She pulls a perfect line across the middle of the page, intersects it
twice in the foreground, and then crosses a small point of focus, a
vanishing point, near where she began. A second point bends the image in
the opposite direction. She angles a series of lines to where they meet,
back to the points of focus, and in doing so she creates the shape of a
doorway. She fills in steps, a window, a railing. She fills in the
street, the traffic, the trees. The sidewalk meets at a trowel-shaped
turn, framing the glass midrise, its façade a sliver of sophistication
in an otherwise colorless cityscape.
When her rendering is finished, it is colored by computers, printed onto
a large sign, and posted near the as-yet-unbuilt project site. Coming
soon, it says. For lease. Ground-level retail units available. The trick
is to convince the mind to see what isn’t there, to create a vision of
something that is not yet there. Once people believe that something can
be real, once they see a space where before there was nothing, they will
then see themselves within that space, living new and perhaps more
meaningful lives. The trick is knowing that nothing can be imagined as
truly empty. A space always becomes something in a person’s mind.
She tries to focus on the fullness of her life with her husband, how
they wake together each morning, side by side in their bed, facing each
other, how they leave the house each day and go their separate ways, in
different directions, only to return each evening, to fill each other in
on all the things that happened during the day, all the little details.
She has come to see herself in the way that he sees her, how he
pinpoints her flaws, reveals her weaknesses so she can see them too, and
always so she can learn from them, become a better person, a better
lover, a better partner.
At night she lies awake in bed, staring at the ceiling. Her eyes trace
the crack above the archway, the way it cuts clear across the room, as
jagged as the scratched and scribbled lines on a seismic monitor, a
reminder of how nothing is built to last, how the earth itself can
rupture and shift right where you stand. A shibboleth, she thinks,
knowing that’s not quite right. How strange, she thinks, that entire
landscapes will someday collapse into flat lines. Whatever remains must
be filled in. A remnant gap, she heard someone say at an architectural
conference, describing something else entirely.
Where to place the areas of focus changes over time. It depends on the
angle—the vision. This thought comes to her as she sits next to her
husband at a groundbreaking ceremony, as she admires the newly
constructed building’s perfect lines, its symmetry, how the sky itself
bisects the façade into perfect replicas, mirror images. She is amazed
by the color of the sky, its vastness, how long she has taken such
things for granted—whatever else might be out there. Sometimes the
very absence of something is its presence, she thinks. The trick is to
imagine a nothingness. There is the door, waiting, and there is the
woman walking through it.