The city had grown steadily over the
centuries and, while threatened by the surrounding waters, had risen upon
itself while tempered in prosperity by the ocean to the East and the arid land
to the West.
Reaching the utter level of the tower, the
doors opened with a muffled sound and he stepped out. The silence was absolute,
even at a time when the city life welled up at the foot of the tower, and a
clear, warm light bathed the room. He took a deep breath. He liked to find
himself in this place, the only place he had really built in his image; he who
had everything that life offered, yet whose life had led him to leave behind
He stepped forward and the room’s glow
began to noticeably fluctuate, colouring the marble and mirrored triptych at
which he stopped to look and reflect upon the archaic triad: Jupiter, Mars and
Quirinus, symbols of the three key foundations of any societal function. He
looked at his fragmented reflection, a picture of him through past ages and
centuries to come, and he knew that only he would be able to make the choice to
never accept simply being a piece of history.
Facing him now was a bay window cut into
the wall of the tower structure that showed a piece of sky in which the sun,
now hidden by the city, had not yet fully emerged. In the past, he had hoped
that the tower was the highest ever built, not to dominate and enslave the
city, nor to challenge the rest of the world, but to retain a memory that many
citizens had lost: the city’s skyline. Rays of light coming from the tower
shone on his shoulders and seemed to make him look even more slender, both
fragile and immortal.
Dozing a moment and lulled by the sound of
the room, he was carried away by the endless stream of memories, as one by one
they arose from the depths of his memory as if they descended from heaven. From
his tower of glass and steel he seemed to seize old memories from all ages of
life, moments he had forgotten but still recognized as they reappeared in his
mind, views of himself that constitute the man he was today and the builder
that he had become.
He was a child playing in the tall grass
near a lake while his mother lay asleep on a blanket under the moving shadow of
a willow tree. He was a proud student clutching his diploma from school,
fearing nothing and challenging the life ahead. He was a proud young man,
trembling with a languid woman in a bright room circled by the city lights. He
walked on stones heated by the sun from which sprouted tender grass. He was the
architect and visionary, exploring a vast and desolate plain and vowing to
raise a new city. The warmth of the room and the light creeping in through the
cracks of the walls propelled him far away to a time when he built, between the
branches of a huge oak tree, a wooden hut where the day filtered between the
loose planks and touched his forehead as he lay on the ground in the rustling
leaves of the tree. That day, he had dreamed of building a city.
Then, a sound brought him back to
consciousness, and he saw that the sun was at its peak. A few hours had passed
and he was not quite sure of the truth of his memories. Had he lived them or
had others experienced them before him: his father the builder; his grandfather
the architect; or his great-grandfather the explorer? Their lives merged into
one. Their common history, composed of an infinite number of moments, had
brought him so far, as well as the city, whose complex assembly of materials
and designs sprung from the ground to be so high. So much mystery, choice,
chance--how delicate was the balance that had brought him to the top of the
tower at this time of deliberation?
There were so many things that did not
depend on him, but that had been placed in his hands. The responsibility was so
big and vital that it would have been devastating if he had not desired it. But
he wanted this power; he had formed his own empire and considered it justly
earned and deserved. His gaze slid down the leather ropes that supported the
table and triptych. Had he not designed it to remember the right measure of all
things, the delicate balance of justice that was expected of him?
As the hours passed and the day swept
across the room, he sensed the palpable hope that welled up in the city, in the
crowd of citizens gathered at the Grand Place and at the foot of the tower. For
many, he embodied the patriarch, the wisest of the wise, virtually God. For
others, he was known to be the tyrant, the dictator. But both his critics and
followers were all hanging in wait, eyes focused on their computer screens or
TVs. Others, with hands shielding them from the sun, peered to the top floor as
if a visible sign was to rise like smoke from a conclave.
He loved the idea of this timeless place
removed from the great torment of the universe, this sleek and faithful room in
which he had found himself at so many different times in his life, but where he
had never been quite the same. He loved the consistency of objects that, once
created by man, are indifferent to his will.
His index finger touched the lit keyboard.
Under a blazing sun, reflected off of the shimmering buildings and the depths
of the city, a sudden roar swelled and rose majestically, as if the city were