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The Master Builder

I was alone and sad because of a recent break-up. And, I suppose, I was more than a little desperate. The woman in the apartment next door let a pretty friend from Texas stay in her apartment while she went on a weekend trip—we were introduced in the hallway at our adjacent doors. That night around 2 AM, I heard her come home and I sprang out of bed to spy through the peephole as she disappeared into the apartment. But, as I headed back into bed, she knocked. A chill slithered through my stomach. After tugging on my jeans, I opened the door. "Do you have any pot?" she asked with a drawl that curled around my head like the scent of peaches in summer. Not only did I have marijuana, I told her, but I had some cocaine. She nearly trilled, her voice sounding like the bright clang of divine scales tipping in my favor.

When we were both cozily airborne the talk turned to architecture. (She was, it turned out, an architect, like my neighbor.) I started getting out my architecture books, flipping through pages, and talking and talking for maybe two hours about the Flatiron Building, tenement design, and how she had to see the only Louis Sullivan building in New York. No, I’m not an architect. No profession at all, except maybe that of Explainer. Of course, eventually her eyes began to register the lateness of the hour and the letdown of the stimulants. "I should go," she said, no less sweetly than when she had knocked, but now all promise of delight wrung free of her lilt. She left. I reshelved my books and shuffled toward bed, my buzz having dissolved into an agitating sizzle. Me, Joe Architect. At one point I had piled three books in her lap.

The next night I cleaved to the door and sure enough she came home from clubbing at 2 AM again. Only this time she wasn’t alone. She shushed his booming voice while fishing for keys. I screwed my eye into the peephole and watched them, their heads swollen and gleaming in the magnifying glass, as they stumbled tipsily through her door. Even after the door slammed shut audible gusts of boozy joy still rose and fell from what I could (no, couldn’t help but) imagine to be some playful rite of flirtation and undress. Soon enough, though, the sounds ceased.

I sat down on my couch, smoked a leftover roach and began watching an infomercial about body hair removal. As the familiar lofting took hold around my head, I remembered she had asked me, "Why do you know so much about design?" I had paused for a long, awkward moment. It was still early in my spiel; I could have stopped. She had just shed her shoes to tuck her feet under her legs. But I didn’t. I had more talking to do. Couldn’t she see? I was the Master Builder.


Albert Mobilio

Albert Mobilio is the author of several books of poetry including Bendable Siege, The Geographics, Me with Animal Towering, and Touch Wood. He teaches at the New School’s Eugene Lang College and is an editor at Hyperallergic Weekend and Bookforum.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUN-JUL 2003

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