The Abramiad, Part Five: "Cities of Gold" (excerpt)


She realized she could see the Ponte Tower in the corner of the window; that 1975 (of course) concrete cylinder, a stylish bachelor pad address for about ten minutes when it looked like Johannesburg had a future (last bulwark against communism in Southern Africa), before the Soweto uprising put paid to the doomed marriage of Dopper and skyscraper and set the apocalypse clock ticking.  It was a hollow cylinder, apartments lining the airy core; at the top, the African sky; at the bottom, vertical yards of garbage and jumpers’ bodies.  Like most buildings in downtown Johannesburg, it was filled with immigrants from all the over the continent.  And how many languages sounded through its hollows?  Here was a Tower of Babel for you.  With its share of murders and suicides.  And how many of the former might be based on misunderstandings?  Still, there it stood, at the heart of Johannesburg.  Even if its elevators failed, and penthouse-dwelling became something for the fittest and most patient.  The air still flowed through it, the high dry air of plateau Joburg.  This wasn’t a tenement built to crumble, vulnerable to the landlord’s torch, it was an unyielding tower of concrete, an engineering marvel, and short of being targeted by hijacked jetliners (and even that might not do the trick against a hollow tower) it wasn’t going anywhere.  Someone was going to live in it.  Some arrangement had to be made.  Some accommodation.  Room for everyone.