They spoke to me right off. Something about the proportions of the window shapes felt instantly familiar. Like something I’d known a long time. Intrinsically. Those windows point to countless lives in cities, over decades, maybe centuries.
Somebody posted a picture on some site, with a link to an eBay page, and I clicked through. The price was ridiculous. There was hardly any documentation aside from some vague claim to the Art Deco era. No packaging. Just a few photos. I filled in a low bid, then deleted it. Closed the tab. Read an article about some forthcoming book or cryptocurrency or maybe another scam or fraud. I tried to put the blocks out of my mind.
Then I looked at my windowsill. There’s a lot of room there that I hadn’t fully utilized. The space was partially obscured by the bins of crap I use for collage, but now I could see how the high-rises of blocks would stand there. I searched through History, found the eBay tab, and pulled the trigger.
The box arrived about a week later, lightning-fast by current USPS standards. Columns of blocks were carefully wrapped in crepe paper, then bubble-wrap. I unpacked and piled them on the floor next to my chair. Then I took six or seven cubes and stacked up my first tower. I pushed the rest toward the windowsill and sat on the floor building the rest of the city.
I sat back and looked at it. It was a lot like what I’d imagined, but something was preventing me from enjoying my toy city fully. It took a day or two to figure out the problem.
When I go to watch movies and read in my bedroom at night, I like to look down the length of my place to the studio. Usually the lights cast by passing cars create a kind of intermittent snowglobe/aquarium feel——it’s soothing and helps me drift off. But now I wanted to see the silhouette of the block city on the sill. The piles of collage flotsam were in the way.
It was past midnight, but I got out of bed and started moving furniture. An hour later, my drafting desk, wheeled cart of art implements, and bins of crap were neatly arranged against the far wall of the studio. There’s an open living-room type area in front of my armchair. The rug is swept of cuttings and dust bunnies. The room feels twice as big.
I move the genie bottles I’ve lugged from apartment to apartment for eighteen years and set them behind the blocks, to form a kind of beyond background. Now, when I get up in the morning, this model cityscape is the first thing I sit looking at when I need a break from the computer screen.
I can’t pretend to know why this old child’s toy grabbed me this way, but if it could make me rearrange this room, who knows what else a set of blocks with window shapes painted on can inspire?