The Lafayette ballroom

The lobby is a sea of detritus.  Waves of papers crest over island-like chunks of debris, while lead pipes and other dilapidated metallic paraphernalia peer timidly from underneath the wreckage like periscopes.

Land is sighted at a flight of stairs. Adorned with embellishments that have long since been reduced to stubs by the Elements, these stairs twist and turn to the second floor, which consists of a narrow hallway. Light pours into the corridor from the collapsed walls, yet the ominous feeling of darkness still pervades in its omnipresent doggedness.

At the end of the corridor lies a pair of double doors, forever sealed. What lies beyond these decaying wooden portals is a ballroom.

This ballroom is many times larger than the lobby. The floor, patterned with black and white tessellations, is strewn with dust and rubble- residue from the premature explosions of shattered livelihoods. The ceiling, vaulted in its aspiration, reaches forlornly to some unknown pinnacle- we are, after all, only on the 2nd floor of an apartment building. Pillars and columns rise up like trees in a forest, with chandeliers hanging precariously between them. On the west side of the room, small windows, surprisingly intact, allow timid light to enter.

Bordering the walls are colourful, albeit faded, tiles of ornate gemstones evoking a very square, two-dimensional pastoral landscape, replete with windmills and blonde-haired peasant girls. The coarse and rustic treatment of these tiles mirrors the existence of the ballroom itself: refinement submerged in a state of primeval, barbaric ruin.

Like a babe in his mother’s firm yet fatigued grasp, a piano is tucked away quietly in a corner of the room. It stands like a sedentary stoic, taking it all in. How many storms its weary wooden carvings have weathered! Its soundboard is cracked. Its keys are dismembered. The inner workings are painfully revealed by the gaping hole in its discoloured mahogany inlay. Music has long left its hammers, damper pedals and strings.   

The ballroom itself is a place that time has forgotten; or, rather, it is a place where the past remembers. Traces of the room’s former glory are littered everywhere, like the remaining particles from a supernova. The numerous wineglasses strewn on the floor insinuate former bacchanalian revelries, while the paper leaflets stuck underneath them indicate that this room was sizeable enough in prestige and in dimensions to host Mrs. Astor’s Four Hundred.  The stains on the wall suggest a time when the Lapis lazuli ensconced these granite walls and did not need to cling on so desperately. The heavy, unmoving air still holds in it the baited breath from the soiree where Liszt lovingly caressed the piano to sing like it had never before.

All that is gone now.  Nevertheless, the West wind still blows.  And when the sunlight pierces defiantly through the grimy windows of this secret room, the parquet patterns waltz with the dust and the rubble, moving in patterns as resplendent as the gilded feet that once glided upon this very same surface.

The End

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