Night at ORINCON

It is quiet here
As the dark hours advance.
Everyone's gone home to their families;
I remain...
Like a phantom bound to its place of death,
I haunt and hover through dimmed corridors,
Past darkened offices
Where terminal screen-savers
Flicker and dance in a stellar nightscape.
Some still are lit—
Some of my fellow engineers leave their lights on.—
And I peer in, with faint curiosity,
To verify that I'm truly the sole lingerer.

In the distance
The sound of a vacuum belies my solitude:
The night janitor performs his ritual services,
In silence, or sometimes whistling.
What a life...
To scrub and toil in a deserted office building every night.
I vaguely wonder what he does during the day,
Feel a trace of sorrow for the futility of his task.
(The bathroom stalls shall be dirty tomorrow, the carpet soiled.)
Nonetheless I avoid him, in favor of my sweet and spiritual

After making my way through the now familiar labyrinth,
(I often dream of labyrinths,
Wandering alone through unfamiliar halls and chambers,
Just exploring, not going anywhere, just searching...)
I enter the dark lunchroom.
No-one is there; I make myself a cup of tea.
I can whisper to myself here,
Bleary-eyed, reeling in a faint fog of sleepiness.
I should be home, whispering to myself there,
But here I am,
Entranced in a kind of romantic stupor.
Night changes how things appear;
All is made
Quiet and intimate, like the crescent moon outside,
Or the lamps on a deserted homebound street.

Working the combination locks, I enter the lab.
Here it is the same, night or day,
Save the vacancy.
No windows, only fluorescent lights.
I calmly set about debugging,
For another hour, at any rate,
Thoughts drifting occasionally to the strains of Carmen
Still wafting through the auditory galleries of my addled mind:
"Toreador, en garde! Toreador. Toreador."
But no dark eyes are watching me.
I am lonely, but free.
Free from all eyes, from all scorn and judgment.
Feeling like the last man on earth,
I lounge at ease before the terminal—
I always have been best amused by myself.

And yet...
I pause to wonder sadly what sort of strange and rare creature would
Care to lose herself in the labyrinths of my musings,
My world of music and cosmic abstracts,
Rhymes, and quaint witticisms,
Melodrama and wistful fantasy.
I span many worlds, but live truly in none.
Sometimes it hurts a little, but I'm usually content,
To drift and drift,
From thought to thought
Through the realms of strangers.

My bladder brings me back,
Reminds me that reality is real.
(Tea does it every time.)
As I sit enthroned,
The janitor turns the bathroom light off
Recalling the darkness of the tomb.
I grope my way towards the door,
And feel for the light switches;
Darkness is sweet, but only to a point.

And when I grow weary of my sojourn,
I gather my belongings into my briefcase,
And extinguish my office lights.
Now the hall is deserted truly,
Save for the cavorting flu microbes
Which lie in wait for their diurnal prey.

Placing my card to the elevator,
I again notice—
In the strange ritualistic way I always notice it—
How the fluorescent light over Paula's vacant office
Appears like the light of day shone through a skylight,
And I say to myself again how such observations, rare and fanciful,
Are the bread and butter for the seasoned modern poet.

The elevator yields in its faithful, if grudging sort of way,
And I pass into the bowels of the parking garage,
Perhaps like Wotan descending into Nibelheim,
Perhaps like Brunnhilde into her catatonic slumber,
Or perhaps only like a yawning, blinking engineer
Destined to struggle with his cheap, dilapidated Hyundai
As he makes his way longingly home
For a soldier's respite.

George Chadderdon © 1996