What Came First

stela xhiku

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On April 9th – a Monday – I took my entire office to the Egg House. We throw interactive events and this, New York City’s first egg-themed pop up, promised to be something different. Eggs? What could they mean?

This question, I found out, is not easily answered.

The house is on a block made of restaurant depots and residential buildings. Guests enter through a yellow-plexiglass door, and do a step-and-repeat in the foyer, in front of egg-white clouds. The website encourages visitors to “interact with the background to find a delight sunny surprise.” They must mean the decal on the opposite wall, “Live life sunny side-up/ or over-easy/ or scrambled.”

Up next, the kitchen! Right this way! See this jumbo egg-carton? Sit down for a picture with your halfa-dozen friends. Another wall decal, in DMX font, spells it out: “You are an egg/ Your friends are eggs/ Keep your carton full.”

The kitchen has pink spatulas overhead, a gumball machine, and a grandfather clock painted white. On the kitchen floor: a cartoon hot dog.

Now if you’ll just follow me past the ball pit – a “pool” of yellow and white balls, with totems of parents, arms-folded, watching their kids laugh – and down the stairs.

This is the secret garden, a basement with a single swing in the shape of a cracked egg. SIT! Go on, sidddown! Enjoy our yolk-installation: an outgrowth of neon yoga balls, illuminated green by three neon cacti.

Now, after four laps around the yoga balls, making absolutely sure you cover all of the downstairs, please find the isosceles entrance into a corridor of taut bed sheets that ends with a miniature diorama of an egg in bed. This is the secret room, explained on their website as “another word for ‘speakeasy.’” This is also our introduction to Ellis, the egg who lives in the Egg House and appears like a Jay Gatsby at his own party.

His origins are even murkier and lower.

As explained over @theegghouse’s first 18 instagram posts: Ellis’s mother was a “poached egg flower” that bloomed after yellow rain and gave birth to a little egg. The egg wanted more of the world and rode ocean currents, even survived a shark attack, before reaching New York City. Here he finally earned the name ELLIS, naming himself after his own immigrant status, and became a waffle cook. He also rented a dark little apartment and liked to sleep so he could savor dreams of a nice house, an egg house, with plenty of space for entertaining.

Ellis’s story is not part of the physical experience and only comes after requisite investigating. While in the space, I had no idea I was living an egg’s dream sequence. Actually, when I was walked into his life-size bedroom, where Ellis lays (face-up or face-down, I’ll never know), and guests write in a small guest book, I was very certain that this was an entirely different thing: a wake.

Funeral etiquette kicked in and I asked the docent to take a photo of me and Ellis – me in bed, holding his departed waist. This disturbed the other guests, who had lowered their phones.

Then I drew three large circles in his guest book, testing the various pens and enjoying the movements of my wrists, before scratching an “RIP.”

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Everyone deals with grief differently and, on Friday the 13th, I find myself on Chrystie Street, walking past Ellis’ yella crypt with an ice cream cone.

The sun is setting on a line of ten-or-so people, downcast, like a chain gang. One man raises his face, “It’s called Rice to Riches,” he says. His assortment of shopping bags means there’s too much bored money. He must be on the walking tour of the worst hypothetical day of my life: Dylan’s Candy Bar, KITH, Supreme, and now Rice to Riches.

Later, at around nine-ish, I walk to the Whole Foods and find a bachelorette party at Ellis’s gate, frying their voices for the door-lady:

She’s MOVING to Japan!

Come on she’s moving!

I’m moving.

We already have the tickets!

Because I’m getting MARRIED.

We drove from New Jersey to get here.

The door lady smiles as she shakes her head “no.”

I figure she’s smiling because she knows the experience is shit, and she’s thinking she might spare these women the ugly, dreamsicle truth.

The egg house crowd, many of them wearing yellow and some with special yellow manis for the occasion, wants silliness, gets senselessness. Why, they can see it from the windows! Or from the website, written in the confused English (Ellis is communicating?) and positive mumbo you might find on a T-shirt at a Zara in Bucharest.

While they're surrounding the door, a little boy makes his slumped, bored exit. His family in a similar posture behind him. The door opens enough for these women to smell Ellis’s corpse. But still the door lady shakes her head, at this point smiling so much she wants to laugh. “I really can’t.”

The Egg House is open from April 7 to June 27. $18 General Admission.