BLUE ARRANGEMENTS                              about                     features               Lazy Susan            shop           

Excerpts from The Triumph of a Lonely Place

Genevieve Goffman

The First Day of the Fire

In the summer of the seventy-fifth year—after the construction of the first factory—there was a massive explosion, followed by a fire. Freakishly hot, it melted the fire retardant construction materials. The fire began in a data storage warehouse—destroyed in the first blast—then started to feed. As it reached the laboratories more explosions were triggered. It moved slowly, dwelling on and mulling over each building, burning down each office floor by floor, each warehouse item by item. The fire took its time, making sure everything burned, concrete, metal and plastic; that nothing was unscathed. Weeks later—after every structure had been reduced to ash and stripped to its foundation—the fire continued to burn.
        Although it occurred within the confines of an institution exploring the science of physics, the fire didn’t obey physics’ laws. Instead it followed zoning regulations, seemingly uninterested in spreading beyond the boundaries of land allotted to the company by town ordinances. Smoke just hung over the area. No ash fell on the town. The fruit farms were unscathed.
        Despite this the townspeople weren’t unmoved by the fire. They arrived on the first morning with blankets and water for the workers, researchers and other company employees, who’d streamed into town down the road from the factory. Some came in cars, others on foot. The fire's sluggish fastidiousness allowed the majority of the company’s employees to escape. Twenty people were believed to have died in the initial explosions. Those who survived were in shock, with some requiring medical attention. 
          Luckily Niel Han, the town’s new mayor, was on hand to manage the aftermath. He came in person to meet survivors, to hand out water and blankets before returning to his office, where he focused on managing the disaster. Han was young, handsome, and described by those who knew him as sincerely committed to his official duties. He knew—but maybe didn’t fully comprehend—that the fire was an unprecedented crisis. He’d composed a list of concrete concerns, starting with immediate safety issues, followed by the larger economic consequences for the town. Han assumed these issues would be addressed in meetings between his staff and company management. When it became clear that this assumption was incorrect, he felt a bubble of confusion morph into panic. None of the company employees seemed interested in speaking to Han, beyond expressing their gratitude for the blankets and water. Moreover, seemingly from nowhere, transportation for company survivors began appearing in the form of large, unmarked buses, which quickly whisked away employees. The military arrived shortly afterwards, further rattling the mayor’s nerves. 
          Han had a single meeting that day with a representative from the military who informed him that they’d be the ones handling the fire. All that Han needed to do was house their personnel, and make sure the townspeople stayed out of the way.

A week into the fire it became clear to the townspeople that the military wasn't overly concerned with combatting the flames. Soldiers set up a perimeter blockade, flew helicopters over the inferno but didn't dump water. They just took photographs. Military staff slept in the town’s motels and ate in local restaurants with an air of detachment. In their interactions with the townspeople they were impersonal and silent.
        While the military presence was a boon to the economy, the atmosphere it created—in conjunction with the roaring flames—was claustrophobic. Mayor Han hosted a town hall where panicked business owners and frightened parents asked questions of tight-lipped military figures. He assured the people of the town there were no health risks and the fire would soon be extinguished, but this did little to ease the growing fear and tension.


The Wall & the Gate
7 Weeks After the Fire

The fire didn’t die slowly or leave faint embers. It turned off like a light switch. Where burning offices and factories had been now lay a brilliant, diamond-hard lake. The metal of the warehouses—along with whatever unknown, obscene materials they’d stored or used—had melted in the tremendous heat. Metallic laboratory and building structures had pooled and fused, forming a mirrored, melted metal surface. This mirror stretched for miles in every direction, occasionally marred by pearlescent craters and bubbling, obsidian black beams piercing the sky. During the day the reflection of the sun on the surface was so blinding it was almost impossible to survey the damage to the site, but in the morning and evenings small areas of refuse could be seen in the distance, the peaks of the remaining ruins the fire had left behind.
        The entirety of the site was only briefly visible. After seven weeks of lazy, indefatigable burn, the fire had seen itself out, and within moments the military started building. They dug a deep moat around the metal lake, filled it with cement and rebar and began construction of a wall.
        The Wall, medieval in appearance and proportion, had no material character. Black, flat and featureless—taller than all the town’s buildings—it evoked both an annihilative future and an unknown, ancient past. The Wall’s girth was punctuated by regular, outward pointing ‘bird’s nest’ fortifications, flanking a gargantuan Gate composed of steel bars the width of tree trunks. Though it was a Gate, it did little to suggest ingress or egress.
        Once the Wall was complete, the army left town, save a small garrison of soldiers, and two members of the Army Corps of Engineers who’d been tasked with surveying the full length of the Wall. The engineers issued weekly reports. Their consistent, unchanging conclusions implied that the Wall was invulnerable. Each day they would scale it and observe the metal lake from each bird’s nest. There was growth, they noted, inside the Wall. Plants were somehow growing through the lake, or on top of it, aided perhaps by dirt or seeds that had blown over the Wall.
        These plants grew quickly. 
        In contrast, the town’s human population began shrinking. Squirrels, birds, all fauna and flora had vanished entirely.


