The unfamiliar is a drug on which I've been known to overdose. Take my visit to the World Bank in Washington—lunch date with a friend whose partner works there. The bank's main complex includes a cafeteria with a bewildering selection of dishes from a score of different national cuisines. We carry our trays out into the hollow core of the building, which is illuminated by a skylight many storeys above with glass too thick to permit a view of the clouds. In between catching up with my friend, I luxuriate in the multilingual hubbub around us. It's sometimes such a relief not to understand.
is the sky still available
in all languages
Forty-five minutes later, on our way out, I pause to admire an obelisk made up of video screens broadcasting TV stations from around the globe. It's mesmerizing. When I turn around to say something to my friend, he's gone, hurrying back to his office down the block, and I realize I haven't the least notion which way we came in.
Back home, I always enjoy getting lost, so I search half-heartedly at first, trying to maintain a brisk enough pace so I won’t stand out as an obvious interloper. But soon I start to panic. Which is the ground floor? Why don't there seem to be any exits? I query a pair of janitors in a stairwell, but they merely laugh, whether from contempt or polite lack of comprehension I can’t tell. I'm a hayseed in the big city; I don't know how to navigate corporate space.
this fear named after the god
of wild things
to panic than a bank
I start opening doors at random, interrupting two meetings and backing away from half a dozen soft-walled labyrinths filled with the humming of office machines. Everyone I pass is giving me strange looks. When I finally guess correctly and see a door to the street down at the end of a broad corridor, it's all I can do to keep from breaking into a run.
Outside, I keep up my frightened scurry for half a block before I remember I'm still wearing my visitor's lanyard. I glance around to see if anyone's watching and stuff it into a rubbish bin. Relax. Breathe deeply. Look up at the familiar clouds.
a moth's day-time dream
of being human
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