In a warehouse off a road off Chicago Avenue, in a moonlit stretch of Humboldt Park that’s not great even by that neighborhood’s standards, in a room past the loading dock, past a shower of clear industrial PVC curtains smeared and stained where the forklifts plowed through, past pallets stacked to the ceiling, past a workshop area where men grind metal, there’s a little room off to one slow corner where there’s a desk, a mirror, a calendar and some Serbian tits.
In all fairness, the waxen, airbrushed tits on the waxen, airbrushed centerfold could have been Polish or Hungarian — the Internet tells me now days later that CKM magazine has editions in all three countries.
She’s thin and paper, these tits made woman. She’s taped on the far wall of the little room with a perpetual boudoir, Polish Playboy leer. She wears thin purple panties and a see-through top that doesn’t need to be. It’s pulled to the side as if it were a bolero jacket so her massive, pointy and airbrushed tits could heave out for whoever sits at that warehouse desk during the day.
Her nipples are more in focus than her face is. I find this sad.
The Hungarian lads’ mag woman leers and coquettes over a spartan room. As said before, there’s a desk. And there’s a calendar. There are a few freestanding lockers in the corner to the centerfold’s left and a thick-bladed fan sitting on the floor. There are no windows.
Following the wall along the woman’s left runs a single brown shelf nailed to the tan-painted wall. Some notices and foam coffee cups sit on the shelf. Below it is a card table with a black microwave oven propped on top. Yellow extension cord lies curled on the floor below.
Spinning back to the CKM centerfold and starting this time from her right, there’s a locked doorway. A thing for hanging coats. A desk with a banquet chair, the type seen in mass dining rooms. Not a desk chair.
Hanging on the wall behind the metal desk painted an unobtrusive tan is a mirror. And to its left is a calendar.
The calendar isn’t a ex-Bloc girlie pic. It’s Cuauhtémoc, king of the Aztecs. “One That Has Descended Like an Eagle.” The reprinted painting above the day, week, month part of the calendar shows an idealized pre-Spain Mexico, a landscape of cacti, clouds, sand, sky and dreams, before Tenochtitlan became Mexico City. It’s place of unspoiled beauty and unspoiled passion, of epic and legend.
It’s as much a fantasy as the Eastern Bloc tittie girl.
Who sits here in the day, plopped at that desk with Serbian porn to the right and a fantasy Mexico to the left? Who looked at this dire breakroom and thought it needed a centerfold taped to the wall? Who thought it needed a Mexican pride calendar?
The camera will pan out. That’s a writing trick I’ve used before. It will pull out from this sad little room, back past the slow corner and the workshop area where men grind metal. It’ll pan back past the pallets and the PVC curtain split in many tassels so the forklifts can plow through. It’ll pan back through the loading dock, spilling out under the moon onto a road off Chicago Avenue in Humboldt Park and then put it in context for the reader in a scale and scope they think they understand, another moment of life in the city of Chicago. It’s a good trick. Catchy.
But it doesn’t pan from the king of the Aztecs, forever descending like an eagle. And it doesn’t pan from the Eastern European magazine pin-up and her comically airbrushed anatomy. It doesn’t pan from the desk or microwave or coil of yellow extension cord beneath a card table.
The center of that room is that giant mirror behind the desk. It’s the mirror that reflects this sad little scape. And it’s the one where, every day, the men who sit at that desk between two lost fantasies have to look up, and see themselves.