The sign lay in the grass proclaiming “Sidewalk Closed”. I stood staring confusedly at the sign. You can’t just proclaim something is closed if it doesn’t exist. What gives you the right to enforce rules on something outside of your control? I walked past the sign each day for a week, unable to think about much else. How did the sign get there? Did it know it was irrelevant, no sidewalk existed for it to close. Unless…hmm…maybe…I begin using my hands to yank the grass away. All I see is dirt, so I begin digging my fingernails into the ground. Fingers almost bloodied by the effort, dirt so far underneath my nail beds, it was as if the dirt was now the nail. Then I felt the scrape of concrete against my fingertips.
At that moment I knew, the sidewalk existed, I just couldn’t see it. The sign had led me to it. Why though? Had it been closed and then swallowed by earth, or swallowed and then closed? Why did no one care enough to rescue it? How long had it been hiding there, invisible to anyone who passed only to be found by me? I had to uncover more, know more. I was now connected to this path, this path that only I cared enough to see. I made a promise to come back each morning, shovel in hand to clear another section of path. With each part discovered, I fell a little more in love with it. It had taken me so far away from home, it became my home. I fell asleep against it each night, woke to it each morning. Admired the beauty surrounding it. Appreciated the peace it brought me. I didn’t want to share it. It was my secret path.
The path obliged my wants. As I looked back, I noticed the earth had again swallowed each uncovered section. No one would know I had been there, no one would know the sidewalk existed. I had left the sign back at the beginning, and I knew no one else would take the time to notice it, no one cared as much as me. The path led me to the places I most wanted to see. We anticipated each others steps moments before we took them, an elegant dance so in sync it was unclear who was leading. It hooked around blind corners I may have been scared to take without its steady reassurance. I trusted innately, fear a distant memory.
I had long ago stopped uncovering the path, for I could sense its existence, magnets pulling each other along, connected with each step. My clothes were tattered, shoes worn through. Time became a foreign language I couldn’t understand. I had grown older, the wrinkles slowly covering my hands like vines creeping around lattice. My pace a labored stroll, the path beneath softening the slower I became. Sadness blanketed me. I knew my feet wouldn’t be able to carry me much further. I raised my eyes and noticed a clearing, a sharp drop off at the end. The path was coming to an end yet sadness began to lift, a feeling of hope replacing it. I rubbed my tired eyes and in a moment of clarity, I noticed a man, salt and pepper beard, brown weathered skin, resting against a fallen tree that lay horizontal to the ground. He looked at me with his gentle eyes, relief on his face. I took the last three steps I could manage, and collapsed into strong arms, as if the branches from the tree itself had wrapped themselves around me. We sunk into each other, finally reaching our destination.
“You found me.”