a Nightmare of Change In which Time is Inscribed in Space

—or How a Text Became a Story

Where the author wakes up one day to find that familiar places have disappeared and the streetscape is greatly changed. A few familiar landmarks remain, but now the stone facade of a steepled church fronts a raw yellow brick box and a colonnaded marble shell sprouts a gray glass tower. Isolated artifacts hang on as fragments, wrapped inside or around an endless abstracted grid that repeats itself and marches implacably toward the horizon. The view down the avenue was once a textbook diagram of one-point perspective, its orderliness a textbook diagram of one-point perspective. Where once there was a solid wall unified in time, there was now a crazy cartoon patchwork of temporal zones.

“History is experienced as nostalgia, and nature as regret—as a horizon fast disappearing behind us.” [Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space]

Dazed, she turned, disoriented by the view. The cookie-cutter shapes that cantilever over her had a muscular presence. They proudly owned their polygons, the torqued forms crowding out the light and forming a few strange cut-out shapes against the sky. The destruction of memory started slowly and incrementally, like a single weed that gradually but inevitably, broke through the cement sidewalk and eventually upended a massive slab. So the incursions cracked the complaisant facade of the historical past. Many weeds, little resistance.

The past gave up easily, and collapsed on itself, retaining only small slices of what was before, fragmented into in pieces of cornice, forgotten signage, bits of texture. The memories that had been attached to this corner or that seemed to visibly shrivel. As she walked along, small vignettes opened up in the dead spaces between the monumental towers, framed slivers of warmly rusticated brick capped by whimsical ornament. Deepening shadows picked out the intricate details of a collonade, the fine detail of the capital magnified by the flatness that surrounded it. The severe and cold geometry crowded out the softer voices of another time.