The Light of Polaris

Office Buildings at Night --- Image by © Richard Schultz/Corbis

I like to write in the dark. I get home after ten more often than not, and the first thing I do is grab a beer from my fridge and head upstairs. Nighttime is when I write my blog posts and other non-fiction stories. The night is magic, it’s full of possibilities, and ripe for reflection. Night time is when you’re vulnerable.

I find music appropriate for the mood of whatever I’m working on, and then I write about myself.

I have really shitty blinds in my apartment. Honestly, they’re terrible: long plastic strips that hang down all the way to the floor. They break and fall off if a spider breathes on them wrong. I always have the blinds shut in my room, but over the year that I’ve lived here, three or four strips have fallen, leaving great gashes in my privacy. It used to make me uncomfortable, but I’ve long since stopped caring. If someone wants to spy on me, so be it. I hope they’re prepared for boredom.

I live behind an office building. Every time I get home, there’s one light on in the building, directly across the alley from my room, on the same floor. It’s almost always the only light on.

The cleaning people travel throughout the building during the night, normally up until twelve or one AM. I’ve watched them, sitting on my ratty couch I bought from Salvation Army for twenty dollars, a glass of Jim Beam in hand, David Bowie on the stereo. They’re very efficient.

Sure, I have a TV. There’s actually two in the house, but when the mood strikes me, there’s nothing as good as watching other people. Maybe it’s the danger in it. This is wrong. You know it’s wrong. That’s what makes it so much fun. It’s like spying. It is spying. It’s Rear Window.

There’s a new apartment complex further down the street. It’s sleek and modern, and the top floor suites have huge, multistory windows that provide a wonderful portal through which to view the occupants. The huge windows don’t have any blinds. I’m sure the owners assumed that since there aren’t any apartments close, no one would be watching the people living there.

They thought wrong. I have binoculars.

The penthouses are occupied by a couple twenty somethings who either hit it big or have very rich parents. They throw lavish parties and have people over all the time.

I watch it all. You’re fights, the slow dances with your girl when it’s one AM and everyone left, the different girl your bring over the next night. The shame. It’s all a show to me. You’re my amusement.

I see it all.

It gets boring after a while, though. Too much like TV. It’s too simple. I can turn on Hulu and watch the real world without having to hold binoculars to my face.

The light in the office building, though. That’s a mystery.

It stays on until two or three in the morning, every morning. I can never see anyone in the room, no matter how hard I look. It’s the angle, I think. There’s probably more to the room that I just can’t see.

Surely there’s someone in there, but why? What are they doing?

I wonder.

A workaholic is a safe bet, sure. I can picture him now, slaving away at the keyboard, crunching numbers, making a list of who to call tomorrow. There are movie posters on the wall. I can see that from my room at least. Maybe he’s a movie producer. He could be staying up late reading scripts, getting ready to call writers and give them notes. Maybe he’s researching other productions, trying to pull some deals together. Maybe he needs to find a tank for a shoot tomorrow.

Whoever he is, he’s a workaholic. I get workaholics.

I’ve always assumed you become a workaholic when you have nothing else. It’s you and your job. You’re a workaholic because you’re scared to go home, your scared to sit by yourself in your mansion or apartment or car or whatever because no matter how late you stay up, how long you watch TV, how high you blast the music, or how much alcohol you drink, you can’t escape that moment at three AM when you’re staring at the ceiling and all you can think is what else is there?

This is it.

I’m going to die.

It’s in those existential moments that we find out who we are. Your soul screams why?

Whatever you’re answer is you.

Stay at work though, he says to himself. Burn the midnight oil. To you, it must be a distraction. Keep working, keeping thinking about deals and packages and actors and scripts. Think about location deals, and music rights, and sponsors.

Avoid it.

I understand. I get the guy across the alley. He and I are a lot alike.

To him, his single lighted window is a distraction. He burns the light to keep away the dark.

I wonder what he thinks about when he looks at me. When he looks across the alley and sees an almost pitch-black room. What demons assail him, then?

I wonder if he can hear the keys clacking away. I wonder what they sound like to him.

I hope to see him one day. I think he’ll be standing in his window, tie hanging loosely, a cup of coffee in hand. There will be circles under his eyes, and the wisps of hair that he combs over his ever increasing bald-spot while be sticking out at crazy angles. He’ll have a white shirt, khaki pants, and a gold watch

I’ll be in my IKEA computer chair, sipping on a PBR and listening to death metal music. I’ll still be dressed in all black, like I always am when I come home form Starbucks.

Our eyes will meet, and what then?

Will he shiver?

Will he blink?

Will he nod?


I think he won’t do anything at all.

Just stare, and then go back to work like nothing ever happened.

To him, his light is his escape. To me, his light is a beacon. A warning. An egg timer, counting down.

A calling.

It’s the north star, Polaris, and it leads me in new and exciting directions. It pulls at me, and my soul is compelled to follow.

You’re days are numbered, it whispers as I traipse over mountains, and sail over wine dark seas, and if your life flashes before your eyes, how much of it do you want to be in an office?

Not much.

Not much.

So I click away, and I dream.


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