Every weekday, construction workers scurry over the skeletal building, like silent film stars viewed in the modern era. Bangs and crashes and great KAPOWs echo across the paved landscape, til the exhausting roar of a city bus, thick with human figures, obscures them.
When Saturday rolls around, only tarps flapping in the breeze move. The busses’ roars obscures that, too.
The construction ongoing outside my window sounds less like muscled men with beer bellies putting together semi-affordable housing in exchange for a regular paycheque (with the side effect of gentrifying a neighbourhood with an undeserved reputation for seediness) and more like the purposeful, spastic actions of a subterranean mammal building a nest of found objects, scratching, digging, scritching with delicate, fibrous materials, assembling a home in the wet of the earth to pass the cold seasons unharmed.
These men in their grey and green bear knives in gloved fists, in place of claws and sharp teeth. Their orange vests, reflective, a sort of camouflage for the job site. Terse conversation, even at meal times – only alarm calls sounded, warnings, the occasional ribald joke that sends a round of laughter skyward.
She’s got no sleeves, but gloves, to protect the worn callouses on her hands. A man in a red cap strolls by but he doesn’t see her; she’s behind a bunch of concrete blocks, just another bobbing yellow hard hat in a site full of them. The foundation is rocky still and she needs a trowel to smooth it out, but when she gets to the musty shed and does her best not to inhale the swirling particulate within, she cannot find one. The foreman shouts from somewhere, her name loud and clear, so she redoubles her search. There are insects everywhere, the place is filled with roving legs. A trowel, at last, in the dust, covered with bugs. It’s rusty and worn – which is odd since the site is so new – and she brushes the insects away. Some of the spindly things touch her flesh and she recoils, shudders, gags a bit in the back of her throat. Trowel in gloved hand, she sprints from the shed to the site but still feels the tiny legs on her bare arms. She checks and checks but they’re gone – it’s a phantom sensation, nothing more. She smooths out her foundation with steady strokes, keeps her mind locked on her task. She does a beautiful job in the end – the grade is perfectly even – and puts on a sweater as soon as her shift is complete.