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Concrete and Metal

Claire Romaine's picture

If I knew one thing for certain at that point in my life, it was that we were lost: completely, utterly, and irrevocably lost.  We had been walking by the river for almost an hour, vainly trying to find the pedestrian bridge that would take us to Sawyer’s Point and then across the water.  To this day she still tries to tell me that it was my fault we were lost, while I insist endlessly that it was hers.  All I know is that we were wandering in over a hundred degree heat without water and without the faintest sign of life from anything but the cars roaring repeatedly over the bridge three miles away.  By the time we retraced our steps back to the center of downtown Cincinnati, we were both exhausted, but we still had an hour to burn before we could catch a ride home.  We walked around the empty blocks of office towers, brushing past the meager crowds and barren lobbies.

The city of Cincinnati is a desolate place of heat, cars, and towering metal buildings.  It looms above, perpetually intimidating the masses of people walking below.  It is a place of intent where people do not wander like us but come only for a purpose: eating, working, sleeping, or some other mundane task, and the oppressive weight of cold, metal façade bears down on everyone equally.  However, every once in a while, there are pockets of resistance.  Here there’s a shop, over there there’s an ice cream parlor.  By Fountain Square there’s a Christmas tree and ice-skating rink every December, and down by the river there’s a giant, inflatable rubber duck awaiting a charity fundraiser later in the month. 

To escape the heat on that burning summer day, we ducked inside the Mercantile Library.  It was eerily silent, and its great hall resounded with our footsteps and a few muttered whispers across the room.  The whole building seemed to disapprove of the noise, but still we delved into the shelves of old, untouched books.  There were rows upon rows of hardback volumes that must have survived for decades.  We were in awe of the history and magnitude of the place, and we were intimidated.  At the same time, though, we couldn’t help but be absolutely fascinated.  We cracked open old books with pages falling out and reverently admired the tangible proof of the progression of time.

The city is like that library tucked away on the second floor of an old building: cold, empty and intimidating, but so completely fascinating.  Its endless sidewalks and sheer glass walls, its nightly fireworks and creepy late-night wanderers.

This city, my city, is a place of never ending contradictions; so few people actually live there yet everyone within a thirty mile radius orients themselves by their route downtown.  It has its chain restaurants slowly taking over business, but the local diners still manage to survive. It is cold and distant, but the people there never seem to take it to heart.

I have never been enamored of the city, but it has always taken precedence in my life.  Even now, going south is the equivalent of heading towards civilization because Cincinnati was always a straight shot south from my home.  The city itself will never be my home with its impersonal metal casing and hard, heartless presentation, but it still exists as a perpetual monument to the existence of life outside of suburbia and the sheltered youth I lived.  Its streets may be empty and its shops might close, but the buildings still stand guard over the endless concrete sidewalks.


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