Today my Russian teacher asked us to clarify that a building possessed “stories.” The Russian word’s translation equivalent was awkward, per usual, and she wanted to make sure that saying, for example, “the building has five stories” was a correct English phrase.
She asked me and I faltered at saying yes.
Not because she wasn’t correct. She was. A building possesses stories. The World Trade Centers were 110 stories. The Bank of America building that forms the center of the city in which I live consists of 60 stories. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is 163 stories.
I faltered because of the meaning. A building has stories… and then it has stories. She asks, “How many stories in this apartment?” The correct answer is a number. But there are thousands of stories, the stories of the inhabitants, of those past, of those future. The stories of the employees, of the owners, even of the receptionist that works, 9 to 5, to welcome the residents home and bid them adieu.
Every story of a building houses many more stories. The boy that loves riding the elevator because the buttons are magic. The homeless man that sleeps outside in hopes that someone with a happier story than his will donate to its renovation. The maid that cares for the offices in this building more than the ones at home because her livelihood comes from catering to others more than she can afford to cater her family.
Don’t you see, that she shines every silver set, wishing she could buy one, just one, for one day, to show her children that that is what they can have if they work hard enough?
Don’t you see, the boy that rides upon elevator magic? He wants to fly to his apartment, to flit to his room through the window like Peter Pan on the wings of Neverland, but alas, he cannot fly, not even with his imagination, so the elevator is his set of wings, it is his magic, the golden walls not barriers but freedom because the elevator makes him Peter Pan, makes him a bird, lets him fly?
Don’t you see that the World Trade Centers were each 110 stories, a combined total of 220, but that each of the 2996 people that died that day were stories? That every survivor was a story? That each of them had a family, had a history, had a future, even if it was the graveyard in which they now lay?
So I hesitate. I tell my Russian teacher that yes, she is right. A building has stories.
A building has stories… and then, it has stories.