The Mind Lobby and Other Intricate Places
Welcome to the ever-changing architecture in the main structure of my mind. The entrance to this structure is, in fact, a door: plain, wooden, unlocked, with a shiny chrome knob. When you open the door inward, you step into a beautiful, high-ceiling foyer. It looks pristine—sparkling, clean, and maintained.
Like a hotel lobby, it is long and rectangular. Cream and brown walls prop up the high ceiling that is latticed with red-colored wood, dangling antique chandeliers embellished with bronze cages and long yellow bulbs. Maroon-and-cream-striped chairs sit upon large, antique floral rugs with matching poufs, corralled around low coffee tables. To the left and right of these chairs are potted broadleaf lady palms and arecas full of life and invitation.
The floor design, with large cream, brown and blue squares lead you to the service desk and its pegged corkboard of intricate antique keys—some keys are large and bulky, some are small, the size of a fingertip, some are bronze, black iron, silver, nickel, pure gold, pure pyrite. And some are fragile like freshly baked butter biscuits waiting to crumble under the slightest pressure while turning a locking mechanism it wasn't specifically designed for. There is no service desk attendant. You're free to grab a key, any key, all the keys, if you will, and use them as you wish.
To both the right and the left of the central service desk, there is a grand staircase. It is blue and brown and cream marble, like the tiled floor of the Mind Lobby, and decorated with a maroon runner rug. With stairs on each side of the service desk, there are tens (or twenties) of tentacle-warped stairs, moving and squirming, like an ever-evolving, never-ending paradox designed by the love-child of M.C. Escher and Kandinsky's Composition X. Please, chose a stair to follow with that key you grabbed, if you want to.
I see that you have a handful of keys. That’s okay, too; that’s why they’re there. If you’re ready, we can make our way up. One step at a time, please, because there’s a lot to see. First, you may notice the sign: The Staircase Gallery. It’s kind of like the inside of an open skyscraper with hundreds of floors and hundreds of more doors. The staircase in the Gallery goes up and up... It appears endlessly, but time has the control for the hourglass that is life, and eventually, the sand stops.
As you go up, pay attention to the walls and the oil and acrylic painted portraits, both large and small and extra-large, that are hung delicately in heavy, carved wooden frames. They’re antique, so please don’t touch, though some portraits have been newly added to the Staircase Gallery. Watch these portraits as you progress, and you’ll see them change. Faces that may have originally been painted with pleasant features have been repainted with thick, heavy acrylic plastered over smiles and smiling eyes that turned sour. Some portraits have been burned. Others have cracked frames or frameless canvases that are frayed at the edges; they have simply sat and collected dust, abandoned but not really forgotten. I agree with you, yes, that there are a lot of portraits; they’re so closely hung together that it’s almost impossible to see the walls at all. A lot of these portraits are just blank faces without real stories behind them, and a dozen others are so covered with dust that you can’t make out features anymore—like lost memories. I can assume, of course, that these people have their own stories, but I’ve long forgotten them.
On the flip side, there are these golden portraits. They’re cleaned so regularly that they stand out like an animated object in the background of an old cartoon movie—you know, the ones with the stagnant, painted backgrounds? These are the ones that I’ve nurtured over time because they’re precious to me—my closest friends, my spouse, my grandmother. They’re the important ones, and they deserve the best in this Gallery. Speaking of the best: let’s go further, and I’ll show you The Tapestry.
On the way there, you’ll find new beginnings defined by red strings tied around doorknobs that link to other doorknobs. These strings follow the walls around portraits and go up and up... Some of these strings are tied to posts at bridges long burnt that were built over raging rapids one does not dare to cross anymore. Other strings are strong and woven, intertwined with mutual friendships and passions that form into ropes and safety harnesses.
You’re allowed to ask me about the red strings. That doesn’t require a key. You’ll notice that some begin as ropes and fray at the end—torn, sliced, or burned through—dangling lifelessly over the knob of a locked door, while others that begin as a single thread have grown and intertwined with others that bring life to a multi-shaded tapestry of friends and newfound family. This tapestry is the main display in the Staircase Gallery. It hangs heavily on a wooden rod, patiently waiting to be added to. It’s beautiful, yes, because it depicts my hope for the future and the pride that I have in those I love.
