A few weeks back I went to the courthouse on business. I hate going there but there’s really no way to avoid it. I reluctantly got all my documents ready and drove.
Right before you go in, you have to go through security so I got ready beforehand to avoid too much hassle. The girl working security was in her early twenties, hair a little mess, and dark skin. The metal detector began beeping so I told her it was probably my boots. She took out a handheld metal detector to scan my whole body. Beginning at the feet, up the legs, my torso and arms. When she reached my face I winked at her, which made her smile. After a brief and polite conversation, she left me through and I flashed her a half smile.
I arrived two minutes short. Everyone had already left for lunch. I was hungry but I didn’t want to go through security again. So I began walking around and figured I would do that for an hour. The front entrance opened up to a dome. The light is tinted by the stained glass which had the names of all the cities under the county court’s jurisdiction. In the middle was a gold statue. I quickly became bored with that and headed to a new location. “I like your Kurt Cobain shirt, is that what you’re going for?”
I looked around not being sure where the sound came from. A man was sitting on the floor, right at the entrance. He was wearing a bucket style hat, black. His skin was dark, noticeably from spending time under the sun, and he looked in good shape. After orienting myself I told him I’ve heard of Cobain but not the music.
“He was part of the grunge area in the 90s, kind of a counter culture movement.”
I have one hour to waste, so I thought, why not? I sat down next to him and he began talking.
I told him I was there to get a passport and I asked him what he was doing there.
“I’m here for the art”
“For the art? In a courthouse?”
He told me he found it beautiful.
“You can just come here for that?” I asked
“Sure man, it’s a public building any one can come”
I guess he is right; it is a public building. I had never considered that.
He asked me if I had seen the rotunda in the U.S. capitol, and I had not. “Google it! Its not the 1970”
Again, he was right, it was not 1970. He asked me what I saw. I saw a lot of angels and sky windows. He moved close enough to touch me. I was uncomfortable, but I was committed to find out what he had to say. He zoomed into the image and I was able to see George Washington among the angels, sitting on top of clouds. “What do you think that means?” He asks. I have no idea. “What’s he doing with his hand?” He holds a sword with his left hand and is pointing to the right, with his palm half open. On his lap, a violet blanket drapes. To his left an angel plays a trumpet, and another to his left holding a book. I told him I still didn’t know the meaning, and he looked at me with bewilderment, not disappointment.
People keep passing by, some look at us with slight disgust, but most walk by, ignoring our existence.
“Hello Sir!” he says toward a heavy man of about 300 pounds. He took heavy breaths and walked slow like a slug. He pretended to not see him and walked on by, slowly. In a loud voice he told me “See, some people are having a nice day, and you can tell, some people are having a bad day. That guy is probably having a good day. But I tell you what, I wouldn’t want to be near that guy on a bad day. Big fat 300-pound guy, BOING BOING” I felt awkward because the man walked so slowly, he still wasn’t far, I was a little frightened. “What are you worried about?” I thought to myself. If he comes after us, we will just walk to the middle of the stairs and we will be fine. The guy then turned his attention back to the dome. He told me that around the base of the dome were 40 lights. “What do you think that means?” I didn’t know, and he asked me to google it. I found nothing.
We kept seeing people passing by, and said hello to all of them, few responded. I got scared when security passed by, but then I remembered that I was in a public building. There was nothing to worry about.
I excused myself to go to the bathroom and when I came back he was standing in front of the statue. He introduced himself as Danny. “Do you know who that is?” I don’t.
“It’s Columbia” We googled who she was and he told me that Columbia was just another name for America, among other things. He asked what she was doing. She was pointing to the right, with her palm half open, like George Washington. He asked for the meaning and I responded the same.
“They’re trying to idolize him, to make him seem celestial. Because he was a great man. I think. Look at the base of the statue, what’s that”
“A tree trunk”
“What’s coming out of it?”
“A branch with leaves”
“Yeah. It grew from the dead tree trunk, like a phoenix rising from the ashes”
“What’s the shape around the statue?”
It was a hexagon, and we searched the meaning of that. An eight sided figure signifies eternal life. People were looking at us much more now, so he guided us back to the floor.
Lunch was almost over, and well dressed people started coming in from all different directions, I didn’t know where any of them were going but they walked with a self-assuredness that signified their status in society. They were not people who sit on the floor and look up at the art. We went back to looking at the rotunda. I began to notice the flowers that surrounded the names of the cities. They were purple and had eight pedals. Danny was guiding me through all these, he had memorized every single detail about the art.
We sat there looking at the art for a few minutes before he began to speak again. He mentioned he used to be a firefighter and I asked to elaborate. A few years ago, he was sent to fight a wildfire in Montana and he was helicoptered into the center, where the fire had already affected. Soon the fire got out of control and he had two options. To either run through the fire and down the mountain or set up tent. “Set up tent? What’s that mean?” When you set up tent, it means that you’re done fighting. You set up a tent, get in and hope that the fire will pass right through you. It looks more like a blanket, that you wrap around yourself. It does not guarantee survival not protection from the heat, but it keeps you from inhaling the fumes. He didn’t set up tent. Large part of the ground had partially melted which made movement even more difficulty. Still, he decided to run. His eyes began to water as he was telling me. He ran through the fire and down the mountain, with the fire chasing him and moving faster by the second. He looked at me and asked “Have you ever had to run for your life? I was being chased by death and I ran faster than I have.” He acknowledged that lunch was over and I needed to leave. I left.