The night of the ballet was uncharacteristically warm. The air felt heavy to walk in and the sky seemed abnormally low with the weight of it. The stars showed brightly. They shimmered in the heat rising up from the ground.
Even as the builder loosed his tie and took of his jacket to find some relief he still felt buoyant and alive. There in the parking lot he turned, throwing his arm around his wife as they stood back to admire his work. The Civic Center did look like the Sydney Opera house, but somehow it was better.
Markoff hadn’t designed the structure. His chief architect Jans Petersmith had, after many trips that the builder had bankrolled so that the man could visit the famous opera houses throughout the world and study their design. Still, it was his.
It wasn’t a football stadium and it wasn’t the indoor shopping mall that his wife and her friends visited every week like a church. It wasn’t something that could be seen from space and it wasn’t going to be covered in any trade magazines. It was both humble and austere. The lights which shined against it seemed to say to the world that it was there and it had a purpose.
People would gather here to see community plays and concerts put on by the local school children. Maybe one day it would get a real star, a person past their prime who couldn’t pack a 50,000 seat venue but could still sell out a tenth of those seats. For now though, it had to be satisfied with experimental plays bought second hand from New York and cast with kids from the dance schools that were around town.
The theater wouldn’t make Markoff famous. It wouldn’t fulfill him and it wouldn’t pay off all his bills. What it did, was give him a chance to look at his work without signs and labels placed all over it. He liked that.
Shopping centers were the builder’s bread and butter but there was little ceremony in opening them. Sometimes there would be a ribbon cutting and sometimes there wouldn’t. No matter what, before he was finished the rooftops and walls were always covered with the names of shops and maps directing patrons towards their next purchase.
“You did good.” Myrah cooed, easing herself against him and accepting the embrace.
“I like it.” He nodded.
A shooting star trailed across the sky looking lonely and distant. The builder followed it with his gaze, watching as it disappeared behind a nearby shopping center. People, filing past them commented on it’s streak. Someone said: “Make a wish.”
Suddenly, a store in the shopping center caught Markoff’s eye. “Come on.” He said, leaving his wife’s side and motioning for her to follow him.
“Where are we going?” She asked.
“Over here.” He answered pointing towards the structure. “I want to get a look at something.”
Myrah hesitated. “It’s all the way across the street.” She whined. “Why can’t we just drive over there on our way out?”
The builder laughed. “I’m getting fat.” He said as he casually gave his stomach a slap. “I could use the exercise.”
Together they ran across the street towards the shops on the other side. Cars exiting from the parking lot slowed to let them pass and a few of the people inside recongnized Markoff from business dealings that they’d had together. They beeped their horns and shot him the thumbs up sign out their windows to let him know that they too loved what he had built for them.
If they only knew of all the problems he’s had with the design and all of the shortcuts that he’d had to take in order to make the project come in under budget they wouldn’t have been nearly as impressed. To them, the final product was what mattered and not what it had taken to get to it. “You made it!” Someone called out above the steady hum of car engines and times. The builder acknowledged the complement by bowing sheepishly and then guided his wife across the parking lot and towards a row of shop windows. .
“Which one do you like?” Myrah asked as they stood before the showroom. Inside the darkened interior were boats. Some were large and some were small, all of them packed into the spacious interior row after row.
“I don’t know.” Markoff said, walking down the length of the glass. He stopped and pointed. “This one’s nice.”
His wife slowly came over to his side. “Are you going to buy one this time or just talk about it?” She asked.
The builder sighed. “Do you think it would change anything?”
Instead of answering directly Myrah turned looking back in the direction of the Civic Center. She seemed to be sizing it up, measuring it against the things that he had already done. She frowned. “I’m not sure if anything changes anything.” She said sadly.
The builder looked from his wife to the building and then back to the boat. “What do you mean?” He asked.
Behind him she spread her arms wide. “It’s just this.” She said. “When I look at it, I have to wonder what I’m doing with my life.”
“You’re raising the kids.” He answered silently doing the math in his head as to what payments he could afford. “You help me find new places to build.”
Myrah shook her head.
The craft was more than he needed. It was large and sleek with curved lines and stunning angles. It would put him out to sea but would it really change anything?