many rooms, 6


April 2017


where I hid


“My Father’s house has many rooms”

-John, 14:2


From the threshold, I could see the cleanliness of the terrazzo floor, made with irregular cuts of marble of different sizes and colors, no bigger than the palm of my hands; cast in place with a mix of white cement and smaller granite pebbles, and polished to a glossy shine. Someone had obviously swept, vacuumed, mopped, waxed, and polished this floor, perhaps an instant ago.

Someone had done the walls and the ceiling recently, too. Someone had plastered them with a mix of Portland cement and sieved fine grey riverbed sand; and then smoothed them further with a mix of lime and plaster or white cement, before giving them four full coats of bright perfectly white vinyl paint.

Someone had cleaned the huge windows, thoroughly. You could hardly see the glass. Someone had patiently made the bed that stood lonely in the middle of the room with crisp-clean white cotton sheets, sharply folded, and goose-feather pillows. Someone had left behind a couple of bottles of expensive mineral water, and clean expensive glasses to drink it.

But after that someone had done his (most probably) job and left, it truly felt like no one had been there; nor could one feel that anyone would be expected to be there at any given time.

It’s a strange thing, a perfectly clean, abandoned place. One takes human presence for granted in clean rooms, and assumes some sense of decay in the absence of people. A few days are enough for dust to be everywhere. Before long, mold, cracks, humidity, and stains take over. No one ever sees it actually happening, for these things have sub- or super-human rhythms; but we certainly see their results.

This was totally different, and in some sense quite perfect, in the same sort of sub- or super-human way. The room where I hid was completely empty, but it was also completely taken care of. Smells of clean lavender and eucalyptus gushed out from the bathroom, with its gilded faucets and its impeccable marble tiles. Cool and crisp air flowed down the airco vents on the ceiling.

These were not the smells of new stuff, though, like the almost narcotic scent of leather seats in a brand new car, or the clean cotton in clothes fresh out from the shop, or the drying paint in a house that was just built. Instead, they were the subtle smells of antisepsis – could I call them no-smells?

Yes! That’s it. In the room where I hid, a sense of no-thing-ness prevailed. No-smells, no-life, no-body. The process of keeping the place certainly prevailed over the act of anyone actually being (living, taking care of, making a mess) there. In that sense, the whole thing seemed quite Platonic – a strange figure to invoke.

Beyond Plato (that is to say, in a much simpler, messier sense), amid the abstractness and timelessness of this room, I could only wonder how many such spaces, how many rooms like this immaculate void, actually existed throughout the city; weaving a network of beautifully kept hiding places into the tissue of the messier and certainly simpler lived-in rooms of average law-abiding citizens.


Jorge Mejia Hernandez