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A short essay describing my childhood escape.
A young college student waiting for her A in English.
We rode our bikes there everyday. We spent the entire day waiting for the moment we could jump off the grown-up-sized bus steps and pedal our bikes like the wind three streets away to, our adventure land—the ditch. We parked our bikes behind the water pump station, squealing with fright at the grinding sound it made inside. We traipsed through the tall grasses and weeds, barely made it past the snake nest and ended up at the edge of a playground for imagination.
As most places go, the ditch was not considered a tropical paradise, or even akin to a jungle safari down the Amazon. But to us, the cattails, weeping willows and rust-colored algae were transformed into a canopy of hibiscus flowers, ferns, and towering exotic trees that even scientists hadn’t named yet. We imagined the wild calls of monkeys; the caws of crows to be toucans or parakeets. To any adult it was a drainage ditch, good only for sweeping away heavy rains from the gutters. And to the adult eye the tunnels that twisted under the streets didn’t contain the ancient writings of cavemen that we considered to be there only the spray paint from mischief seeking vandals. Here, in the land of lizards and puddles, long crooked sticks were transformed into the swords of pirates and pennies were deemed hidden treasure.
In order to experience this dime-sized dream world, we had to first acquire enough balance to slide our feet down the steep concrete hill and then leap across the “river”, landing on the pile of sparkly sand we affectionately named Treasure Island. Once there, we imagined giant bass swimming rhythmically with the currents, allowing their scales to glint in the sun. In this world, all are skilled enough that anyone can catch these prizes with your bare hands. However, if we ever stopped believing in the magic of our place, the bass would suddenly transform into slimy tadpoles flopping in your hands.
The tunnels are dark and forbidding, haunted by the ghosts of children who didn’t jump far enough across the tiny trickles of water that formed a fast moving stream. Spiders crawl on the walls and frogs jump in and out of the cracks. Slimy slugs leave their trails by night and snakes slither by day. If we had the guts we could get anywhere in the neighborhood by these tunnels. The writings on the walls must be ancient—ten years old at least. We would run our hands across the passageway walls, recoiling quickly if our tiny fingers touched a wet trickle of tunnel slime.
As the sun sets, we carefully dodged the weeds and bushes, tiptoed past the snake nest, and pulled ourselves up the steep concrete slope to follow the sound of our mother’s voice calling us home for dinner. We pedaled faster than the wind so that we weren’t forbidden access to the adventuresome Treasure Island, glittering “river”, or haunted tunnels if we happened to be late.
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