Sunday, April 10, 2016
There were plenty of other kids in the neighborhood when I was small, and most of the time I played with them, but I had another friend who lived maybe three or four miles away, which meant that for us to get together, outside of school, one of us had to be driven. There wasn't, in the end, anything particularly special about our friendship, and I long ago lost track of him, though we never had a falling-out. What I really remember about him is that for a long time I had it my head that there was a trail through the woods that began somewhere not far from my house and came out near his. I don't remember why I believed this. It may have originated in a dream, perhaps a recurring one, or maybe it just arose somewhere along the permeable boundary between the real and the imaginary that often characterizes the mind in early childhood. Perhaps in some alternate world the door to which was only briefly open in those years there really was such a path.
The truth is, though, that I did live in a neighborhood largely surrounded by woods and abandoned fields, and though I knew those spaces fairly well when I was young, knew how to access them, knew what wonders or secrets they had to offer, that time is long past. I don't live there anymore, though I'm not so far away that I couldn't go back and take a look around if I really wanted to (and if the current homeowners weren't alarmed by the sight of a strange man wandering around just outside the perimeter of their back yards). In the end, though, that territory is no longer mine. It was a child's world, defined by coordinates of time and space that I've long since breached.
There were trails through those woods, and no doubt there still are, though they may be different from the ones I knew. The curious thing is that of all those pathways now closed off forever the one I remember the clearest is the one that never existed at all.