Project Description

The night was chilly and the cement was cold against my ear, but as I listened, really listened, the warmth of anticipation slowly spread over my body like the caress of a lover’s fingers.

I knelt down closer to the base of the building - a fifty-five story, glass and cement high-rise towering above me - and concentrated intently, closing my eyes. I tuned out everything, all ambient noise, all external stimuli. I placed my hands flat on the grainy cement, fingertips aching slightly, and softly leaned into the hard surface. I flattened my body against the structure, giving myself to its welcoming embrace.  As my immediate surroundings retreated into darkness, something else emerged, coalescing. I could hear it. A soft hum slowly emerged from the concrete, becoming distinct, a metallic whisper, rising and falling with mathematical beauty. I could hear it. The heartbeat. The natural vibration of any tall building. I could hear it.

Listening to the innate vibration of the residential skyscraper was like listening to a lover’s restful sleep - soft, rhythmic, comforting. Knowing only I could hear it was euphoric. I lost myself for several minutes simply listening to its sweet murmurations, my inhalations matching its own, a perfect symbiosis of man and building. A groan of pleasure escaped my mouth as I considered the delicious equations - the interaction of mass, height, force, wind load, materials - so many beautiful variables interacting in harmony, a poetry of numbers, swirling.

Something crystallized in my mind.

So quick this time. However sweet and perfect that fleeting moment, the time had come, and with it, the same memory.

I was walking across the campus, my drafting board catching the dusty, capricious Central Texas winds like a sail, pushing then pulling me erratically to my destination. Upon arrival, I collapsed in a small, wooden chair and picked flecks of dirt from the corners of my eyes. My guidance counselor spoke in his gravelly, baritone voice.

“ always, you continue to excel in all your math and science courses. You ace your tests, you obviously understand the concepts. You demonstrate acuity in explaining complex systems. However... Let me ask you, how do you think your course work is going?”

“It’s all going fine.” I said. Of course it’s going fine. I know all this stuff better than the fucking instructors. And they know it.

“Right,” he said looking down at a sheet of paper. “Well, it’s come to my attention that while your math grades are above reproach, some of your instructors have seen a lack of, how shall I say it, um, aptitude, to pull it all together.” He glanced slightly upwards and to his left, a micro expression, accessing his logic center, determining the right words to say. “Look, architecture is both an art and a science. You obviously have the knowledge, the skills.” He leaned back in his chair, smugly interlocking his hands on his fat stomach. “But designing beautiful buildings, creating something from nothing, is an artform. It takes a certain emotional creativity. A sensibility that not everyone possesses.”

He looked me in the eyes with false compassion, his eyebrows arched. “Does that make sense?”

I looked back at him. Words that he wouldn’t understand bubbled to the surface, but I kept my mouth shut.

“Yes, well, it’s my job to help you consider alternatives. Maybe you don’t have the artistic sensibilities to be the world’s next Frank Gehry, but you have such a command of the language of science. It’d be a shame to waste that knowledge.” A self-satisfied smirk spread across his face. “Have you ever considered teaching?”

The idiot. I silenced the stubborn memory and re-focused my mind, peering up and taking in the entire height of the building looming over me, beautifully silhouetted against the moonlit sky. I could again hear the behemoth’s heartbeat, beckoning me, encouraging me. That beautiful, oscillating waveform, so simple yet complex, lit up my brain in chromatic splendor. I felt its heartbeat as if it were my own.

I pulled the steel, two-pronged tuning fork from my backpack and placed it gingerly against the cement base. The placement had to be perfect, my unique sensibilities allowing me to locate that sublime spot. A soft whimper escaped from the coarse surface as I refined the fork’s position and settled it into place. Then, at precisely the right moment and with just the slightest flick, I struck the tuning fork against a metal cap extending from the cement. The soft, musical tone that followed was exquisite. I exhaled deeply and collapsed against the hard cement, cold again.

It was only a matter of time now. The inevitability was exhilarating. The vibration I had introduced would match the natural frequency of the building, the two vibrations oscillating in harmony, becoming one, self-feeding, slowly increasing in amplitude according to nature’s own beautiful laws. No dampers could undo what I’ve just done.

Don’t judge me because you don’t understand. You’re no different than I am. We share the same longings, the same needs, the same pitiful rationalizations. But who is stronger?  What really is the difference between you and me? You run from your feelings like a miserable coward. I embrace them fully, proudly. I know what I am. I am but a catalyst of necessary change, enabling forces older than the earth to carry out their intended purpose.

Fifty-five stories. Oh gravity, my love, you will do the rest. You always do.

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