By Madeline S. Dean
Somewhere, far below, a car speeds down Colfax, looking at the Noodles or the T-Mobile or CVS. But this room isn’t part of that world. It’s divided off by solid white walls. They curve up where they met the ceiling, like a cave, but without the dampness or the unpleasantness. Just the isolation.
And, is it so impossible, for a room so divided from space, to also be divided from time?
Imagine what this place looked like one hundred years ago. Take the green carpet from the floor, the tables and desks and bookshelves, the conference table in the middle, the fixings of a house for writers.
This room was a ballroom, once. A ballroom on the top floor, overlooking the city. Picture the men and women, all dressed in nineteenth century finery, trudging up two flights of stairs, no doubt sweating and huffing and puffing the whole way up. And picture the scene that greeted them—people dancing, drinking, tables set up around the periphery.
In some ways, it’s not so hard. That little alcove might have been a bandstand, with a cello and a violin.
A top floor ballroom must have meant a lot of things. For one, isolation. It must have been just as much of a thing then as it is now. Or even more so, before the house was surrounded by skyscrapers and peeping neighbors. This wasn’t the kind of party you could just come in off the street. You had to be invited, to know people. And, in such an isolated space, the parties must have gone on all night. What was stopping them?
For another, guests had to walk through almost the entire house to get up there. The fancy staircase is in the front of the house, but only the back one goes all the way up. Did they walk through the first floor, with the formal and informal living rooms? The dining room wallpapered with gold? Or did they walk up the nice staircase and cross to the back on the second floor? Walk past the bedrooms?
And, for a third, the party must have dominated the entire house. The music must have been audible on the first floor, and people dancing must have shaken the rafters and the walls. It must have been possible to eavesdrop on the gossip from the second story bathroom or the first story kitchen.
The house is still like that, sometimes. Even with the carpet, the desks and the bookshelves. All of those parties, all of those years ago, have left their mark on the space. The rafters know what it’s like to feel people dancing, the claw-foot tub knows what gossip sounds like, and the back stairs would like your invitation, please.
After all, if the parties didn’t know when to stop then, why would they now?