It was Sunday and I wasn’t expecting the window crew until Monday. I opened up my kitchen door and all the ground and earth around my house was dug up, caved in, eroding downward, and crumbling from water erosion. There was a whole work crew out there with backhoes and diggers and hardhats and such. Pools of muck and water and mud. They explained that a main city water line running under my home had ruptured! Someone was out in the yard walking around with the crew and almost slipped and fell into a deep sinkhole but I grabbed their wrist just in time.
Then I woke up.
I went outside and inspected the dug-up ground, the caving in and erosion, the sinkhole. I went back inside and got dressed, then went to Lowe’s. I bought the longest ladder they had, a thousand feet of rope, some leather gloves, and a headlamp. Standing in line, I grabbed a King Size Snickers, and on my way out I got two hot dogs, a bag of SunChips, and a Dr Pepper.
Driving home, I passed four different accidents—two separate cars veered off the road and sat diagonally in ditches; one that looked like it had somehow been split in half; and then, as I was trying to imagine how fast a car would have to be going or what the collision could have looked like for it to split in half, how that possibly could have happened, a truck drove through a red light and t-boned the car right behind me, as if trying to reenact and show me how that possibly could have happened.
Then I woke up.
I went outside and my leather gloves, headlamp, small bag of SunChips, and Snickers were in a neat pile next to the sinkhole. The ladder was on the ground, bridged across the hole, with the rope dangling down from the middle rung. Growing up, in Boy Scouts, I learned all kind of knots. Dozens of them. I had a Knot Tying Merit Badge. The only one I can remember though is that taut-line hitch holding the rope to the ladder. It’s a good knot. If you only know one, it’s a good one to know.
I put on the headlamp, put the Snickers in my pocket and ate the bag of SunChips, then put on the gloves. Sitting on the edge of the hole, my legs dangling in, I stretched out and grabbed the rope and pulled a length of it toward me. There were more knots, simple loops to hold or hook a foot into every few feet. I grabbed tight and slid down the side of the hole, until I was swinging, like a rope climb in gym class or a tree swing out over into a body of water.
Then I woke up.
I did it all over again, everything up until I was inside the hole, swinging a little back and forth over the deep cylinder of darkness. I lowered myself, knot over knot, descending all the way down until there wasn’t any rope left. High, high, high above me, I heard the muffled echoes of backhoes and diggers. Below me, I couldn’t see anything at all, but could hear… running water?
Then I woke up.
Someone was knocking on my door. It was Monday. The window crew. I got up, got dressed, answered the door.
“Do you guys need anything? Or just letting me know you’re here?”
“I want to show you something.”
I burped and tasted hot dog. “Excuse me.” It didn’t taste bad, but wasn’t good, either. “The sinkhole?”
The guy standing in my doorway nodded. “I want you to go down there with us.”
“I tried,” I told him. I burped again, and this time it was SunChips. “The rope wasn’t long enough,” I said. “And I think it maybe just goes forever. That isn’t really possible though. Is it? Do you think that’s possible?”
“Anything is possible,” the guy said. He reached out and put his hand on my headlamp and then his face lit up in light. I don’t know if it was how beautiful he suddenly looked in the light like that or the ease of the way he reached out and turned on my headlamp or the fact that he’d caught me off guard, trying to think about the possibility of anything, but it was one of the most intimate moments I’d ever been a part of.
“Let there be light,” I said.
“Don’t do that.”
He looked me deep in the eyes; I could see the light on my head reflected in his pupils.
“Everything you’ve ever wanted, it’s all down there.”
I thought about that. “I’ve never really wanted for anything?” I said, both as a question and not.
“That’s sad,” one of the guys who was standing further back said. I’d forgotten anyone else was there.
“No, it isn’t” the first guy said. I saw his arm move again and I closed my eyes, waiting for something—for him to turn my light back off or adjust the headlamp on my head or maybe grab me, gentle touch as assurance. I kept waiting and nothing happened, and when I opened my eyes again, he was chewing and then swallowing and then I looked down and saw a Snickers with a bite out of it in his hand. Had he taken it from my pocket, some kind of sleight of hand? Did he have his own?
When I looked back up, he was looking at me, waiting. “What’s down there is another world. A world of possibility.”
I didn’t have any idea what that meant.