Roxana, 2.B.1, 500 words

The great building breathes what they breathe into the great building. Its cavernous central hall is grave and mute. Hushed voices rise to buzzing then too are drawn into hush. Flat sky light sifts forty-seven stories from the glass roof dusting diminishing clarity down pruinose parchment pallor’d ribs shot up with hundreds of closed doors. The sound of latches engaging, shuffling, promises, conversations, trundling wheels on carpet are dampened by the mass of trapped air, coffee breath, vinegar breath, bitter breath, wine, cigar, butterscotch, scotch, cigarette licked lips, midday beer, meat, tequila, cola, sopped bread, cold cuts and mustard, wilted waterlogged lettuce, kisses, sneezes, sighs, chuckles, theatrical grins, satisfied wide grins letting out theatrical panting that fights back the life from which it is released, commingled apart from life to bury it in a tepid column of gas. A long mobile of draped sashes hangs in empty space against the flow of tiny hotel guests in and out of doors all across both shear inward faces turning limply at a rate barely perceptible should no one slow, become transfixed by its pointless travel, and blow harder to give it life. From one wall of the hollow only the other is visible. Pillars sleeved with elevators bedecked with clear spherical lights pry open the chasm, shuttling smiling, ruddy faces toward the sky or plunging them through the floor. The elevators smell of lotion. Groups of faces swirl from the dim and bind into consistent and familiar patterns over their short hotel lifespans. In their intermittent absence the ghosts of beaten trails linger in biased carpet nap. After a final confluence into a broad low ceilinged panorama, they, as a singularity, tick out of the register followed by the low breathing of concrete and the emptiness of light falling alone on carpet. The air is so cool and moist that a small splash of water on a wood table stands inert for days. Stragglers, miniature and odd against the pattering geometric carpet, stand alone, looking over their shoulders expectantly but not raising their eyes, check their pockets for timetables, room keys, or particularly bulky formations of lint with which to fidget attentively, amidst coagulating groups in aggressive, mawkish embraces conversing loudly, though never audible in any regard beyond the island cliffs of their bloused backs; a straggler veers toward and then finding more of interest in his breast pocket drifts away from a group. The eyes light up once and then not again. Eyes all are straight ahead or downcast. Stars shine through the glass roof. When cold air sweeps in through a hidden vestibule with an ozonish timbre all scatter. People chase their well-lit voices. High above, a fragmented brigade of women in gray chino dresses glissading to each room on a paper list tap the doors for late afternoon turndown service. The opening of doors seen and unseen follow their tinkling voices out of time peeping ‘housekeeping’ across the void of the upper floors, precipitating down in amusical glossolaliac scintilla.

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