For eight years, I lived life as a ghost. I was obsessed with a place where time stood still.
Mint green paint flaked from the tempered glass windows, harkening some magnetic havoc of lustron and mortar. The old mill’s machinery still sat, collecting dust mites and deluge, belonging to a void of time and space which permeated my adolescence. At age six I would sit in the parking lot adjacent to the giant, shoelaces untied, staring at the wreckage of the monolith of glass and stone with fear and determination. Perhaps my fear stemmed from its great size, or perhaps it was a result of watching the animated and anthropomorphized version of David Copperfield one too many times. Regardless, I knew that I would conquer my fear someday and explore the fragments of time lost to human eyes.
It was during the fall when I turned thirteen that I was invited to see a renovation project occurring at the building. The massive machined parts, oil caked with dust, and nylon strings once used for women’s stockings sat in a vegetative state, with layer upon layer of pigeon fecal matter and small ragweed adhered to them. This was the cement that held my ghostworld together. We would walk the wooden floors, sweeping storms of dust up from the long wooden brooms, bristles caked with filth and history. It is strange even now that I can still see and smell everything, yet the longing is immense to journey to that timeless state once again all the same.
When the renovation project fell through, the Old Mill became my sanctuary. I would communicate with the world there, as the silence and simplicity filtered out the bustle of the city that often surrounded me. I dreamed in a world of deluge; this building had clocks without hands and therefore time stood still. The ticking could still be heard for a while; a metronome of time passing without minutes or hours. I would speak in silence to the walls, seeing the past flowing around me in slow motion. I saw what the war of man did to Nature and embraced the embodiment of industrial dynamism. As I inevitably aged, thus the world around me would, too. But I did not want this place to be stifled by any more time than it had already witnessed.
The boiler room, parking halls, and long corridors all became as romantic to me as the poems of Rumi. I would run barefoot in the large halls, the cold concrete against my feet, seeing the remains of the infirmary and the old black-and-white porcelain toilets with naive eyes. I no longer feared the green paint like slime that etched the windows; I embraced them as battlescars that time had attempted to cause and had failed.
I remember most the scent: a mixture of cold air, mildew, and mortar. It was a smell that was unmistakably pungent-- an aroma that I remembered once again in a similar hosiery I lived in years later. My favorite room was a large barracks with arched brick doors, where the shadows fell in a succession that always seemed starless but for bright knives of light that shot through the dusty wooden planks. I would sleep in the arms of my building; giant circles where the furnace pipes once reached out-- a small body in a frail giant.
Over the years, my beloved building has fallen to decay and ash. It is a victim of time finally catching up to it; the war is over. Now there are large metal gates across its barracks, long since deemed unsafe. The second floor is but a shell of a body in which the heart faintly beats. My ghostworld, in which the workers once pedaled their looms, is now an ancient graveyard of dilapidated mortar and piles of amputated walls. The clocks have long since been removed; the toilets’ broken porcelain littering the parking lots around the building. The boiler room doors are now bent and rusted and the smokestack is finally succumbing to urbanization. But in my mind this building still exists as it always did; a perfect replica of a building that is ageless. I spent years photographing the building in vain hopes of stopping time from destroying it forever. Yet I can still hear the clocks ticking in my vanity, and for that reason, the ghosts are still alive within.