The White Room by Andrew Fowler

The fifth floor of the building across the way from me is made up of one large, empty room with whitewashed walls. Equally spaced columns support the ceiling, dividing the room into equally sized quadrants. At the center of each quadrant is a single hanging fluorescent light. There is no furniture, just an empty, clean tile floor. No one can ever be seen inside. Once I saw a cleaning woman with a long-handled broom sweeping the floor late at night, but that was months ago. I’ve stayed up at night waiting for her to reappear, but she has remained absent.

In daytime, the lights are off, and I can see the afternoon sun casting long shadows across the floor. Every night the lights turn on around sunset. But I’ve never seen them turn on. I always seem to be either seconds too early or too late. At the eastern and western ends of the room, the lights are always shut off. One assumes that the door to this room is in one of these darkened spaces, but we don’t know.

The white room is a null point, a blank spot in the heart of a city known for its chaos and unpredictability and for its constant movement and action. In this way, perhaps, it is truly in keeping with the city’s spirit of impossibility and perpetual contradiction. The unseeable hierarchs, the gilded elites that glide through the metropolis in chauffeured Mercedes-Benzes, have reserved this place for its elision, its sense of void. The taxi drivers and food vendors in my street all tell the same myth: when a citizen of the city dies, its soul passes through the white room before being reabsorbed into the cycle of reincarnation. The white room is a reception area, a quiet coffee break for unnamed spirits in the process of rebirth, a single degree point on the endlessly rotating wheel of samsara.

Andrew Fowler is a Middle America-born, Bangkok-based writer and editor. He screams into the void at Subject/Object (