“Everything is fine,” I reply, because that’s what we always say, we who are completely in control of nothing.

Ruined

Near dawn, I take the Metro back to my hotel. In the milky light, the features of the man who made love to me are already disappearing. I hardly remember anything about last night, except for an image that came to me at the height of my pleasure – the vision of a woman with ragged hair riding an invisible lover in the ruins of a disappearing world.

When I reach the squat, I stand at the foot of the ruined building and try to retrace my dream walk through its hallways. If I can remember how I entered the squat, and how many floors I climbed in pursuit of that wild laughter, I might find out which one of the cells in that structure belongs to the Magyar woman. But a cottony mist veils the building, and I can’t see any trace of human habitation, only the dark skeleton of the squat itself.

Suddenly I want to go back inside. The impulse grips me like the perverse urge to jump off the edge of a bridge. I know that if I go back, I won’t come out. I’ll drift into that soft cavern of shadows,

and the sleek, fast world outside the squat will leave me behind.

Through the mental fog of last night’s alcohol, I remember that my flight to San Francisco leaves before noon. With the sun rapidly rising, I’m already running late, and the day has only begun. I give myself only seconds to decide whether to stay or go. But the decision has already been made. It was made years ago, when I first chose to join the crusade for a brighter, faster, harder world.

Suddenly I want to go back inside. The impulse grips me like the perverse urge to jump off the edge of a bridge. I know that if I go back, I won’t come out. I’ll drift into that soft cavern of shadows, and the sleek, fast world outside the squat will leave me behind.

***

It’s been over a year since the conference in Budapest. My schedule is packed with meetings, lectures and tours of sprawling retail centers across

the United States. I’m known in my profession as a guru of the Modern Market. I spend most of my time surrounded by other urban planners, trying to avoid being alone in the design studio. As long as I’m not forced to sit face to face with a blank sheet of drafting paper, everything is fine. But when I’m faced with a blank surface, all I see is the squat, and the woman on the mattress who called to me from its darkly fertile womb. Whenever I try to sketch the lines of a multi-level department store, I find myself drawing her hair, her throat, the black points of her nipples, the shadows between her legs. I draw her face, and the dark eyes that briefly met mine.

I still dream of her.

I dream that builders plant dynamite inside the squat’s scorched heart and blow her up from the inside. I see her shattered body flying through the sky to land in the Danube; I see her wreckage carried on the river’s current until she reaches the sea, where she falls apart in one last, ecstatic exhalation. Sometimes that exhalation sounds like the Magyar woman’s wild laugh, and the destruction of the squat merges with my memory of her explosive pleasure.

I wake from these dreams with my skin filmed by sweat, my pulse pounding, and my thighs slick with moisture.

The walls are collapsing,
pulling me into the velvet core of the wrecked building. As I enter her, it occurs to me that I’ve spent my career working against the intimate structures at the center of my being, replacing scarred wood and crumbling plaster with the sterile perfection of steel.

In my favorite dream, I’m back in Budapest, sleepwalking through the squat, touching the burnt walls with their palimpsest of cryptic graffiti. The walls are collapsing, pulling me into the velvet core of the wrecked building. As I enter her, it occurs to me that I’ve spent my career working against the intimate structures at the center of my being, replacing scarred wood and crumbling plaster with the sterile perfection of steel. In my daily life, surrounded by glass and metal, this is where I long to be – inside the falling walls of the squat, traveling deeper into her ruined heart. SDk

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