Adam’s sister May’s room, in sharp contrast to his room of dark wood and red curtains (and secret stairs in the closet), was a sea of blue and white. There were no dark corners or secret tunnels and stairs in Adam’s sister May’s room, only light reflecting off of mirrored surfaces. Crowding her bed, her shelves, and her little homework desk lived an all-female army of dolls. May was their benevolent leader, and she posed them and dressed them for at least two-hour stretches at a time. May’s imagination held no fear and possessed no borders. When Adam was frightened of ghost slaves making the stairs in his closet creak or of thunder or moonless nights, May held his hand and turned his fear to wonder. She was the adventurous one, the older one, the one who choreographed their long summer afternoons when their mother was asleep in her room and their father was working downtown.
One of those long afternoons, when Adam and his sister had exhausted themselves from pretending to be fairies and trolls and wizards in the basement, May suggested that they go outside to play. The day wasn’t too hot and their mother was entertaining fancy-looking women in her pink and black parlor. May and Adam were instructed to be quiet, play in the attic, build something, just stay out of the parlor and the foyer and might as well stay out of the dining room, too. Usually when their mother gave them such grave instructions they took them lightly, closed the pocket doors that separated the adult world from the children’s world (but not all the way, they always left a crack open to eavesdrop if they grew bored with their own games), and played either together or individually upstairs in their rooms. Sometimes they played on the hall swing upstairs, and sometimes May tried to convince Adam to take the secret stairs down to the basement and out the crawlspace door to their small but tidily landscaped yard. Adam always shied away from the steps, though he kept a small crate of metal army men on the small, rough pine landing. He wanted to mark the spot as his and his own, even if his closet frightened him so much that when he thought of the yawning chasm it led to his bladder grew weak and wobbly.
So that afternoon, while their mother was laughing a bit stiffly and nibbling at store-bought cookies in the parlor (her hair was even combed and swooped up into a youthful Gibson girl style), May and Adam crept out the French doors that led from the sunroom and began to walk in their neighborhood alone. They weren’t allowed to do this, their mother was lax with their activities and ventures inside their huge house, but since the city they lived in was big, and sometimes bad, they were not allowed out unchaperoned. And because their mother was afraid of most of the world outside, they weren’t allowed much freedom outside at all. But May had itchy feet that summer, and she was almost twelve, so there was no stopping her. Adam in his memory told himself that he had tried to stop her, that he was the good one and the one who always listened to his mother and father, but really he always just went along with whatever May said that they were going to do. He was just quieter than she, more frightened. For as full of shadows and and dark halls as his house was, he still felt safe inside for the most part. The world outside seemed like a cave that went on forever, and he didn’t feel brave at all. But he went along, because May was going.
The image is via Forgotten Detroit, and though the fictional Adam grew up in Ohio, I just thought this hall/image looked too much like his house not to share.