The first time I saw the alley, I was nine years old. My mother and father were fighting, and I ran out of our rented brownstone in tears. Their voices jangled in my ears like glass on paving stones. At the corner I turned right instead of left, and there it was.
The entrance was not hidden or obscured in any way, but there was something off-putting about the dim, grimy passageway that discouraged investigation. I had certainly never been there before. I was not allowed past the front yard alone. And yet, I knew this place, these sagging walls, the vacant stares of the bricked up windows.
I did not go in. I stood for a long time, gathering my courage, until my father found me and took me back inside. I fell asleep that night to the sound of hushed arguments and water dripping on asphalt.
I saw the alley again when I was fifteen, passing it by on my way to the bus station, and a third time two years later. That night James knifed a man while I held the door. It was all on the surveillance tape, our faces clear against the backdrop of grainy shadows. James ran off, and I looked for someplace to lay low. There, between two storefronts I had passed a hundred times, the alley beckoned.
It was a good place to hide: a place away. I was cold and probably more than a little high. It is very hard to remember those days. But I lingered there too long. James found me staring at nothing and drew me away with laughter rooted in the absolute. His presence was an anchor.
I am thinking of him now while you are sleeping, sweat-sweet and still tangled in the sheets, because the alley was there this morning when I woke. I can see it now, a dark opening in the garden wall. If I tread softly, I can slip out the back door without waking you.
This post was written in response to two writing prompts.
The Trifecta Writing Challenge prompt:
You should write a creative response using the given word. You must use the word in your response, and you must use it correctly. Your response can be no fewer than 33 and no more than 333 words. This week’s word is:
1: a garden or park walk bordered by trees or bushes
2a (1) : a grassed enclosure for bowling or skittles
(2) : a hardwood lane for bowling; also : a room or building housing a group of such lanes
b : the space on each side of a tennis doubles court between the sideline and the service sideline
By the way, if you haven’t seen it, check out my list of past Trifecta and Trifextra winners!
The Write On Edge prompt:
This week, write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece where fate plays a prominent role. You can write from the position of a complete belief or absolute disbelief in the role of fate in our lives or the lives of our characters.