I was going through old writing projects. At a writer’s conference, we were given a writing exercise. There were three lists and we had to choose 3 random numbers between 1 and 25. The first list was your occupation, the second list was something you did, and the other was some secret. Mine were: architect, covers mirrors, and leads a secret life. Here’s the story:
The Architect’s Secret
Charles Ames Danforth covered the gilded mirror above the sofa in his rented condominium with a sheet he found on the bedroom closet shelf. He hated big mirrors. They reminded him of what he no longer was, what he could no longer see, and the secrets he kept.
In the kitchen, he pulled the bottle of Dewar’s from the brown paper bag, opened the cap, and poured a shot into a highball glass; there was no ice so he drank it straight up. He winced at the taste. He didn’t even like it any more but he liked the way the glass felt in his hands, the coolness of the glass against his skin, and the way it made him feel. It reminded him of what he was and what he’d lost.
He swirled the golden liquid as he crossed the living room, parted the blinds on the sliding doors, and looked out at the white sandy beach. The travel agent thought she was doing him a favor by finding this beach front condo. “A great deal,” she had said. He shook his head and laughed at the irony of it. He couldn’t enjoy the sunshine but he would savor an evening stroll once the blazing Florida sun had set. That was part of his secret, his curse.
He turned from the window; the scantily clad beachgoers with their coolers and picnic baskets ignited a gnawing in the pit of his stomach reminding him that he hadn’t eaten in a long time. Charles refilled his glass, sat at the dining table, and opened his briefcase. He wanted to prepare for the meeting set for ten o’clock the next morning. He was the architect assigned to the construction on the new Towne Center. Charles had loved buildings since he was a small boy. On the inside of his briefcase he kept a postcard of the Empire State Building. His long, slender fingers skimmed across it as he thought of his family home, a huge old Victorian mansion on Long Island in New York. He didn’t remember how many rooms it had but there were a lot. His nanny allowed him to ride his tricycle up and down the long hallway when his parents weren’t home. His mother and grandmother were devastated when they had to sell the house, most of the furnishings, and move into New York City. After all, at one time, his parent’s families were members of the original Mrs. Astor’s 400 wealthiest families in New York. Charles’ family, like many others, lost most of their money in the stock market crash. The one on October 24, 1929.
Charles took another drink and smoothed out the rolled up rendering of the proposed Towne Center. This was not the type of building he wanted to construct but as the newest person at his most recent firm, he had to take the assignments as they came. His past experience was another secret. He couldn’t tell his employers that when he was 28 years old, he worked for the architectural firm of Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon, the architects who designed and built the Empire State Building. In his life, he had worked on some of the most famous structures in the world and now he was relegated to building shopping malls.
He knew the date was playing with his mind as it did every year on the anniversary he shared with the Empire State Building. On May 1, 1931, Herbert Hoover turned on the lights in the Empire State Building and on that same day in 1931, his heart stopped beating but he didn’t die. He was reborn as something inhuman. He would be forever young and handsome, never aging a day over 28, and never growing old with someone he loved. He knew he was feeling sorry for himself. There’s nothing more pitiful than a depressed vampire.