At the end of the River Walk there’s a bike path that shoots out of nowhere. It’s called the Dequinder Cut because that’s what it does. Cutting across neighborhoods and burnt out factory villages. Given up, willingly, to street artists. The civic canvas rides from the river to Eastern Market. A strange park. A community garden beneath express lanes. Cars speeding above, ignorant of the secret garden. A flash of green in the driver’s eye resulting in the mysterious feeling of nostalgia and deja vu until the red light signals reality.
At the mouth of the Cut is a worn factory. The glass in the windows, cracked almost too perfectly, like a Hollywood prop. The concrete hanging from the ceiling a little too eager to fall. The steel beams fallen a little too hauntingly.
I had brought my camera for a building like this. Off my bike, I ran around her like a paparazzi; the building my model, my muse. And then the building groaned and we thought we could leave.
Empty knocking echoing from behind the windows and two white kids poking their heads up over the hole in the loading dock. We stood there on our bikes watching the boys climb out of the dust and nails until they stopped. Like weird animals frozen by seeing us watching them. I asked them about their cameras and they gave me advice I couldn’t heed out of inexperience.
They told us to go in after them. Said that it was easy. I swallowed and looked at the building embarrassed and nervous as a virgin. Breaking in for the first time. Shifting from photographer to laparoscopic surgeon, careful not to damage anything inside.
We exchanged places with the boys and prepared to climb through the keyhole. They asked us where we came from on our bikes and we told them. They told us how far they drove and then asked about our neighborhood thinking it was a town they’d never heard of. When they learned the truth that we were from here, that the factory was our beloved neighbor, they backed away unsure. Asked for confirmation again, and embarrassed they retreated down the Cut to wherever they hid their car from the stories of our city.
When they had vanished so did we. Inside and invisible. Stepping into a ghost. Climbing out of God’s view in the building that sighed through every wall. In the lobby of the loading area, the ghosts played the only notes that still worked on the lopsided upright piano. The wooden keys, rotted and falling out like Washington’s teeth. The notes stuck and rang horrible and forever in the emptiness.
We explored carefully, finding money. Overwhelmed by piss and graffiti. We went until we could feel the darkness and we could sense the boogeymen of our childhoods waiting in the next silent room. Darkness that the camera flash only confirmed was solid and impenetrable.
I laid on the floor in the dust, next to the jacket and blanket left by some ghost. The goddess drawn on the wall of the cave; the headboard. Arms extended, catching dreams. The painted Saint watching some stranger sleep here—who would be here after we were done intruding.
We gasped for air together and nodded, acknowledging that we had all we could take. FATE written on a steel beam, still standing. FATE that would someday collapse.