When I was younger, I lived in a decrepit apartment (with only three or four floors) somewhere in Shanghai. The tops of these buildings were flat; often, I could see every single building in the area just by standing on the roof. I used to go there every day when it was sunny and clear. With the wind blowing my hair, I’d feel like I was one of those main characters in cartoons, ready to go on another adventure.
A small distance away from the building I was standing on was another apartment with the same flat roof. However, it was so very different from my apartment building. Compared to the colourful garden on top of our roof, the neighbouring one looked quiet and empty: it had only the grey walls of a typical old structure.
If there was anything special about that building, it was that closed door on the end. The door had very strange patterns: a swirling image of black and white, as if it was a mush of different dimensions and times. I’ve seen people on that roof, yet they never come up through that door but from another usual, worn-out one. No one ever opened that weird door, at least not that I have ever seen.
I wanted to open it, of course I did; my curiosity drove me crazy. However, whenever I stood on the edge of my rooftop and looked down, I’d see three floors of height; I could die if I miss the other side.
I’d gulp. Small, inactive me would not have jumped successfully, I thought, so I’d back off. Still I’d linger there for hours, wondering if I really should try anyway. I even took my friends up there once, and they only stared at the door as I had, hesitating in their footsteps.
What was behind the door? Would it be a portal to another world, or a demon? What if I found out that I was really a character in a show or a book, but had just never realized that? It’s scary just to think about, yet still, what was behind that door remained mysterious and intriguing to me.
After many years, even after I moved to another apartment, after I graduated from primary school, after I left China and then returned several times, I decided to visit that old old apartment one day in summer with two of my childhood friends.
It was still standing there, still looking the same. The door remained closed, and under the summer sunshine, the contrast between the liveliness and colourfulness of our garden and the empty, cracked rooftop next door seemed even bigger.
And then that question came again to me. Should I jump?
I was much taller now. I thought I’d be able to. But three floors up – if I missed, my bones would literally shatter into pieces. Yet at the same time, the curiosity was killing me.
I probably stared at the gap so intentlyy that one of my friends let out a laugh. He didn’t think at all; he just stepped up near the edge of the garden, charged and took a leap. He was over on the other side in just a blink.
Then, he opened the door – just as easy as it had seemed – but only a little bit so that only he could peek in but I could only see darkness. He laughed again, like before, and looked back at me. Without noticing my confusion, he walked into the unknown.
What had just happened? What did he see? Thanks to his wicked smile, now I was even more curious.
“You know,” the other girl started suddenly, “we could go together if you are afraid.” Unlike the boy, her face was lit up with a bright smile. Before I could even react, she took my hand and sprinted towards the gap. No, but wait! Scared, I squeezed my eyes shut. I felt my feet land on the ground, and then I was on the other side of the world.
I was way too excited and scared to even look back. I almost ran towards the door, trying to take deep breaths to calm myself down. Kata, and the door opened.
No more darkness. No more mystery. It was only a simple, tiny room with brooms and other cleaning supplies. It was nothing special, yet the door had led me to finally fulfill my childhood adventures.