I am always up when the city awakens. I love the early-morning darkness. I brew my coffee in my tiny kitchen then move onto the balcony where I watch first light creep over the top of the beautiful old sandstone buildings, changing the zinc rooftops to burnished fire. The wonder of the moment always enthralls me.
As I sip my café au lait I listen to the sounds of the city coming to life–there is the first hum of traffic as the delivery trucks burrow into loading zones askew with crooked cars, the deleterious of drunkards. I watch the huddled shapes of shiftworkers hurrying home, I watch slowly-moving hulks heading to the job, I watch the great unwashed staggering from doorways with theatrical stretches and yawns. I’d like to take a nightstick to their lazy rumps. No doubt they’ll head off to Café Homeless for a free breakfast. They don’t have to work like the rest of us.
After the motley crew have slunk off in search of sustenance, delicious smells begin to waft my way. Ah! Divine! I inhale the delicate scent. The bakery underneath my building has just cranked out its first batch of bread and pastries. Oh, that Marcus! I sigh. The best pastry chef in the city. I feel honoured to choose from his selection each day. My taste buds tingle in anticipation of the flaky, creamy éclair I will have with my second cup of coffee. The mille feuille I had yesterday was to die for.
A flash explodes in the corner of my eye. It’s the sun glinting off the windows of the offices that tower above me, rudely jutting into the now grey-blue sky like a giant meccano set constructed by some obsessed youngster—upwards, ever upwards in a dizzy vertical spire. The huge ungainly edifice is directly across the street from my humble abode. From my eyrie I can see shadowy workers jerking about like marionettes—stretching, joking, laughing together with that special early-morning office cameraderie, preparing their desks for the day’s mundane tasks. Oh, les miserables! Do they ever long for someone to save them from such a humdrum existence?
Ha! Movement below! I lean towards the balcony rail. There’s the coffee delivery boy departing the café next door, a young man dressed rather warmly for the weather, his long black hair falling in waves to his shoulders. He walks smartly into the foyer of the office block, the huge glass revolving doors sucking him in like he was entering a portal into another world. I watch as he approaches the receptionist who sweetly slips a Visitor Pass around his neck, lifts a gym-toned arm and points to the lifts. He moves off, bearing his fragrant cargo before him like a precious offering to the little gods of industry. I can imagine how the aroma of the 100% arabica beans will permeate the lift, where incoming workers will sniff appreciatively and hurry to their desks with an extra spring in their step. How did we reach this impasse, I ponder, when workers can’t work without this milky, creamy drug coursing through their veins?
My first cup of coffee has me nicely wired. Woo hoo! My eyes shift back and forth, up and down, but keep returning to the foyer of the office block. The receptionist is yawning ever so discreetly at the end of her night shift, no doubt dreaming of home and a nice soft bed. Perhaps a lover awaits her tender embrace or it may be that she still lives with her doting parents. She certainly looks young enough. And who wouldn’t be enarmoured of such an industrious, comely child? Her blond hair falls in a lustrous curtain as she bobs her head under the desk. I do so enjoy watching her work.
The foyer is all stainless steel and glass, a modern monstrosity in this ancient part of the city. The first of its kind to be constructed here. There will be no stopping the downward spiral into tastelessness. Many fought to keep this building from moving from the architect’s plan to its passage to bricks and mortar—they especially loathed the idea of modernist lines and the use of cold steel and glass sitting incongruously next to the weathered sandstone of the surrounding buildings. Even with all its inbuilt environmental factors (Level 6 I believe) and light carbon footprint, it would always be a building to loathe, a blight on the landscape.
I continue to watch the activity in the foyer, fascinated—the arrival of the morning staff, the departure of those who had manned the phones through the night, lucky blighters. Industrious little bees flying in and out of the hive.
Imagine my surprise when the hive shudders as if some violent giant had grabbed it in a vice-like grip and shaken it with superhuman strength. I watch, rapt, as the ugly foyer changes from the insipid grey I hated to glorious burnished fire. I watch, open mouthed, as the fire eats the foyer like some ravening beast, then climbs heavenward like the very flames of hell.
I was pleased to tell this story to the detectives who interviewed me.
I was glad to help.
©Denise Covey, 2010