I was always certain that one day I would become a great builder. I never questioned or discarded the idea as unreasonable or romantic, but rather thought of it as the natural progression of my experience. I began constructing objects out of clay and mud at such an early age that I didn’t recognize the shapes wrought of my hands as anything but extensions of my physical self, as ordinary as other children kicking a ball. My grade school art teachers began to take note of this advanced understanding of architecture, and my parents attended closed-door meetings with school administrators to discuss my potential.
By the time I finished the fourth grade I had fashioned a replica of the city’s most infamous bridge on sight and memory, adding curative modifications to mend impractical flaws in the original composition. My model was constructed of clay and sticks and stood four feet tall. Word of the feat soon reached the bridge’s original architect and found him forced to defend his aesthetic approach. It was with that particular project that I gained my first enemy. By the end of that year I began sketching plans, also with ability beyond my years, and received my first commission — a horse stable and adjoining three-story shed for grain storage.
My parents thrust me into accelerated courses in order to maximize my creative potential. I graduated high school at fourteen and enrolled in the local university’s architecture program. Forced to decline commissions throughout my adolescence due to academic policy, I made promises to those daring enough to employ the skills of a boy, a child whose work was unproven but notable for its rigid and cost-efficient use of material and time. News outlets and marginal media representatives began to call. I was young but already the focus of nationally syndicated news interviews. My parents became de facto representatives, and ultimately exploited my talents and alchemized them to their own schemes.
I honored my promises and flourished professionally but was reputedly difficult to work with. I became solitary, abrasive, evasive, and though the work was always world-class and completed on deadline, I retreated into myself, building secrets and cities of my own. By the time I reached my late-twenties, I’d alienated myself from my parents and the world, only speaking through an agent, myself now a recluse, frightened of the world and angry at it. I was alive in my work and nowhere else.
A group of financiers commissioned me to build the renowned Trankworth Center, a sprawling subset of office buildings and condominiums spread beneath their centerpiece, a twenty-eight-story tower made of glass and steel in downtown Los Angeles. The project took three years and over two thousand men to complete. It was considered a masterpiece at the unveiling, a ceremony I did not attend. Magazines, books, television shows, my contemporaries and critics all lauded the Trankworth as an achievement in North American architecture. My name soared to inconceivable heights; I was undoubtedly respected in my field. Heralded as the new face of American architecture, I received commissions from each continent.
After the Trankworth, I turned them all down.
Suddenly and inexplicably I no longer found value or identity in building. For the first time in my life, I stopped working. It was as if the Trankworth had drained my resources, wrung them out, pulverized them. I retreated further into seclusion, searching in vain for symbols of life where it actually existed, not where I fashioned it. I wanted to feel alive but I also knew life would be something of a revelation to me, something not previously experienced. My parents died in an auto accident, and though I maligned them for taking advantage of my younger self, I couldn’t help but feel pain and loneliness when they passed away.
While meditating on a small tussock on the afternoon of my thirty-second birthday I had a revelation whereupon my ideas abandoned me, I fell weightless in the void. Soundless light rather than darkness. My ideas returned to me broken into elements, the elements into molecules, into smaller fragments yet. I entered back into waking consciousness compounded, condensed, my body shrinking incrementally, collapsing upon itself, as though in a centrifuge.
I emerged from the experience more aware than ever. Climbing from the depths of self into which I’d retreated, the world had either grown embittered at my estrangement or forgotten about me entirely. I was offered not a single commission. Again I disappeared into worker’s solitude, armed with sketches and plans and perhaps salvation.