Hidden City

Luna leaned against the window of the car as they drove, watching the drab people in their drab clothes walking down drab sidewalks. There were bags of trash piled up on the curb, the remains of old flyers stuck to every pole, and graffiti everywhere. They pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall with two noodle places, a taco place, a sandwich place, a Korean grocery, and a small corner store. Luna heard the car get put into park, the brake engage and the car stopped vibrating.

“Come on.” Her mom said, opening the door. “You can’t stay in the car.” The door shut.

Luna sighed and got out. She sulked behind her mother toward another, non-korean, grocery store. “I don’t want to go shopping,” she whined.

“Whatever. Just stay here.”

Luna was left alone, but not really, all these strangers around her. She turned toward the wall and picked at the paint, forming a small pile of blue on the gray sidewalk. There was a crack running down the wall, a good six feet high at least. Luna ran her finger down all the bumps, from the top where it was so small that she could barely feel it, down to the bottom, where it was almost as wide as her finger.

“There’s magic in that crack, you know.”

Luna turned around to find an old woman standing behind her, wearing a brown coat and black pants, with gray, curling hair. The old woman was smiling and Luna felt oddly comfortable,

“What, is a unicorn going to come out?” Luna asked.

“No,” said the old woman, her brow furrowing, “At least, I don’t think so, I’ve never seen a unicorn in there. But maybe; maybe that’s why they’re so happy all the time, I know I would be happier if I got to ride a unicorn.”

“Why who is happy?”

“The people in the city.”

Luna gave the old woman a look of sarcastic disbelief, a look that all children seem to have in their arsenal. The old woman smiled.

“That crack,” she said, pointing, “Is a window into another world.”

Luna glanced back at the crack, a fault in the wall. “It’s just a crack.”

“You can’t look at it like that, all anger and annoyance, you have to look at it properly.” The woman paused. “Allright. Face the wall, close your eyes, and take a deep breath.”

Luna sighed first, but still, she turned around and closed her eyes.

“Good and try to think good thoughts. It seems to like that.”

Nothing good came immediately to Luna’s head, her life was boring, her friends were boring, school was boring.

“Now open your eyes. Do you see it?”

Luna tilted her head back and forth. She peered at it from different angles. It was just a crack in the wall, the corners chipped, exposing years worth of paint built up, layer by layer, reds and blues mostly. She asked it silently to be something else, something different, something exciting, but it was just another piece of the city, like all the others. She turned to say so and while she did she saw it out of the corner of her eye, so startling that she froze. It looked so much like her city but not; the sidewalks were actually white, instead of gray, none of the cars had any rust or dirt, and the people were smiling. In Luna’s city nobody ever smiled while they walked down the streets; they all had the same expression of mild, hurried annoyance, like they all had somewhere to be and not only was it inconvenient that they weren’t there yet but they also didn’t actually want to arrive. It was so constant, so present, that only just now did Luna become aware that people did it. She moved toward it, wanting so desperately to cross, but it disappeared, becoming just another crack.

“Where did it go?”

“It just does that, comes and goes. Sometimes I see it and sometimes I don’t.”

“But it’s so beautiful. And everyone looks so happy.”

“Yes. It is very beautiful.”

“How do we go there?”

“That would be lovely, wouldn’t it? But I’ve never been able to find a way. Maybe you will.”

Luna’s mother came outside carrying two plastic bags. “Time to go,” she said and handed Luna one of the bags.

When they got to the end of the block, Luna looked back. The crack was still there but the woman was gone. Was this the day that she found a way in or had she given up and moved on? Maybe she simply had other things to do than find a way to a better world.

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