down-to-earth flavor of The Flattening
seemed to have been replaced by things large and
shiny. But just down the street I found a familiar
spot—a bar called In Heaven. I ordered a local beer called Devil
and sat outside next to a young couple in the
improbable sunlight. The warmth soaked in, and
I as I sunk into my chair the atmosphere of The
Flattening, circa 1986, began to
reconstitute itself. I could almost see
Veronique walking arm-in-arm down the middle of the
street with her boyfriend past the barefoot
waiter. Lacking sleep and food and having
ingested the wonderfully thick and bitter Devil,
I rose from my chair . . . I rose and did not stop—I
began to levitate.
I hovered around the corner and down the street, delighting in the reflections of the buildings in the canal, past the residence that had been known as Leopoldville (now gone), down to the corner where the edifice of my favorite café, Forward!, stood, a great monument on the hill. I floated around the corner in the other direction, gliding easily past the spot where the chiseled figure of Woodrow Wilson stood and into the open square — but gone were the young women and men slumped at low wooden tables, smoking and chatting languidly in their drab and frayed clothing next to lazing dogs on the dirty cobblestones at old cafes labeled only with the faded Romy Pils signs—these had been replaced by upscale bistros and a huge new supermarket with an underground car park, the café dwellers replaced by housewives with cell phones. The new building on the opposite side of the square was a reflective behemoth, an edifice of mirrors, a confrontation to the casual hoverer-by -- or perhaps a vain attempt to capture the old in reflection, what was left of it, and co-opt it into the new.
Swept along by subtle, almost undetectable air currents, I drifted below the busy streets and major bus lines, into a subterranean world of round yellow mirrors, gleaming yellow tile, efficient soap dispensers and spotless urinals separated by ceramic planks to enhance user privacy.