Tess didn't know what to do with herself. She didn't know why she’d tried to hold William's hand. It had been four years since they’d kissed in the clearing beyond the Wall and they hadn’t been there together since. She’d just wanted to say goodbye in a way that felt meaningful.
        She felt so stupid. It was like a terrible stomach ache. She needed to get away from him. She ran into the Vineyard house and bolted for the cellar. It was dark, devoid of people, and full of wine. She blindly grabbed one of the bottles of wine and shoved it into her backpack, then shoved herself into a corner behind a barrel. Her father wouldn't be ready to leave for a long time, and she needed to stop crying before then. She couldn't stand the thought of driving home with her father right now. She needed a bottle opener and a way out. She needed to stop shaking.
        She’d wanted him to say goodbye in a way that acknowledged her, and her sense of who they were as friends. But of course, he found her revolting. He had for years. Deep down she knew that, but she hadn't wanted to admit it to herself.
        When they were fourteen—and he’d gotten sick after they kissed—she’d tried visiting him at the hospital and was told that he didn't want to see anyone. When he returned to school, he’d seemed bored and listless. Sometimes, if he was in a good mood, he’d walk her all the way home, but he never held her hand. He never suggested going over the Gate. If she tried to bring it up, he’d roll his eyes. She’d tried putting it out of her mind too. She’d stopped going, even though she missed the place in a tangible, intense way. But, she’d wanted to be around William more.
        Now she knew that he just didn't want to be near her. He was leaving, so she would too. She wiped her face on her sleeve and rose to go. She just needed a bottle opener. They were easy to find.
        As she snuck out the cellar’s back door stairs she saw William above, highlighted in the porchlight. She desperately wanted him to see her, maybe try to stop her, but he didn't look down. She heard Charlotte's voice, and she ran.
        It’d been so long that she wondered if she would remember the way. She was wearing a dress, too. In an attempt to look cute for William’s party she’d put on a soft green polo dress. Thankfully it wasn't so tight or drapey that climbing was impossible, it was just very ungraceful. She pulled herself over the Gate. The moment her feet touched the ground on the other side her breathing eased, and whatever had been tight inside her chest softened. She uncorked the wine and took a deep swig. She’d come to love the taste of Okonsis wine; soft, red and bitter but still light on her tongue.
        She remembered the moments of stolen time she and William had shared. She drank more. Had they still been pretending to search for Rosie then? No, she supposed they’d been too old. William was always terrified of seeming immature, but it had been his idea to search for Rosie out here. She was drinking quickly now, feeling tipsy and not crying. She was trying to find her way back to their spot, but it had been so long and they’d almost never gone at night. She needed to sit down so she sat, and kept drinking.
        She wondered if William had been right and Rosie had gotten stuck back here. This palace and its creatures could explain why her town had no pets. Something had probably dragged Rosie here then eaten her. She choked back another sob and took another long swig. She hadn't eaten anything at the dinner and now she felt a little ill. Maybe Rosie and the cats had gotten lost back here. Maybe this place was better for them.
        “Rosie? Rosie?” she called, rising to her feet and stumbling slightly. What if she found that old dog, all these years later, turned wild.
        “Rosie?” she called again.
        “Hello,” said a voice behind her.
        Turning around, Tess thought for a split second that she’d found William’s old lost pet. Then she focused on what she was speaking to and screamed. In front of her, a towering white dog stood on its hind legs, long clawed forearms dangling at its side.

