Noun. The complex or carefully designed structure of something; the formation or construction resulting from or as if from a conscious act.
You make your living creating beautiful, complex visions that cost hundreds of thousands of millions. Assert that you are committed to exceptional design. Collaboration. The craft of building. A craft that is far more complicated than simply setting the foundation, erecting walls, fashioning a roof, and calling it good. Some type of demolition is almost always involved. Permits can take weeks if not months to obtain. And once you reach the interior stage, it can be easy to get lost in the details.
My initial research indicates architects frequently think about space. I try to learn your language. Study terms related to your business. Understand the variances when it comes to things like spatial organization: arranging a series of spaces into one recognizable whole. How this differs from spatial unity: looking for a series of spaces to read as a whole.
And then there is spatial thinking: the perception of relationships between empty space and objects.
I keep my homework to myself. Afraid I might misuse these phrases, like attempting to speak Spanish in a native country, when the truth is, I’ve had just two years of high school courses, and that was ages and ages and ages ago.
Instead, I ask you questions, interviewing you about your projects, the vision behind them, your kids, your ex, your parents. This is what dating is, right? Farm-to-table menu selections, a medium-bodied Pinot Noir, and a series of queries, each one intended to encourage disclosure, foster connection. Make us believe something new is possible. Something different.
Make us forget what or who brought us here in the first place.
I have never met your children. Three, four months in now, yet I have never asked to do so, intentionally, not wanting them to learn a new name and face, until you had learned my name. My face. That it is heart-shaped. That I have my mother’s nose. That my eyes are mostly green, especially in certain light. Like candle. Like dusk. Like dawn.
Did I say learn? I meant yearn.
You have difficulty breathing when you sleep.
I have difficulty getting you to notice I am breathing when you are awake.
After body has intersected with body, we lie in bed next to each other, which is different than together. Bruce Springsteen is singing about one step up and two steps back. I ask if you want a sip of seltzer, my head on your chest, your heartbeat confirmed. It takes me a moment to realize your skin is damp from tears I didn’t expect to shed.
“Why are you upset?”
I have trouble finding my words, like sifting through a junk drawer where one thing doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the other. Safety pins. A half-empty packet of spearmint gum. A worn emory board. A sheet of floral postal stamps that now fall below current market value. And so many keys to locks that are now long forgotten, and unknown.
There is too much to choose from among the clutter. I try to talk to you about one of the many options. The concept of missing. A person, in this case. A you, I want to believe.
A you that immediately expresses a discomfort for such ideas, something you deem to be a gateway to feeling down.
No, no, I explain. I don’t mean it in a sad way. I think it’s sweet, actually. Missing someone. What’s hard is not feeling it’s reciprocated.
That’s an assumption, you say.
I once had a boss who constantly lobbied against this root word. “Never assume,” he would proclaim. “When you assume, you’re making an ‘ass’ out of ‘you’ and ‘me.’”
This is not an assumption, I want to say. It's a solid hypothesis. Based on actions, words. Lack thereof. Particularly when you are not face to my face.
I swallow my sentiments, silent. Watch as you reach for your wallet, your phone, checking the time. Putting your pants back on, one leg at a time. Knowing you are already gone. Wondering if I was ever here to begin with.
Tears aren’t always about sadness. Sometimes, they are a sign of acceptance. Release.
Portland continues to grow. There are new sites in development on nearly every corner. I navigate these roads. Find my way from point A to point B, through neighborhoods that are sometimes hard to still recognize.
It’s impossible to drive these streets and see things as they were before. I can’t ignore the signs marking ownership on all this architecture. Surrounded but not connected to these ideas of structure. Grieving my own concepts that were never approved. Renderings that did not meet code. Reassessing the requirements for building not a you, or an us. Or a him. But a me.