A Kafka-esque tale from senior staffer Levi Cohen.
You awake to discover that your dorm has been covered by scaffolding.
“What’s happened to me,” you think. From your bed, you stare out the window. A man’s legs cross your field of vision.
You always noticed how suddenly scaffolding seems to appear in this city. A grocery store, ensconced in metal beams one afternoon. An entire half-block of restaurants. Your friend’s five-storey walk-up. But you never thought it could happen to you.
As you prepare for the day, listening to the shouts of construction workers just outside your window, you try to think: were you warned that this would happen? Was an email sent to you by some obscure college official? What was even in need of repair?
You go to the elevator bank, but all of the elevators are out of order. Hmm. You and your floormates take the stairs. It’s time for your 10:10 lecture.
At the entrance, a man with a clipboard blocks your way. “Sorry,” he says. “Active construction site. No pedestrian traffic.” You and your compatriots protest, but he is firm. Behind him, you watch two men march past with a wooden plank. You are quite sure that this building is not made of wood.
You mill about the lobby for some time. You text a friend that you can’t make lecture, and you ask her to share her notes with you. You climb the stairs back to your floor.
A man is sitting on the other side of your window, eating a sandwich. You nod at one another as you re-enter your room. A little bit later, the room getting stuffy, you open the window. The man is playing some music. “Do you mind?” he asks.
“No, it’s fine,” you say. He offers you a bite of his sandwich. As the two of you chew together, you glance over him to look at the long drop to the ground below.
“What are you working on?” you ask him.
“I dunno,” he says. “I don’t keep track of what we’re doing. That’s the foreman’s job. I’m just a pair of hands. Anyway— gotta get back to work.” He stands up and walks away.
As you doze at your window, you dream of a city covered completely in scaffolding. It is all but impossible to do anything, go anywhere. You and the other survivors eke out some kind of lifestyle atop water towers, small islets of safety in a vast ocean of metal beams. You subsist on cockroaches and Shake Shack delivered via Postmates.
Of course, when you wake up, it isn’t so bad. It’s just this one building— your building— that has been so festooned. You don’t mind it, actually, you think to yourself. The way the sunlight strikes the beams. Casting strange shadows in the mid-afternoon…
Images via Levi Cohen and Streeteasy.