Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Paths

I was late. I was always late. Saturday, the day of freedom – and I am determined to make the most of it. My friend Eric lived just a few blocks away, on the other side of the highway. Front Avenue, that barren no man’s land of windy concrete ribbon. Menacing me with its surge of traffic disappearing into the blackness of the tunnel.

I pass by the school and see the old green Range Rover, eternally parked on the street in front of the Wall of Ivy. Above, the weave of blackened steel cables twist together, bolted to the splintering poles with their loops and protrusions. Like me, they always lead somewhere, and tonight I am following them. Rounding a corner, the lights flicker on, great yellow globes suspended in the air, a harsh contrast to the fading light of the dull winter sky.

Following them along the curved concrete wall, I approach the underpass. A soft rumble crescendos to a thunderous roar, punctuated by the shriek of worn brakes or the groan of a downshifting truck. Paying no heed, I hesitantly step forward.

Dim lighting struggles to push back the growing darkness, black streaks of dirt and decay seem to fight back. Taking a deep breath, I stretch my arms out, almost able to touch both of the walls.

Hastily stepping forward, my foot falls echo in the claustrophobic space. Not able to see the end, what happens should I encounter another soul here? What if scenarios fill my head as I nervously look back over my shoulder. It grows quieter, the tunnel muffling the traffic to a low murmur, as if I am miles underground. The dripping of water fills the void as I continue this journey, and the exit grows nearer and nearer. The gentle murmur grows in intensity in tune, lending an intensity like the sound of the surf crashing on the beach as it draws ever closer.

I step out into pure blackness, the sun having set behind the hills. Suddenly, I hear a scraping sound to my right, and I turn in surprise. An old tired man edges his way down the ancient stairs, dragging a bag behind him. Looking down at me, his craggy features compliment his wizened face. Petrified, I stare at him in a mixture of fear and surprise – until I realize he is just as surprised as I to find ourselves not alone.

Muttering under his breath, he reaches the bottom of the stairs, heading into the tunnel from which I just came – the brilliance of the crystalline lights shining above in the towers on the hill, high out of reach.

I continue on.