The sharp whirring of metal resounds through the warehouse as I return from the coffee machine. The smell of iron is so strong in my nose that, for a moment, I think I have a nosebleed. I’m just in an iron studio, and this is going to be everyday for me now.
The last week has been a series of quick changes in my life. I started a sudden, new job as a scheduler. It’s simple enough work, although I do have to stay on top of it, following the stream of emails sent between two or more companies.
“It’s slow here right now,” the kind office architect tells me. She sips gently at her camera-shutter mug and flattens her black pixie-cut hair with a hand. “You haven’t seen crazy yet.” She seems almost too nice for the majority of the environment – a contrast against the sharp edges of the metal and the quick tempers of the temp workers. But that is why she fits, a piece of the puzzle that makes this place.
The people here are all different – all unique souls that have, one way or another, dragged themselves to this land of metal shavings and epoxy. Even those of us who have no experience with metal working, aside from the stories we hear from our friends, have made a strange home here.
I myself am a bit displaced. I cleaned the office, which surprised my office mates, lifting off layers of black dust that had made their way through closed doors. I scrubbed at the dirty fingerprints on the walls until my comrades requested I stop spraying the Comet. I was giving them a headache with my cleanliness.
How strange, how amusing that someone like me, whose room looks like a tornado of laundry attacked it just this morning, is suddenly clean in this environment.
Today, we play smooth jazz, and Marvin Gaye, and while Sade’s “Smooth Operator” plays, the office boy makes steel orders. Off the phone he puts on a deep voice. He pretends he will seduce the old, smoking women that own the metal distribution shop on the other line.
Our pixie-cut architect jokes that he should have ordered a “full 9 inches”.
He slaps his forehead. “I would break them,” he says.
We dissolve into laughter before returning to our separate spaces around the office.
My best friend, we will call her K, is the one that dragged me here. She is the reason I am here at all. The tall, willowy friend with black hair who recites her own poetry, reads engineering books for fun and cuts metal for a living. We share an office. Currently, my side is woefully blank while her side is covered in schedules and phone numbers, and pictures of the people she loves most. And cannons. Lots of cannons.
Firearms were discussed this morning as my boss and those that are older talked about their childhood encounters with firearms. Things were allowed back in the 70s and 80s that today be punishable by law. Times have fluctuated and changed, and removing gunpowder from bullets at ten is not quite as common now…
I piped up that the only weapon I own is a longbow, and the boss nods his head and says: “Yep, you are definitely K’s friend. Longbow in one hand and cutlass in the other.”
“I have a dagger somewhere,” I replied, “But it got lost in the move.”
Our morning goes on.
I walk past the small interior courtyard between parts of the building. The architecture here is beautiful, if chaotic and crumbling slowly. They call the courtyard Narnia, because it is so out of touch with the rest of the building. A naked, female mannequin with a towel turban and Sharpie mustache glares at me from a corner. Canisters of some sort of gas line the walls. I decide it is not somewhere to be in an earthquake. K once told me about one that happened here a year ago, when the metal shook and canisters threatened to fall, and everyone evacuated to the street.
Such an exciting life my friends lead. And now I do, too.
The bathroom is terrifying. But high above the peeling paint and questionable floor is an old skylight, pushing out from the ceiling rather than flat to it like those made today. It is one of those forgotten things in this old city.
The opposite side of the shop is all male, a “sausage fest” some might call it, and filled with larger pieces destined for great installations across the country. Also the echo of death metal.
Our side is the “quiet” side, if such a thing exists.
Sparks fly on the other side of my window as steel is cut. Acetone is rubbed and pieces are soldered.
The stoner upstairs starts yelling on the phone to his mother outside my window to nothing. I sit back with my mom-and-pop coffee, bought down the road at a quirky store made up entirely of hipsters.
I’m new here, and have come from a very different background, but already, I belong.