236 South Elm. Walking down South Elm toward Washington, I stop in front of the Vernon Building, 236 South Elm.
A man walks by with wooden heeled shoes, startling me as I consider which button to push on the intercom. I’ve been standing here a while.
I’m starting to feel self-conscious when a man walks down the stairs, exiting the Vernon Building. He pauses for a moment, a silent acknowledgement that I must be waiting to go inside. I go back to considering the framed apartment directory.
There is a not-so-pleasant mixture of smells in the air. As each person walks by I get a whiff of perfume, soap, or sometimes cigarettes, which is occasionally overwhelmed by the exhaust of a passing vehicle.
The man who lives here returns. This time we exchange whispered hellos. He enters a code into the keypad under the directory. Four beeps sound, followed by a click as the door opens, then shuts, and then there is a steady sound of a busy tone.
I still haven’t pushed a button. I settle into a squat, leaning against the building. The jagged edge of a broken fingernail catches on my middle finger and my knees begin to ache from staying in the squat too long. I stand and my feet warm as the blood flows back into my legs. It’s been a while since I’ve stopped on a busy street.
Standing in front of 236 Elm Street, I asked pedestrians to stop to speak with me.
I asked them to close their eyes for one minute and then write down the first five things that they noticed after they opened their eyes.
Here are the things that the participants wrote down.