Sunday, September 11, 2005

What do I see when I pull my own curtain open to let in some light? Look into the morning glare out the dirty window at the building across from me. Feel tired this early with a soft, oppressive heaviness in the air. Look for signs of life. Look into the windows like mine, into those enclosed balconies with hanging laundry, stacks of books, storage boxes, some obscured by curtains. One balcony has been turned into a pigeon coop and there is a white pigeon sitting on the sill. I can hear a bird calling from somewhere, waiting for the answer of other birds. There is another, a different bird, whistling.

Look more closely into the darkened living rooms where no people can be seen. No signs of life, only the arrangements of their living. The small ledges beneath each living room window where air-conditioners sit, cans of paint, disregarded flower pots, fire extinguishers, shoes and buckets. Orangish blackish streaks mar the stuccoed surface. White pipes run the length of the exterior of the building and grey tubes, taped hoses and black wires stretch from their holes in the wall toward their machines. I can hear my next-door neighbors talking and clacking around in the kitchen as they mix the tiles for another round of Mah Jong. The rattling, sputtering, squeaking, vibrating, honking motorized sounds of vehicles, buses and motorcycles and cars and trucks, passing 16 floors below. The sound of a child repeating a name, calling out for someone.

Feel the building tremble as a truck rumbles past. I lean over in my chair to look further. Beyond the apartment building, a mirror image of my own, Beijing whiteout clouds everything. Electrical wire skeletons stand in the distance, thinly discernible in the fog or haze, rising up above the darkened spaces where there may be trees and small buildings and people roaming about. I sit here and wait for the phone to ring.

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