Will These Walls Remember Me?

I work in a renovated mill in Providence. Old meets new; brick and dry wall. Post and beam. I can’t walk through these hallways without existing in the past and the present. The mind is amazing. It brings us places we can never physically be.

Long ago people built these walls with brick and mortar. Every brick was set by hand. They built these walls straight and strong. And these walls hold memories.

These walls remember the way this land used to look, thick with old forest, before we clear cut it in the name of progress. The wooden posts in this building are massive. These walls remember cold winters and harsh weather. In some places they gave way to nature and water seeps in.  New lives grew old in this place. Generations of people lived their working lives here. They sweat and bled, while leaning on these walls. .

These mill walls remember injustice. Harsh working conditions and poor wages wore these honest workers down as the owners’ wealth, and stomachs, expanded. These walls remember the toil of a 16 hour workday. These walls remember men and women who were deprived of their families for 16 working hours before dragging their feet home only to pass out from exhaustion, wake up the next day, and do it again. These walls remember the pay these workers received, and how that pay so closely matched the rent it cost to live in the cramped quarters the mill owners owned.

These walls remember abandonment and decay. They know what it’s like to be left to fall. Dirt caked and dry rotted, this mill was left to fend for itself as businesses moved to cheaper locations for cheaper labor. These walls know darkness.

But today these walls are brighter and warmer. They’ve been modernized.  New technology and modern plumbing pierce the bricks. It’s become fashionable to be in a renovated mill. It’s fashionable to forget what happened in these buildings. But the walls remember.

These walls hold on to pieces of the past, little stories in the form of cracks, scars, holes, and patches. I walk through the hallways listening to these stories. But as I hear them I wonder: will these walls remember me?

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