Under Construction

By Samantha Claire Updegrave

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Shoring + Excavation

Gouges in the earth, straight cuts; walls, driven with pin piles, line the shorn edges like scars. This is post-demolition, the site cleared of all structures, landscaping, natural contours. The shoring protects what is adjacent, holds the surrounding environment back, prevents inward collapse. Your body was saturated and overfull, its topography rounded and ripe. Labor took three days, the birth two hours, and yet it took less than one minute to hear the words I never loved you. Excavated. You are the raw soil at the bottom of the pit, crisscrossed with tractor treads. The walls hold you open; people passing can peer deep inside and see there is nothing left.  

Foundation + Structure to Grade

Nothing left and a tiny mouth to feed, so you have to rebuild. Hardhats required. Cage lift rattles down, the scrape of metal against metal, the workers come armed with their personal protective equipment–prescriptions and suggestions, yogic breathing, needles. The flip-numbers indicating days since last accident never moved past zero. Frames are set in place, new layers molded, ready for the pour. The cement is a mix of therapy and whiskey, the rebar made of fight or flight.

Shell + Core

Exoskeleton and you can see right through to the bones of the thing, the ductwork, the framing, what should be concealed is visible, dry wall and partitions. Stairs and no railings. The headers and beams, the steel rising, rising, rising above concrete. Windows and curves in the façade.  

Architectural Completion

Wake to the sound of small feet scuffing tight-knit carpet. Hold your eyes closed while the blanket balloons and falls, until those feet find your hips. Your four-year old son’s hands against your cheeks as he tells you he dreamt he was eating pizza at school, and as the teacher was sweeping the floor there was a rumble and the school blew away, into the air, with him inside. My worst dream ever, he whispers. Wrap your arms around him, both of you still warm from sleep, the hot touch of his torso against yours, and drift to your own dream, where you are crossing a bridge and the earth rumbles, the steel starts to sway, and you have to decide which way to run, forward or back to where you came from, and the horizons in both directions are suddenly small, the sky flashing lilac and golden. Wake to your son’s knees pressed to your stomach.



Samantha Claire Updegrave writes creative nonfiction, profiles, book reviews, and poetry. Her work appears in The Rumpus, High Country News, Bitch, Crosscut, Literary Mama, and Hip Mama. She teaches prose writing at the Hugo House and is a nonfiction editor at Soundings Review. By day, she is an urban planner, and lives in Seattle, Washington, with her partner, young son, and (sadly just one) cat. You can connect with her on Twitter @scupdegrave.

Image of digital house blueprint or elevation courtesy Shutterstock.

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