Sunday, 16 June 2019

Write-In 2019: 'Scale' by Kamil Ahsan

Every morning on Michigan Ave., I choose not to look up. There’s really no point to it. I’ve realized something: the thing about scale is—we don’t have a sense for it. Gauging scale is entirely separate from each of the senses; not like balance where otoliths sink and lift with each step, because ears do more than just listen. Our eyes are, of course, not enough. We see things from far away, like an hotel elevator door closing—an elevator I will not catch, I believe. I have some intuition about it, but who knows? What if I could?

So why look up when I can’t see the top, or comprehend that miniscule penthouse I’ve cleaned so often. I’d only wonder: what’s going on in there? What’s going on out there? Have the steel bars weathered? Has the galvanizing zinc given way to the icy winds since the last time somebody was up there? What’s the way down like? See? There’s so much whataboutism with scale, no gradation: a condition borne of a lack of nuance. Space or time, really. If I’d woken up earlier last Sunday, I wouldn’t be cleaning urine-soaked floors, picking up damp towels covered in hair.

So if I pass my lilting trolley along the hallways at a languid pace, checking the signs, there is no telling that something is deeply wrong. If there’s a door almost-closed, it’s suspicious only because it does not fit a visual pattern, not a historical one. If I enter and see a broken window—the mite-sized penthouse a ballroom with no window—and if I see blood on the shards, I must pull myself back, because remember: we don’t have a sense of scale—347 floors above the ground—to truly perceive what is happening down below.

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