By KAELA LIU
“There’s a secret door behind that fence.”
“No there isn’t!” I answered, rolling my eyes. Last week it was the hidden door in the park restroom.
We crossed the corner into an unfamiliar cul-de-sac. I had long since lost track of where we were walking, preferring instead to mindlessly track the rhythm of my pace with respect to my brother’s, his stride longer and faster than mine.
“There is– “ He smiled, “And behind that door, there’s a staircase that leads straight to a secret bunker–”
“Seriously, a secret bunker?” I groaned.
“I’m not kidding! There’s a secret bunker with a plane that takes you directly to Greenland.”
“There’s no plane!” I giggled. Sometimes I wondered whether these stories were for his amusement or mine.
“Show me…!” I said playfully, “If it’s real, I want to see this place.”
“Well, the thing is,” he replied with a grin. “The plane only flies on days starting with a ‘T.’”
“So, Tuesday and Thursday?”
It was currently a Friday.
“Well then we should go on Tuesday!”
“We could, but we have to get the key first.”
“Seriously, a key?”
“Yep. It’s in one of those birdhouses on the Greenbelt.”
“Which one? Show me!”
“Sadly, it’s only visible for people who aren’t annoying, so you wouldn’t be able to find it.”
“Can you see it?”
I groaned. “Is that why I couldn’t find the door to that room in that bathroom?”
“Well, no. That door only opens if you run fast enough around the bathroom. Remember how I went in last time?”
“No? You were literally just hiding. I didn’t hear you run.”
“That’s ‘cause I was levitating, so you couldn’t hear my feet on the ground.”
I shook my head, laughing. Last week on our walk, my brother had mysteriously disappeared for a few minutes, only to reemerge claiming that he had entered a secret room in the park’s restroom stall.
My brother’s stories would vary from ever so slightly plausible to absolutely ludicrous. Yet, sometimes I wondered what it’d be like if they were actually true.
Sure, maybe a secret plane flying directly to Greenland was a bit much, but every so often in the back of my mind, I still find myself asking “what if?”
Because what if it was possible?
To step through a secret door back into a time filled with magic, innocence, and, most importantly, belief. To jump back into a fantasy land where the secret rooms appeared only upon a random act or on a random date. To return to a time where the line between fact and fiction would blurr, flicker, and fade and the stories you told one another would blossom into real life.
Back to the time when we imagined our reality.
The backyard slope, covered in pine needles – a vast ocean that we could only journey across on our pine leaf stalks that curved conveniently at the tip, allowing for a perfect makeshift boat to scoot down our slowly eroding slope.
The bushes, a vast private mansion with multiple rooms: a kitchen, bedrooms, and even a dining room. The branches roughly torn apart and shoved aside to make rooms that we could just barely sit in, our knees folded up to our chins.
The weirdly shaped bush at the park. A cave to take refuge from the cold, windy weather, with a backdoor tunnel leading to several secret rooms under the bushes, each generously stocked with peppercorns from a nearby tree.
But there had always been a missing part: he was never there with us.
Why? Homework. Lessons. Piano.
It often felt as though my brother, only 6 years older, lived a different life than me.
It wasn’t until his last year of high school with the absence of competitions and college applications that I really got to spend quality time with my brother again, which would often take the form of long and complex walks looping through the numerous neighborhoods and townhouses around our home in which Google Maps became a must.
It was then that we let our imaginations loose again. Him, spinning crazy stories for our entertainment, and me, half playing along while trying to debunk his absurd claims by demanding proof.
But the truth is, I didn’t really want proof.
As time would pause, everything around us silent except for the soft thumps of our footsteps, the gentle rumble of passing cars, and the rustle of the trees against the crisp evening air. I would yearn to return to a time where I did believe. Where his word was truth, because he was my older brother, and what reason was there for a secret door to not be real?