Monday, 18 April 2011



"Everything is a gate," you once said to me, and your words are some of the few things I have managed to hold onto.

In all my walks I could not ever recall seeing your gallery until that January evening. I do not know how I could have overlooked it. You were in there at your reception desk, reading a book, with a large mauve sun hat and a drapery of long black hair. I surveyed the collection of newly made antiques, the new paintings of old myths and the nostalgic pottery. I complimented your collection and left.

I began to visit regularly. I told you it was a sure sign of my old age that I spent my after-work walks seriously perusing a gallery of expensive imitations and Southwestern-themed niceties. You laughed then beckoned me to the backroom with your bejeweled fingers. You had a secret to share, you said.

You presented a dusty painting of a "magic ring," a painting, you insisted, that was authentically old. This was your most valuable possession, you said, and for whatever reason you passed it into my hands and insisted I go home with it. "With this, you will have access to every entrance in the city, and you will leave no trace of your break-ins," you said. "You will become invisible."

On my next walk I decided to test your forewarning in the hopes of joking about it on my next visit. To my surprise, my first attempt, the locked Joey's Barber Shop, gave way, and I stood flabbergasted amongst the unwatched combs and hair gels. I felt very alarmed and ensured I left everything as I had found it. Could this work everywhere? I wondered.

My curiosity got the best of me and I went on a night-time prowl with my newfound power. I learned the contents of private storage spaces; I tiptoed through countless apartments; I toured the gemstones exhibit at the natural history museum. I was entirely unaccounted for. I had access to a secret world. I began to know the innards of a city that, until now, I only saw from the outside. Now I was deep within.

I expected my mischief would catch up to me. I awaited police phone calls or security team apprehensions, but no matter how many cameras saw me, no matter how many alarm systems I ghostily passed through, I heard nothing. As you said, I had become invisible.

Inspired, I lived out an early childhood fantasy and made slight disturbances across the city. I skipped work to restyle and reconfigure mannequins in the Macys storefront. I missed appointments to move cars. I stole the finest wines. No matter how much I altered, I was neither seen nor stopped. In daylight and under moonlight, I may as well have been thin air.

The city took on the feel of a ruin: open and accessible, marked by inhabitance but mine to explore without witness or admonition. I was the chartered tourist of distant lives.

After my intrusion bender, I returned to your gallery to talk but could not get in. The door was locked. You were in there talking with a new customer. I saw you presenting to her the most terrifying thing: an ancient portrait of a man who looked very much like myself. I knocked loudly on the glass, shouting and questioning. You turned your gaze to mine, smiled, and then resumed your conversation.

I returned to my apartment for the first time in days, and was locked out of my own home, too. I made every attempt to enter, and called every contact I could — landlord, neighbors, police — to no answer. I realized, then, what you had done to me: in granting me access to every door, you shut me out from my life. In letting me plumb the worlds within our world, I had ceased to exist as I was.

To this day, I remain shut away from my old life. The unsold painting stands in your window. My likeness mocks me from behind glass.

I have lost interest in breaking indoors. I kick up dust in alley ways and look at the lives still lived, defined by what they can and cannot access, as I slink between gates and barriers, the bottom feeder of a common abyss.

1 comment:

  1. It's admirable that Protagonist is/was able to resist the all-too-common compulsion to respond to Total Access into Private Places with overt perversion. If you look at the statistics for what people would do if granted the power of invisibility (which I figure is along the same lines as Skeleton Key-ing), it makes one shudder to look upon all the manifested criminality of the sexual type.