As I mentioned in my short introduction about myself, I like to go places. I like to go to places that I’ve always gone to, places new, exotic places, and sometimes, I like to go where I’m not supposed to.
One of the places that I like to go to is a little coffee shop on the side of the highway where my friend works. It’s a nice, quaint little place, and it’s a good place to escape and pretend that you’re not in the middle of nowhere. One day when I was sitting on the porch drinking whatever kind of iced or hot chai tea that my friend made for me and exchanging stories with him, I happened to pay a little more attention to the old house on the other side of the lot.
The place looked very abandoned, and it lacked ‘no trespassing’ and ‘keep out’ signs. A curiosity festered inside of me, and I asked my friend about it.
“I dunno”, he said, “It’s just some old abandoned house.” That was enough for me. I wanted to see its secrets, so I asked him when he wanted to go and check it out.
“Erm, probably half past never,” he replied. I stared at him with unwavering eyes, making it obvious that I was looking for a different answer. “Well,” he finally said, “If you’re going to go, then you should go when it starts getting dark.” It was obvious that he was uninterested in going, but his approval of my curiosity was enough. We chatted for a bit more before he had to leave. It was still mid-afternoon and light outside, but I decided that I just couldn’t wait to go check out the old house, and the café had already been closed for a few hours, so no one was around. I made the quick drive home, grabbed my camera, put on shoes that covered my ankles, and went straight back.
In a sorry attempt to hide my light blue car from the highway, I parked in a small, shaded grove that might have been concealing if all of the foliage wasn’t dead and barren. Getting out of the car, I tromped through the knee high grass to the house.
The first thing that you notice when you walk up to this house is an old couch sitting on the front porch. It looks long-lost and forgotten, its tattered cloth and rotting cushion giving off an air of neglect and loneliness. All of the doors and windows of the main house are boarded up, but a separate kitchen and a shed were left open. An outhouse and the remains of a windmill stand out in the field, watching the absence of life in the homestead.
Every step that you take to get closer to any of these places, you take cautiously. The unattended yard has grass that grows up to your knees, and you’re never quite sure if that’s a half-buried garden hose or a snake that you almost stepped on. Something about the inside of the rooms feels forbidding, like they have created their own eyes an ears to make up for the lack of any within them.
You enter the kitchen one small step at a time, taking a moment to absorb the new perspective before you move more. At first glance the place looks wholly unoccupied. Layers of dust cover everything, the air feels stagnant, and everything generally looks like it’s been unmoved and untouched for ages. But with a little more attention, you can feel the presence of current occupants. There are eyes everywhere, and you can feel them on you as you intrude into their home.
As you move throughout the room, you try to tread lightly, promising yourself not to move anything. Apart from the unknown lurking in the shadows, there is also a sense that the objects lying everywhere have a life of their own. They feel like ghosts – abandoned, and waiting for someone who is never going to come back for them. They do not want you there. And looking at them, you start to wonder about their story, and of the story of those that lived in this place.
Whose little pink shoe was that? What happened to the child that watched ‘The Land Before Time’, or the adult who had all of the ‘Reader’s Digest’ compilation books? Why did they leave what they left, and what did they take, if they took anything at all? Where did they all go? The room gives only questions that lead to more questions. There are no answers in a place like that.
Next you go to the shed, and instantly wish that you had another light source besides your camera flash. There are even more objects in this room, and it is even more forbidding. Whatever lurks in here is not small, and it will not hide from you. The room itself warns you not to get comfy. There are chains everywhere, and a machete is kept on the ceiling. Still you want to stay, if for but a moment, trying to see all that you can see without moving too far from the entryway, to feel all that you can feel. Five steps forward is adventurous, and six makes the room unhappy. The sound of something large and mean uncoiling and starting to slither is enough to make you shiver and turn anxiously to get out.
But you can’t leave without being taken aback for a second by the beauty of the way that the light seeps through the cracks in the walls, making every effort to get in and light the room, to wipe away the dust and free the ghosts. And when you do open the door and step out, you think for a moment that you have never been happier to see the sunlight and feel a breeze.
Stepping into those rooms was like stepping into an old photograph. You aren’t supposed to be there, and you can’t wait to get out. But for the moment that you are there, there is so much to see, and feel, and wonder.
So, with one curious, old place behind me, and many more to see, I am now a professional loot-err, photographer.
I’m not a looter. After all, the only things I’m stealing are memories and shots.