Shattered Glass In Crystal

Gabe Lipson

© Copyright 2004 by Gabe Lipson

I visited a semi-urban, upscale Main Street and found it very interesting how much of the area had been gentrified, but small portions had been left untouched by time.  More than this is a story, it is an attempt to paint a picture of what I saw, heard, and felt entering a fleabag hotel.

The street was full with preoccupation.  Merchandise lined tall glass windows covering old stone which once brought character to a cold, dilapidated avenue.  In the eyes of the usual transient, the aged facades were only facades.  The garish, cracked marble moldings along upper edges of splintered rooftops gave the road a quality of quaintness which harnessed perfectly the fleeting nuevo-riche climate of the recently renovated Archer Street.

The populace bathed in the ephemeral plasticity of the street, walking from store to store as though it were a collection of Coney Island food stands or Las Vegas buffet kiosks.  Whether or not visitors purchased anything at all, there existed an intrinsic solace behind window shopping for soaps that looked good enough for Sunday brunch, vibrating office chairs, organic foodstuffs, homeopathic medications, or the occasional antique player piano.

Pane glass covered old stone archways, giving the street a shine and prestige that no true antiquity could possess. What once was an old district suffused in crimson red light gave way to the sprawling, gentrified walkway of mirror-finishes and sidewalks embedded with colored flecks of shattered porcelain.

But between the commercial bookstore and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor laid a flight of stairs, breaking the brownstone building face apart with little distinction.  Above the cold opening that led upward with twenty or so steps was a small hanging sign fixed to a set of hinges, attaching it to a dowel which protruded perpendicularly from above the passage.  The sign read “Hotel: Vacancy,” and swung haphazardly in what wind gushed below the brownstone awnings.  It made a creaking noise with each swing, as the hinges were red and white from rust and calcium. The sound was familiar, but not obtrusive, much like that which an old swing set makes when a child attempts to transcend its wooden limits.

The place had a title, but no name; it was twenty or so steps above the speckled sidewalk.  The stairs were old- cherry or rosewood- but had lost any shine they could have had at one time.  There were semicircular scuff marks covering all of the surfaces and they seemed to be the basis for bits of scattered sawdust which colored any air escaping out from floor vents.  The air was musty and old, and the temperature very cold. At eye level above the thirteenth step was a sign that read “No Solicitors. Not for the Homeless.”  The sign was torn from the bottom right corner to the very middle and had been this way for ages.

The hotel walls were covered from top to bottom with photographs of and magazine articles about Lucille Ball.  The receptionist’s chair was empty and I Love Lucy patches were thusly left visible, haphazardly sewn onto its cushion.  A single room door was open and an electronic buzz pervaded its confines.  The receptionist’s phone began to ring, and continued ringing as though off the hook.  The temperature was very cold.

The phone stopped ringing and again there was a droning silence.  Interrupting this intangible hum was a scream; the scream of a man in terror or a man in pain.  It was a man’s bellowing, but cowardly and unseasoned.  It was the scream of a child having a bandage removed or going through inoculation.  The scream ceased and turned to a distinct moan which was far more enthusiastic.  The receptionist’s chair remained empty, laden with shoddy patches.

There were no solicitors, nor homeless.  This was a hotel.  It was a vacant hotel.  It had no concierge, no lounge, and no name.  And yet, the air made noise while the man was silent.  His cry broke unease, and did so as though it were meant to.  The sign read “No Solicitors. Not for the Homeless.”  The wood was rigid, nestled amid manufactured archaism, like shattered glass in crystal.

Children milled with ice cream cones, and parents with their wallets.  They stirred amongst the stores, window-shopping with slow precision.  Yet they moved too fast to see what remained beyond the drafty stairwell.

Gabe Lipson is a high school senior in Oak Park, California, and has been writing creatively for a number of years. He hopes to attend college on the east coast and is currently in the process of applying to a number of schools.  Gabe’s portfolio is mostly comprised of satirical and comical writings, but he is always attempting new styles and themes.

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