The night is cold. The wind plays the music by which the leaves perform their ballet. They pirouette across the concrete then exit stage left. I approach the short set of stairs, noticing how their worn edges give them an unnatural tilt. A pair of large wooden doors, ornamented with a giant tarnished knob, stand guard before me. I begin to feel as Alice must have when she obeyed the "Drink Me" sign in Wonderland, but I defy the stately protectors none the less. As the light from within attempts to escape through the compromise in the perimeter, I begin my journey through a place riddled with oddity, nostalgia and promise, a place many will enter but never fully appreciate.
I walk to the marble bench in the corner of the lobby to rest my stressed body. A bubble in the machine near the opposite wall slides gracefully across the nose-smudged glass. The way the bubble's colors swirl about on its surface reminds me of oil on water, each color desperately struggling to stay intact while laws of nature dictate otherwise. Just as each bubble and each color feels safe in its existence, the machine hums to life sending a sheet of soapy water down the glass erasing everything in its path.
As I stand up to continue on my journey, I notice the dead scientists adorning the walls. The air is suddenly filled with their thoughts and ideas. Equations fly about colliding with theorems and hypotheses as the lot attempts to penetrate the minds of all who pass by their discoverers. My walk turns to a sprint as I avoid the numbers and letters once again today. At the top of the steps leading out of the lobby, George Eastman, wearing his polished gold nose, keeps watch. I rub his nose for luck then turn my attention and body to the right as I continue down the hallway.
The walls are cluttered by brightly colored bulletin boards announcing lectures, parties, credit card offers and discounted futons. Several boxes of paper labeled "Trash, please remove" line the walls outside of a professor's office. A water fountain kicks into gear and begins to purr loudly as if to tell me I am thirsty. I comply and allow the cold water to run over my lips.
I turn the corner and see the infamous path traveled on by thousands every day. If these walls could speak, each crack on the plaster would have a story to tell. The rocks below my feet have felt the soles of the shoes of world leaders, scientists and humanitarians, as well as the students who have gone on to replace them. I have heard that on two days each year, a sun beam entering at one end of this Infinite Corridor will reach all the way to the opposite end. Although probably quite magnificent on these two special days, the sun's rays are just as needed and should be just as appreciated on the other three hundred and sixty-three.
I continue down the hallway bounded by huge tributes to famous people and padlock-sealed wall boxes containing student group propaganda. The only sounds in the air are the squeak of my sneakers and the swish of my arms rubbing against my body. As I retrace my steps, familiarity lulls me into a trance; I glide across the cracked rock unaware of my surroundings. My consciousness takes the backseat letting instinct drive me to my unknown destination.
I arrive at another lobby, the consciousness once again takes the wheel. Huge windows criscrossed with black bars dominate the area, compelling me to move toward them. I press my nose against the glass then adjust my view to see beyond the smudge. Even from inside, the vastness of the courtyard is overwhelming. In the distance, I can see the lights of a city, but miles of dying grass separate me from that real world, a world where problem sets and office hours are foreign and Athena is an ancient Greek goddess, no more.
The cold wind howls beyond the glass, commanding the trees to bow in its presence. The quivering leaves run and hide in a corner, out of the wind's reach. I suddenly notice that the cold glass has numbed my nose, and like the leaves, I decide to relinquish my rights to the territory. Before I leave, I pause to read the news on the bouncing-ball-channel; noticing nothing new, I continue my exit.
I journey down the next section of the repetitious hallway glancing occasionally at a wall poster or into the fishbowl Athena cluster. No signs of life; mark the death certificate 3:27am. As I approach the next bulge in the corridor, I can see papers scattered all over the floor. Tech's not taken as well as the unwanted bright pink credit card ads that were so neatly stuffed into each copy, tile the marbled floor. I walk into the center of the domed room and spin around furiously. A frat drop poster whizzes by as do the ones announcing something about a food drive. I stop myself from twirling just as I am facing the towering windows that should be stained glass. I lower myself into the lotus position and stare up into those giant reflective eyes. The irises should be vividly tinted to contrast with the darkness and depth of the pupils. The glass was stained at one time. As a hack the entire lobby was transformed into a cathedral, and the glass was painted to enhance the effect. Pews were brought in, hymns were played through a sound system for the entire day. The cathedral was built in honor of Our Lady of the All Night Tool. Tool...we even have our own language here; for common folk in the real world, that translates into Our Lady of Working All Night.
I lay back, rest my head on the marble and look up into the lit hemisphere above me. All of my problems and worries are pushed back into the farthest reaches of my mind and locked behind a steel door. I gaze into the softly glowing dome and let my mind wonder to times and places long ago and far away. I remember playing basketball in the back yard on warm summer afternoons, sitting on the tailgate of a truck talking to friends on a Saturday night, and making uneven snowmen in the front yard on snow days. I remember those as times without worry, carefree days with no regret, the infamous "Good Old Days".
As long as I'm throwing out cliche's, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" comes to mind. Maybe I can never be happy with what I have and where I am. When I was living in "The Good Old Days" they didn't seem so good. I wanted only to be free and on my own, and I never realized how good my life was. Maybe only in a few years when I am free of the Institute will I truly realize what I have going for me now. Maybe the stress I feel at this moment is present without cause...maybe
I get up and brush off the floor's grime. I turn toward the Infinite Corridor, close my eyes and listen to the deafening silence. Remembering that I will soon need to look for the key to the steel door in my head, I glance once more at the soothing glow above me. The Infinite Corridor seems shorter now, maybe even finite. I begin my journey with the first step home.