I an old man,
A dull head among windy spaces.
Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign”:
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
Swaddled with darkness.
—-from Gerontion, by T.S. Eliot
There was a sign here once, on this very wall. I’m sure I must have seen it long ago when I passed this way before, when it was here, when it was whole, when it was relevant… to something. But what was it? What did it mean? Why is it gone now?
What terrible disaster befell the owners of the sign? It might have been a sudden death, an unexpected and unprepared tragedy. Most likely though, it was a slow dissolution over time, a deliberate failing covering decades, sluggish yet inexorable. Like the frog in cool water I imagine the involved never really felt the change, the lazily rising boil, an unseen poach of doom. Or maybe they felt a shadow of cataclysm, a hidden fear, dismissed as paranoia or lack of confidence, or deliberately ignored out of a fearful inability to face the inevitable.
Was it a proud name? A bit of art? Bright colors? A splash of neon phosphorescence? Clever typography?
It doesn’t matter, really. What is gone is gone. Dust is dust.
What you see now is all there is: cracked plaster, empty mounting holes circled with spall, streaks of rust stain on dusty stucco. The cold wind howls by.
Some might look at the bright side – maybe the missing sign is simply an indication that success was so sudden and bountiful the denizens were able to depart for greener shores.
I doubt it, though. This looks like a place that you visit on the way down, not heavenward.
The remains hint at letters, but are indecipherable. The past does not fit well with literacy. Entropy is not lucid.
Then I am on my way again. Maybe some day another sign will grace the wall.
Or at least a fresh coat of paint.