No one, now no one will ever return.
- Faiz Ahmed Faiz, 'Solitude' (trans. by Agha Shahid Ali)
3 am. The lights are out in all the apartments. Only the staircases still burn, proud like vertebrae, the inflexible spine of some obscure principle that holds these towers high.
Who are they waiting for, these staircases? What visitor do they hope for at this hour? No one will come now - it is late. And if anyone did surely they would take the elevator that stands empty on the ground floor, humming gently to itself.
Stripped to the barest neon, their vigil has the quality of loneliness, but also of a kind of belief. As though if they stayed awake long enough someone would come.
This is how the mind advances, not vertically, but in small flights. Its ascendancy both triumph and escape.
Night after night, in a million apartment blocks in a thousand cities, the staircases wait. Does it solace them to know that somewhere, in some corner of the world, there is always a staircase being climbed? Can they hear the ghosts of those distant footsteps echoing through their bones?
Soon I too will be asleep. But they, for their part, shall burn till morning, their hope fading only in the dawn, finally extinguished by some careless watchman, who arrives too late to help.