There is a restaurant that I visit on occasion since I moved into my current house. It is a lovely establishment with a warm, comforting atmosphere, spacious seating arrangements, and the most welcoming ambiance of any place that I have ever visited.
I’ve never eaten there, but I imagine that if it had ever opened, the cuisine would have been exquisite.
Several Sundays ago, I took my usual early morning walk amidst a gentle drizzle and a slow-to-warm wind. I’ve been meaning to brush up on my photography skills but had been struggling to find the right motivation–and the right subject–to lift my dwindling hobby. What better way to do that than to stroll through my favorite (alright, alright–my only) urban exploration spot and see if there were any pockets of timeless nostalgia that I’d missed?
Reaching the restaurant was a brisk, 20-minute walk, and I skipped through my Google Music playlist, careful not to slip on the sleek, saturated asphalt. The lull of empty office parks, parking lots, and construction zones I passed contributed to the feel of an world abandoned of all its occupants, save one.
When I turned the corner of the road that led into the restaurant’s parking lot, I immediately pulled my smartphone from it arm sleeve, pausing my playlist to listen for any sounds that would trigger the need for me to hide or run. Over the roof of the restaurant, the scaffolding of a new apartment building seemed to wave at me gleefully.
I know, I thought angrily at it. New construction = more security. Authorities would be watching the space more than they had in the past. That meant that this last time visiting would, most assuredly, be my absolute last time.
Sure enough, as I sniffed imperiously and swung on my heel, I locked eyes with a camera peering at me from the awning of the main house.
I wasted no more time, plunging into the currents of the decayed landings, seeking corners and caverns that I had missed in my previous visits. Time slowed as I froze each moment in my lens, seeking tranquility in what many would call old, bacteria-ridden, forgotten, lost.
But alas, the memory of the security camera stayed fresh in my mind, and I hardly stayed ten minutes. I trudged through the tall grass, climbed the stairs back to the main parking lot, and tucked my phone back into its arm sleeve. All this was done as a large, black vehicle eased itself into the lot towards me.
A large, black police vehicle.
He lowered his window as he rolled up before me. I feigned partial interest in my earbuds, then glanced up at him as if in an afterthought.
He smiled, nice and wide. Waved.
I smiled back. Nodded.
His car accelerated, exited the lot. I plugged my buds back into my ears and pressed play on my music list.
Time, and reality, resumed once more.