Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Urban Secret Passage

Once upon a time there was this girl, and for hazy but unpleasant reasons she had to go away and live somewhere dreary and cold. England maybe. The house, more like Manor actually, was large and old and had way too many rooms. Her room was in the corner of course, and had not been lived in for Some Time. Being a little girl left all alone with a healthy curiousity she had to explore her room in the corner's corners, which were dusty and untouched for years and years and years.

Here's where all the movies and TV shows and episodes of Scooby-Doo get it wrong, because the wall doesn't give away in easy victory but groans and grunts and struggles so hard against being opened that the girl has to sweat to get what she wants. Even when she's opened the doorway to who-knows-where she isn't rewarded. There are no convenient torches on the wall to light her way. She has to struggle against damp moldy air, dust, cobwebs, and the possibility of discovering that missing ancestor.

I can't remember where I read that story, or maybe I just got over imaginative with Clue, but I know as a girl I looked for those secret passageways. My house was old and creaky and leaked in the rain, but I lived in Southern California and though there were strange deep closets they didn't lead anywhere. Then I got older, and secret passageways didn't matter so much as SATs and AP tests.

And I'm walking back home from somewhere and the alleyway catches my eye and I have to stop and look and then do a little thinking. Because why does the alleyway stop me when that tree with the pretty white flowers warranted only a smile?

I take a picture. I think.

The alleyway is a different creature from the sidewalk. When you walk down an alleyway you see little houses and apartment buildings that were hidden from the front. The cracked concrete and broken furniture can be treacherous, and you stand at more than a little risk of stumbling across something unpleasant.

I like to use the alleyway to pass unnoticed from place to place, or just to stop and stare and wonder how far they go, whose backyards they reveal, and where they end.

So here were my Secret Passageways the whole time.

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