You’re passing a lot of doors on the way up. Some are hidden, so don’t feel bad about not seeing them—they were hidden for a reason or two. There are a few that aren’t so secret, though. Do you see the black iron gate with curled spikes on the tips and embellishment of decaying vines and wilting roses? Isn’t it enticing? The thick, black chains and palm-sized lock should not be a discouragement to access. You have a key, remember?
Behind the tall gate, there is a garden with hedges that reach the open, blue sky. It is only the front-entrance garden with a labyrinth-like path that leads to a distant, decrepit mansion. I recommend watching the ground. Some areas are covered in tall grasses, with both friendly and unfriendly snakes, while others are paved and well-trodden.
Notice your surroundings—this gives you clues on how to get out of the labyrinth the correct way because now there is no gate behind you. Follow the tall hedges. They’re so tall, in fact, that no matter your height, you can’t see over them. It’s possible to get lost a time or two, but please persevere and you will make it through.
I’m sorry about that body, there. Please don’t think too hard about it. It's not the only one you will come across. There are many dead and decaying bodies here, and like this one, some have already skeletonized, while others are fresh and still and haven’t had time to assimilate into the worms and roots of this garden. Some of these bodies you will find early on in this labyrinth, while others are closer to the end. They all make me sad, like lost friendships and suffocating flames of potentialities. Don’t loiter in one place for too long, either; you are not the only one here.
When you make it to the white concrete front steps of the dilapidated mansion, congratulations. It was once a beautiful piece of Victorian-inspired architecture in my childhood. It is still maintained in some areas—like the study and kitchen—but other areas have been locked, boarded, and neglected, acquiesced to the earth.
The kitchen had been newly renovated to adopt a form of enlightenment-modernist style, with sharp angles and unique curves, almost minimalist if not for the use of bronze, wood, and rivets, and long yellow bulbs that cast antique shadows on the pinks and creams of the walls. The kitchen is fully stocked and clean, except for a small pile of dishes in the sink and rising yeast dough under the stove light. In the kitchen and to the right is a sliding glass door—it leads you out and back to the black wrought-iron gate that you were so hesitant, like many others, to open.
The other doors of the mansion are locked. Those lead to rooms that have been forgotten—lost passions, crumpled ideas, discarded sketchbooks; sad, broken dreams that were tossed into the wastebasket of wasted time that is flooded with stagnant, weightless regrets. It would be useless to explore those. It’s best to let them be and head back to the Staircase Gallery.
There is this other door in the Gallery—I see you staring at it out of the corner of your eye—it’s cracked down the center. I would agree, yes— it looks like a medieval dungeon door reinforced with black iron slabs and bolted with a slide lock, and a key lock, and a padlock. No, you don’t have access to any of those keys. Please, leave that door alone and ignore the black liquid that’s pooling at its base.
I’d like to take your hand now. Don’t worry, my hand is dry and warm, and soft and smooth with clean trimmed nails and a beautiful ring with small leaves and a clear stone. Accept it, and I’ll show you my favorite part. The Museum. I love to walk it with my friends. If you’ve come this far, you’re my friend.
It’s not a linear museum. It’s an organized palace, with wings and rows and grand halls. There is no door to the museum. Its large, open archway is perched on its own platform in the Staircase Gallery. The Museum starts in the art galleries. It has a long, white hallway in front of us and rows of open wings to the left and right. Each wing is organized and themed with different types of art: sculptures—metal and marble—renaissance paintings, abstracts, global culture art.
Everything I remember and everything that I’d like to create is hung on papered walls under white spotlights patiently waiting for eyes like yours to grace them. We can stay a short while; sit on the peppered benches and ponder each piece and the meaning of the gold-trimmed plaques with the names and descriptions and dates.
It’s hard to say which part of The Museum is my favorite, but the aquarium rides near the top. When we finish the art galleries, we’ll end at a set of glass automatic doors with blue and white signs and hours of operation. Head in and down a short, red brick tunnel that declines into dimming light. Coming out of the other end, you’ll find yourself washed in fluid watercolor blues, refracted through thick glass that separates you from sunken ships surrounded by a plethora of sand tiger sharks and gnawed goliath groupers. You can sit in the center of this large dome and zone out while you watch the aquatic life float by. I’ll point out the eagle rays, and the amberjacks, and the conger eels, and barracuda snappers, but you can ignore me if you’d like. I just like to talk. I also like to watch the fish and the sharks as they swim in endless circles around the shipwreck. What do you think they’re thinking about? Do they know they’re stuck in this large pool, roaming on and on, pointlessly?