21 Years After the Fire

Tess screamed and threw the bottle of wine straight at the creature's chest. It bounced off with a thud, splashing red all over its white fur. Tess tried to run but drunkenly fell down. She expected to feel claws or teeth digging into her, but instead heard a sound she was very familiar with; sobbing.
        Tess got up. The creature was squatting down, tilting its head from side to side trying to lick the red wine stain from its fur. Tears were pouring from its eyes and dripping off its muzzle. Tess staired. Then not knowing what else to do she tottered over to the creature and started wiping away the wine with the sleeve of her dress. It wasn't very effective, but something about the motion she was making, like petting an actual dog felt soothing.
        The creature looked down into Tess’s face and, hiccupping slightly, said,
        “You scared me.”
        “I’m sorry,” said Tess. “I was startled. I didn’t expect anyone… anything,” she was struggling for words. “To be out here.”
        “Then why were you calling for someone?” the dog creature asked.
        Tess didn’t know how to respond. “Why did you answer?”
        The creature put its paws over its nose, bobbing its head in something like an embarrassed shrug and said,
        “My name could have been Rosie.”
        Her name wasn’t Rosie though. She was awe inspiring. Tess called her Rose. Rose was like a dog, with red eyes, red ears and antlers. She walked upright on long, jackrabbit hind legs.
        Rose was very smart. She had a lot to tell Tess, and Tess believed everything she was told. Rose told Tess to leave her clothes by the Wall so that she could change right after crossing the Gate and to shower immediately when she got home. She instructed Tess to return every object that she’d taken to the other side of the Wall. Tess regretfully acquiesced.
        “Even so,” said Rose, “crossing over may kill you.”
        Tess believed her but did it anyway.
        After meeting Rose, Tess spent as much time as she could on the other side of the Wall. Tess thought she and William had traveled far and deep, but Rose showed her that they’d barely scratched the surface. Deep in the thickets, Rose showed Tess a metal platform that still stood high, supported by wilted metal beams. It was both a shelter and lookout post. She could crawl under the platform, easily climb one particularly mutilated beam to the top, and survey the brush all around her. This became her new camp.
        Rose was a much better friend than William had been. She always knew when Tess climbed over the Gate and always found her. She communicated with all the other creatures that lived within the Wall’s domain.
        Rose taught Tess how to call the squirlings by whistling through her teeth, but Tess was disturbed to learn that Rose ate them.
        “Why do they talk to you then?” Tess asked.
        “They aren’t very smart.” Rose said.
        The birds were smarter, and Rose never tried eating them, but she spoke to the ones who flew down to visit her and Tess in their shelter. When Tess showed her the feather William had stolen from the Black Bird long ago, Rose was horrified. She told Tess to hold out her arm. Tess complied and Rose let out a sharp, whistling bark. The Bird landed heavily on Tess's arm, glaring at her out of its blackness. Its claws dug painfully into her skin. Tess held up the feather for the Bird who took it in its beak, nodded once then flew away.
        Tess’s only problem was the motel. It was summer which meant her father expected her to work from four—when the bar opened—until ten when the night shift man arrived.
        She began waking up at 5 a.m. to make it over the Wall and back in time for work. Early morning was the best time on the other side of the Wall, that was when all the animals were the most active; or at least the ones Rose let her meet.
        Sometimes Rose would suddenly bend and touch her muzzle to Tess’s shoulder, silently indicating she should freeze. Tess could sense her fear. They would wait like this for long periods of time. Rose was a good two feet taller than most men. Tess didn’t like to imagine meeting an animal that would frighten Rose.
        Once fall came, Tess’s life improved. Her school had been closed due to a lack of students. She was supposed to be taking the bus to another town to finish high school, but she never filled out the paperwork and her father, busy balancing two businesses, didn’t notice. Tess happily slipped through the cracks.
        She made it to December spending almost every day behind the Wall. She barely saw her father. His bar was doing quite well, all things considered, but the motel was failing. When Tess told Rose about the motel, she asked for photographs and spent a long time examining the “animal” heads. Eventually, very conclusively, she said,
        “None of these are real.”
        “I know,” said Tess.
        “Though that cow beast looks like something that could’ve been real once.”
        “I know,” said Tess. “I named it Milky Way”
        “That’s nice,” said Rose, “a good name.”
        Winter beyond the Gate was bleak. Many of the animals were asleep underground. Tess and Rose often just huddled in their shelter. But it was less lonely than most winters Tess had experienced. She taught herself to knit with the idea of making small sweaters, and seeing if the squirlings might wear them. To her amusement they did. She knit one for Rose who seemed to treasure it, although she never wore it. At Christmas, Tess forced herself to stay home with her father. She didn’t want him to be alone. It was painful. She made up stories about school friends who didn't exist. Her lies seemed to make him happy. She was glad that, at least, he hadn’t suggested going to the Vineyard as in years past.


Geneveive Goffman is GENEVIEVE GOFFMAN was born in Washington D.C. and is based in New York City. She graduated from Yale MFA Sculpture in 2020. Goffman's recent solo exhibitions include The Triumph Of A Lonely Place at Espace Maurice in Montreal, Canada; Before It all Went Wrong at Hyacinth Gallery in New York in 2022; Grind at Money Gallery in St Petersburg, RU, 2021; Here Forever at Alyssa Davis Gallery, New York, NY, 2020. She has also shown work with Petzel Gallery, Blade Study, Eyes Never Sleep, Canada Gallery, Thierry Goldberg Gallery, Fragment Gallery, Lubov and Foreign and Domestic in New York, EXILE in Vienna, Austria, Lilly Roberts in Paris France, Patara Gallery in Tbilisi, Georgia, Workroom.Daipyat in Voronezh, Russia, and Harkawik in Los Angeles. Goffman’s installation, The View, was exhibited in 2023 at the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna Austria. Goffman has exhibited at NADA x Foreland in 2021 and Nada Warsaw with Alyssa Davis Gallery in 2024. Goffman’s First book The Triumph of a Lonely Place was published in 2024 by Inpatient Press.