My desk on the 7th floor of my apartment overlooks an bricky, brown cityscape. My line of vision is obstructed by blocks of brown, multistoried buildings; diagonals of fire escapes, cluttered by desiccated potted plants; rooftop-mounted satellite dishes; dusty blinds, hanging crookedly on unsightly windows.
Amid that banality, one structure of interest stands out: a chimney.
It’s unlike most I’ve seen. It has an outlet that’s neither rectangular as in houses, nor circular as in smokestacks, but conical, shaped like a party hat or an inverted funnel. If it grew taller, it could become a spire someday.
I haven’t paid attention to its cycle, but in what appears to be a daily routine, it activates for a short, if uncertain, length of time, around mid-morning every day.
A plume of thick, black smoke billows out from it. Some days, it issues forth, brazenly, with the verticality of the Dali moustache. On others, it curls wispily upward, at an angle, hovers awhile, until the wind scatters it.
Today, it had a couple of whimsical outbursts, at 10:48, a.m., at 11:45 a.m., and then again, at 1.05 p.m. I don’t know what it’s attached to. A laundromat boiler? The stove of a soup kitchen? The furnace of a steam locomotive? When I walk out the lobby and step out onto the sidewalk, I lose the benefit of altitude, and the edifice vanishes from sight. I can’t connect it to any of the surrounding buildings. But I know it’s there, a part of something.