Sometime in the future, I’ll show you the botanical gardens and the astronomy dome. We can walk the historical architecture district, too, if you’re interested in the colonial houses across the country that I’ve visited. I don’t want to keep you longer, so we’ll take the shortcut out and head back to the Staircase Gallery. You can return later any time that you want, if you ever want to visit again.
Oh, you hear that, too? That’s just the rising tides crashing against the cliffs and shores of the islands. We can go there, if you’d like, but be warned that the tides are not always friendly, as much as I'd like them to be. They can be dangerous. Go on and take your shoes off; it’s more fun that way.
When you step through this weathered, wooden plank arched door with bronze rivets and a simple plank lock, your feet will sink into the sands of the island beaches. The climate and ecosystem change, depending on when you decide to visit. As of now, you’ll see low and heavy cumulus clouds building a storm, vibrating with potential energy, lightning bouncing between the edges in tune with the threatening growls of thunder. A grey haze fills the sky. The sands are wet and sticky and cold. Cold waters shove rocks and shells and red seaweed ashore, abandoning it as the ocean is pulled back with the tide. Chilled winds howl in your ears, raising bumps on your skin and sending shivers unconsciously throughout your limbs. This same wind blows palm trees horizontal with the ground, whipping waxy elephant leaves violently around like the winds of a hurricane. I warned you of this dark, grey horizon.
It’s hard to control sometimes. This building storm that you see—distant dark blue waves growing and collapsing, growing and crashing down, down, pushing distant ships under—is what causes those shipwrecks you see on your right. At the bottom of that tall, tall cliff are jagged black rocks with sharp edges and bloodstained debris of unfortunate past causalities. Fear not; storms like these are not often. The clouds need to build before something like this happens, and the clouds are patient, forgiving.
Walk a little further to the warmer side of the beach and you’ll find a much more pleasant, relaxing side of the island. Here, these sands are warm and dry, and the low-tide crystal blue water caresses ankles with warm kisses. Beautiful pink and blue shells are found with a little scavenging, and the longer you’re on the beach, the chances that you’ll come across a perfectly intact nautilus shell increase; you’re free to take it and put it on a shelf somewhere. Sit in the warm sands, dig your feet in. The sun’s just hot enough to keep the waters and sands comfortable.
This is what the island is meant to be—warm and inviting. Cozy shacks line the border between the grass and sandy beach, waiting to be occupied by vacationers itching for a break from the real world.
White sails peek over the watery horizon, bringing along masts and a brown hull and a forepeak with a beautiful figurehead of a woman in a long flowing dress hoisting a sword pointed forward, like an encouragement to push forward, push through the crashing tides. When the ship floats just beyond the shallows, we’ll swim aboard.
Don’t worry about the waters over here—they're unnaturally clear and safe. You might feel a fish or two brush upon your leg but fret not, the dangerous waters aren’t until much farther out. For now, we seek adventure on the unknown horizon that awaits. The rope ladder that hangs off the side of the galleon is frayed and worn, the wooden rails are petrified from the oils of many hands touching and grabbing, and when you’re standing on the wet deck, you’ll understand the deep sense of adventure that truly awaits on the waves of the open ocean. Freedom and life; free from the weights of communal responsibility, free from continental government, free from ancestral social constructs. Just naked survival under the voided purple sky and her multitude of stars while drifting in the vast mysteries of the undiscovered black ocean.
The farther you explore, the more curious spectacles you will find, like that of the darkest secrets of the Mariana Trench. Not all you’ll find ever sees the light of the surface, but it’s there. It’s always there, hidden in the depths.
We should... go back. There is a lot more here, but that takes more time—to go one by one through the many doors and memories that are scattered throughout this place. You’re welcome to come back anytime, though. Remember, the front door is unlocked and you have access to all the keys.