It was a pinpointedly hot summer morning. Dragonflies rested together on shaded fence posts, the leaves glittering light onto their wings. My mom had just opened the blinds in my room. Her neck and shoulder cradled the landline.
“It’s Joy,” as she nudged me to turn to her, “she wants you to come over.”
I had on only my bathing suit and shorts when I looked both ways and then sauntered across the road. The ditch looked a lot deeper than it did from a car. I briefly considered walking the long way, looking right to the long winding edge of the road that lead to her neighborhood’s gate, or this ditch, that conveniently had a hole in the fence somewhere on the other side right across the street to my house.
I ran down, trying to keep caught up with my feet, into the brush. Ivy and vines and tall fluorescent green leaves canopied all around me. My tennis shoes depressed into the soggy ground. Blackberry thorns scratched against my kneecaps and ankles. Sometimes I wish I could go back to this day now. It was so hot and at the time I thought I was dying but for some reason I continually return back to it. The ravine was cool, the leaves like outstretched arms, cradling me in the earth. I was in a jungle, the leaves bounced in Oklahoma wind but it wasn’t dry and dusty, it practically glistened. Bumble bees came out and lady bugs cleaned their legs and the leaves again glittered against their wings.
The chain link fence loomed above me. I could climb it but I was scared someone would see it from the road; I couldn’t bear to get caught breaking in. Couldn’t give up the secret. And anyways Joy said that the hole was somewhere close by ...
It was a little divot in the fence, where the chain had become unattached from the ground. You could see the vines had simply torn it away, like the metal thorns had punctured the vine and it defended itself, pushed it back. I knelt down and carefully pulled at the fence. It bent freely and I squatted down, got my hair caught on it, and wedged through to the other side.
I ran then, back up the ravine and ricocheted into a neighborhood street. Joy’s house was a couple blocks down the road. Act casual now.
I made it to her house. She let me in and showed me her room.
“Look under my desk!” She said. I knelt down and there was a tiny opening with light spilling through.
“Crawl under it!” She said. I did as she instructed. Getting down on all fours, the desk canopied over me and on the other side was a little room with a slanted ceiling—that’s where the stairs on the other side were—a little pillow and blankets, markers strewn across the floor. Joy crawled in after me.
“It’s my secret room. You should draw something on the wall.”
I forget what I drew, but I was amazed she was even allowed to do it. I probably wrote something dumb like Lauren was here!! but then drew little flowers and tried to be as artistic as possible. How odd that we have to somehow prove we were in a place, like marking our territory. Or just showing that we were able to cross the threshold and make it to the other side. The tiny room was quickly engulfed in sharpie fumes so we plugged our noses with tissues and finished the drawings, crawling back out as fast as possible and then spending the rest of the afternoon planning our summer adventures.
I think about that secret tunnel and secret room a lot, and I wonder who lives there now, and if those places still exist. Does the sharpie smell of Lauren was here!! still tang the air? Or is she dissipated? With only the sounds of crumbling walls still reverberating somewhere in the universe. But it heard me running there, running over the surface of planet Earth, and somewhere now my feet touching the grass and ground echos against some asteroid or space dust. I’m terrified of that strange something we don’t know after we cross the threshold, and maybe no one will remember Lauren was here!! But if I’m heard maybe that’s enough.