Laneways aren’t like other paths. They’re special. Magical.
I have always lived in an older area, so there are lots of laneways around. I used to walk past them on the way to school, on the way to the shops or friend’s houses. And of course, sometimes I would walk down them, or up them. They are gaps between properties, between buildings. But they always feel like more than that. Like gaps between worlds. Or even other worlds themselves. They are always different from the streets at the top or bottom of them. They are always darker, colder and quieter. And some are always windy, even on a still day. They feel different, like you could be in another world. And they are dangerous. We were always warned about them. Watch for strangers lurking near the lane, and if you see a stranger walking towards you, turn around and walk back to the street. And never play in the lanes (though we did).
And so, with these warnings echoing in your head (even now), you’d walk down (or up) the lane with a feeling of anxious anticipation. What would be waiting at the end? Would you even reach the end? And what would you come across on the way? Fairies, pixies and elves? Wolves in girl’s clothing? Would the path change, become other and lead you into another world? Anything seemed possible. So much so, that we used to dare each other to walk down (or up) the lane alone. Sometimes we’d dare ourselves. A lane was an adventure, waiting to be had.
There are laneways in the city too and most of these are fairly ordinary, just like smaller streets, but there are a few, tucked away, off the main streets that carry that magical feeling. Well there were anyway. Ones that I’d visit as a child and once you’d stepped into them, you could feel it. The sights, sounds and smells of the city seemed duller somehow. The shops that populated these lanes felt different too. They were small, dark, specialty shops, run by interesting people, selling interesting things. We used to go to a café in one of these lanes. It was called Mr Gordon’s. It was tiny, and dark and every wall was covered in art, which was for sale. It felt otherworldly. I loved it. Even when I was older and worked in the city, some of the lanes that led to the alleys that led to the backs of the buildings where I worked had that magical feeling. The alleys didn’t. The alleys were just dirty and dangerous for a completely different reason. But the lanes… I don’t know if they still exist or if they do, are still magical. I hope so.
The lanes where I live are still there, and even now when I walk past them I can still feel their magic. I still hear myself daring me to go into them. The lanes are still an adventure. Where the gaps between worlds are blurred. Where anything is possible.
I think I need to go for a walk.