Greenfell Tower, and Life After Buildings

As it were with everyone shouldering past each other to reach the open window, there was the fact of fresh air, thirty floors up, but also a smoldering building whose particular fires had reached the copy machines, the hallways sending up a vicious confetti of orange, and with last night’s FAX coversheets something and suddenly an embarrassment of unimportance.

This, of course, is a re-write, nothing that’s not been written before—this is plagiarism, even–but it remains the second, third, and fortieth draft of every story ever written where Scylla and Charybdis still remain prime players; and where each single day requires a careful tack through the straits. What do you choose to breathe: the window ahead, or the smoke behind?

Robert Rauschenberg approached Willem DeKooning, and Bob was typically drunk. Rauschenberg asked if he could erase one of DeKooning’s artworks as a form of art in itself. Erasure or celebration, searching for that open window, while the canon meanwhile—the ashy but gilt hallway—burnt in fast erasure of itself.

DeKooning sighed, most likely put down his glasses and pressed his eyes with the palms of his hands. He did afford a drawing, eventually, maybe told Bob to ‘please leave’ after fifteen minutes, because when a young kid ups his chins and asks, ‘Can I erase you?’ you want to encourage him, but also show him the door at once.

Fire needs oxygen—the fact of an open window actually fuels fire—you can stand in the middle of it all, though, and weather both forces at once, deciding, certainly, that you’ve already harnessed both, that neither will claim you. Not now, not yet.

This is about life after buildings, a plagiarism, but needing that push of contradictory elements to suddenly be stoic in the middle of it all, finding yourself unexpectedly fine and therefore surviving.


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