Say My Name
A ripple of applause fills the room as a man I recognize as Jackson’s companion from the stairs takes the stage and introduces himself as Michael Prado, the documentary’s director.
“As many of you may know, I serve on the board of the National Historic and Architectural Conservation Project, and in that capacity it has been my privilege to observe the growth of many talented young architects. Some display raw talent. Some, a keen business sense. Still others have an innate ability to mesh form and function, location and purpose. Only once, however, have I seen all those attributes embodied in one man. And that man is here tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Jackson Steele.”
There is considerably more applause as Jackson takes the steps two at a time, then waves at the audience before shaking Prado’s hand.
“Thank you all for the warm welcome,” he says as he takes the mike. “And thank you, Michael, for your incredibly generous words. As you might realize,” he continues, turning so that he faces the audience without putting his back to the director, “a documentary of the nature that Michael has put together is an extremely invasive beast. And I say that with the utmost respect and affection,” he adds as the audience laughs.
“He’s trying to say that I got in his way,” Michael jokes.
“Or that I got in his,” Jackson says, handling the audience with undeniable skill. “But seriously, I owe this man a great debt. This documentary was in the works even prior to the board of the Amsterdam Contemporary Art and Science Coalition choosing my design for their museum. And while I can’t say that I was prepared to have my process so fully scrutinized, I can say that the experience has been both educational and rewarding. I’ve had the luxury of seeing my work through another’s eyes. That is a rare gift and one that should not be squandered. It taught me to respect my vision, but also to open my eyes.”
I am riveted as I watch him, so personable, so comfortable in front of a crowd.
He shifts on the stage so that he seems to look at everyone in the audience. “And now I am pleased to welcome you to the US premier of Stone and Steele, and to offer you this glimpse into another type of joint work. Michael Prado’s interpretation of the trials, tribulations, and successes that surrounded the funding, building, dedication, and opening of the celebrated—some might say infamous—Amsterdam Art and Science Museum.”
He pauses as the audience applauds once more, and it strikes me how much he reminds me of Damien Stark. Not only in appearance—they both share a dark, masculine beauty—but in his ability to handle the spotlight and draw people in. If he were ending with a sales pitch, I’m entirely certain that he would rake in a million tonight.
But there is no sales pitch. Tonight is a celebration, and after a few more words about the history of the project, Jackson invites the audience to settle in and enjoy the show.
The lights dim, the curtain parts, and I lean back in my seat as the music swells and the screen fills with motion and light. The camera rises in a magnificent shot that starts at the ground, then climbs faster and faster, rising up the now-iconic smooth edge of the museum to ultimately flare out as blue sky and sun fill the frame.
The screen turns a blinding white that dissolves into a title sequence and then a close-up of Jackson, his hair ruffling in the wind and his jeans tight on well-muscled thighs as he leans over a table littered with blueprints. He is deep in conversation with another man, but their words are muffled beneath the precise, careful voice of the narrator.
I watch, mesmerized by the man on the screen. By the passion and precision of his movements. He is absorbed by his work, compelled by it. There is power in what he does. Majesty, even magic.
And the depth of emotion I see on his face makes my skin heat and my heart pound in my chest.
I have seen that same fire, that same determination. I have seen joy and rapture. I have held him close and felt his heat, and I have been burned by the intensity of this man.
My chest aches and my hands begin to hurt. I realize that I am clutching the armrests too tightly. More, I have been holding my breath.
Air, I think as I start to stand. I just need to get to the lobby. Maybe hit the ladies’ room and splash some cold water on my face.
But as I start to lever myself out of the seat, someone slips into the chair beside me.
I haven’t seen him—don’t even turn to face him—and yet I have no doubt. How could I when my skin already tingles simply from his proximity? When the scent of his cologne surrounds me, all spice and musk and smoke?
I close my eyes and hold myself half in and half out of the chair, suddenly unsure of where I am going and why.