Laneways are for hidden things. For hiding things. When you grow weary of the city step into the shadow of a narrow lane and you will become invisible, I promise you. The sunlight will lose sight of your face, for just a moment, and you will slip through.
You are in here now. In the silence, and the stillness. Don’t sit down though, on that milk crate or that gummy door step. Keep moving. But slowly, slowly. Because laneways are also for finding things. You might think I’m being metaphorical, and there’s that too. But I mean real things. A Coke can crushed into the shape of a heart. A rose petal floating on an iridescent puddle. A cigarette lighter that still has some spark. If you are looking-but-not-looking you might find other things as well — a discarded lotto ticket, the glossy feather of an unfamiliar bird. Look up: ballet shoes dangling from the power lines.
Certain things will seem too insignificant to matter, as if their presence is to be expected. Surely every laneway in this city is strewn with old bolts and rusted nails, with bottle caps and broken glass? The glass pops and crunches underfoot, one step closer to becoming glitter. This city is paved in glitter.
The longer you linger, the more you will discover. Linger long enough and you will become invisible even to yourself. What will you discover then? A play of colour between the graffiti and the rubbish bins? A luminous alchemy of sunwashed stone and shadowed brick? You might perceive patterns in the cracked concrete, or see for the first time the weeds and wildflowers at the edge of everything.
Metal washers, plastic straws, a curl of orange twine. A leather glove, a pink ribbon tied around a drainage pipe.
You will put some things in your pocket; you will leave other things behind. Most things you will leave behind. But you will take those things with you, too. And here I am being metaphorical, and also not. For once you have seen a rose petal drifting in an oily puddle — I mean have really seen it; have watched the clouds float by until your petal has sailed a thousand skies; have learned to tell the tides from the slightest stirring of a breeze — once you have known these things, they belong to you. And you belong to them. Even as you slip from shadow once more into light, as you cross the busy intersection and are swallowed up by spectacle, you remain one with all that is hidden — and all that is waiting to be found.
Originally published in Story Cities: A City Guide for the Imagination by Arachne Press.