“A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.”
Well enough, Ian and I ventured back out into the wide world outside our apartment, only to find a sorrowfully depleted congregation at church. Disheartened, we retreated quickly back into our enclave and made bets about when we would next see our roommate. I put on my housewife hat to scrub and foil the filthy stove under-burners and made a coffee cake for our after-church brunch while Ian pretended to be a student and work on a project for several hours. The coffee cake came out beautifully until the very end when the recipe called for adding topping to the already-baked cake (a more beautiful golden you’ve never seen) and broiling it for a moment. The moment, apparently, was too long; my lovely golden came out smoking and black. I felt like a failure as a housewife, but salvaged the meal by making perfectly crispy bacon.
Feeling disillusioned, I put on my student hat to read Thomas Hardy’s short story “Western Circuit” in conjunction with his poems. Unfortunately, they all make me want to lie down and die. For instance, take “I Look Into My Glass”:
I look into my glass,
And view my wasting skin,
And say “Would God it came to pass
My heart had shrunk as thin!”
For then, I, undistrest
By hearts grown cold to me,
Could lonely wait my endless rest
But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide,
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.
So, tiring of that wearisome pastime, Ian and I once again journeyed out, this time to exercise off some of our hearty lunch. Our wandering footsteps took us to the Sunday-sleepy downtown and past a largely imposing edifice upon which an aspiring stonemason of old had carved the words “Obedience to Law is Liberty.” I thought of George Orwell’s 1984. Ian said, “No, without law we could do anything we want. But what would stop people from doing things to us that they want to, but we don’t them to do to us? Within the law we are free, and by abiding lawfully we live safely as well.” Yet I fear that we obey too much. Later on our walk, swinging along Highland Street back towards our apartment, I glanced at the sidewalk and froze, for there I saw faded brown-red splatters. Their diameters and grouping struck me as consistent with falling from a human body, while their small locale (they didn’t go anywhere) implied that the victim had entered a vehicle. Instead of feeling concern, Ian looked at the red drops and said, “It’s probably not blood. Don’t worry,” and we moved on. Eminently sensible, but is that abiding the law too much? Should I not have worried? When have I followed one too many rules—or can I? People fight laws and each other in court every day, not thinking of the liberty they exercise in that alone, expecting a reasonably fair and unbiased trial. At least nobody sneaks judges bribes anymore…
We walked by the Worcester City Court House, glanced idly in. Sagging, faded, torn drapes clung to windows like wraiths, revealing more than they concealed. Red to pink, yellow to gray, velvet green to puce the sorrowful curtains, tattered with years’ and the Budget Committee’s neglect, struggled to impute dignity to ceiling-high windows of dirt. The Court House, a forebodingly inauspicious gray stone building that arcs tall windows around a dead cement plaza, reflects Worcester’s city mood. I would die rather than work in such a building one day. Yet in this modern world, Court Houses no longer tell the story of a city—once upon a time they did, yes. Town Hall, Post Office, and Court House, center of the quintessential “small town.” Now, though, to take the measure of a city go to its shopping centers.
The Worcester Common Outlets, a modest mall, echoes the Court House in desolation, for more windows stand dark, reflecting the meager foot traffic, than are lit displaying wares. Software Etc., Ian’s main draw, now offers only bare purple and off-white walls to the curious eyes pressing close to darkened glass. Brightly colored whimsical bicycles and hot air balloons reminiscent of 1985 float suspended above the main atrium area, yet walking on the second floor on eye-level with them I clearly see their years-thick layer of dust. The only life in the WCO comes from small children’s voices, children who know no other than this sorry, faded excuse for a diversion. Bellevue, however, sports the ever-thriving Bell Square, around which traffic always jams and endless teenagers stroll. New additions provide welcome extra space in that coveted mall where space is premium. I hear rent for a mouse hole in Bell Square is more than I can hope to earn in a year. People drive for hours simply to shop at Bell Square’s Nordstrom. To live in Bellevue, one must either have bought a house 30 years ago, have a small fortune, or have sold your soul. Car dealerships for Lexus, Cadillac, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porche, and others thrive. Think of your hometown: if a town, perhaps you still live in the Court House, Town Hall, Post Office paradigm; if larger, how well does its shopping center measure the city’s welfare?
What does that say about us as a society?
– KF –