Like many other buildings in the city, it loomed over us during the day in its dark darth vader metal armor, blocking our access to the sky and sunlight. Only from within its walls were we able to access some rays if we happened to be on the right side of the building at the right time of the day, even though it felt like an inferno at times when the sun was too strong and the shades weren't drawn.
But at night, after the hot dog guy packed up his stand and dragged it away hitched to a dented blue Nissan truck and the deli down the street had stacked its green fruit stands behind the metal cage, when the fading neon sign flickered at the lone pizzeria down the street, and the city seemed empty of living creatures except for the few drivers snoozing and waiting to shepherd their clients back home, the looming tower seemed to slumber against the dark backdrop, blending into the quiet night. All you could see were the random specks of light on its facades, marking the spots where its remaining occupants breathed and existed hidden from view.
And that's how I remembered it when I left that one night, leaving Jake in his office. After I handed him the last batch of copies, he let me leave at midnight, teasing that a young lady shouldn't be out so late. Hunched over his desk, he scrutinized the document in front of him with the eyes of an old librarian and with such concentration that made me wonder when he would ever finish going through the six remaining boxes on the floor. And I remember my little girl crush, smitten by his boyish charm and the tinge of glamour that came with his Fulbright, and wondering where he got his determination, tenacity, drive to succeed. It just comes with the job, he said with a weary smile. Don't stay too late, I yelled as I pushed on the door to the elevator bank.
And when I stepped out into the streets, I remember looking up to the 54th floor and scanning for his office near the left corner. And there it was, six rows down from the top and two boxes to the left from the corner, a miniscule speck of light, neither a flame nor a blaze, but a stagnant and constant supply of man made energy, illuminating nothing but itself.
Five years later, I ran into him on the streets. The lean frame was now saddled with a bulging midriff and his hair was sprinkled with gray. The shine seemed to have left his once eager eyes, now beset with wrinkles. A committed bachelor and still at the same place, he announced. But just for a few more years, he assured me, probably more for his sake than mine.
And I imagined that during all those years, while the World Trade Center was getting bombed, Dolly cloned, OJ tried and acquitted, Garry Kasparov defeated by Deep Blue, and Aung San Suu Kyi freed from house arrest, that tiny light in that box of an office six rows down and two to the left stayed on night after night as he sat hunched behind the same desk, working on this or that deal, closing one merger after the next, reviewing the latest draft of some agreement that ended up in a binder filling his shelves in a neat array, tracking the progression of his years.