lives? Did the weird lady who shuffled everywhere ever stop walking? Although these were exciting times for the neighborhood, The Building would still feel lonely. It didn’t have relationships with any of these people. Not even the pigeons.
After so many years, the other buildings around it were not so interesting to talk to. They got tired of it elucidating about the weather. It got tired of them complaining about the people, and the buses, and the rain, and the noise, and the trash, and on, and on. The Building did not understand why they didn’t enjoy everything around them. The pigeons weren’t any help either.
It was pissing down rain this morning. The Building experienced many different kinds of rain and would talk to anyone who would listen about all of the different kinds. Weather was The Building’s favorite past time. In the very beginning it resented the weather, and made it very sour. When the weather kept happening, it realized that it could either embrace and enjoy it, or be miserable. The Building watched the clouds and sky and felt the breeze. Rain was the Building’s specialty because it rained more than any other kind of weather. The rain could be showery or drizzly or a few drops. It could rain cats and dogs, sprinkle, or spit. It could be misty or foggy, teeming or patchy, intermittent or pelting. The Building experienced deluges and sun showers, lashes, and monsoons, sheets, and thundery bursts. Thunder was very rare in these parts. The Building got nervous when he heard a crack or saw a lightning bolt. He did not want to end up a smoldering pile of rubble. If The Building could hear the rain patter against its bricks, it knew it was a hard rain. Actual rain. Usually, it could not hear the rain it was so light.
Every so often it would be cold enough to turn the rain to snow. The Building thoroughly loved snow, and wished for it whenever it got cold. It did not snow enough. Rain, even misty rain, was loud and accosted the senses. Mostly The Building liked listening to the different rhythms of pitter patter splashing against its bricks, but it could be abrasive. Snow, on the other hand, was ever so quiet. A hush fell upon the intersection. Every sound was swallowed. When it snowed, the Building liked to close his eyes and take in the silence. Snow even shut the pigeons up.
The Building’s favorite was dreich; a combination of dull, overcast, drizzly cold, misty, and miserable weather. The Building had learned the term a long time ago from a man that did not sound like he was from round there. He had been rushing down the sidewalk and cursed the “bloody dreich”. But it was pissing this morning, which had a tendency to be soul sucking. The heavens had opened. There would be no drying out today.
Behind him, The Building heard Paul Bunyan complaining. Paul Bunyan did not care for any weather. The Building did not care for Paul Bunyan at all. He was a statue of the famous woodsman that was added during the centennial celebration. The centennial planners had made a grave error in The Building’s opinion by leaving him there. He was as tall or taller than any of the buildings in the neighborhood, which made him loud. To make matters worse, someone decided that he should be added to a list of national historic places. Paul Bunyan reminded everyone of this fact often.
The Building tried to tune him out. He smelled the roasted coffee from the café on the first floor. He watched the cooks at the BBQ joint across the street take turns running out in to the rain to tend to the smoker. The buses picked up and dropped off passengers. He felt the rain pelting his bricks. Today was going to be a good day.