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Ask.

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This door was new once.  From the look of the old lock which is no longer in use, it was new a long time ago.  Maybe some trace of the original paint remains in a crack somewhere on its weathered surface.  Maybe it wasn’t painted at all, but lovingly oiled and polished regularly to protect it from the elements. Was the arch always there?  It sits in front of the door, which is evidently rectangular. Maybe it was added later, butted up against the original header to cover a gap that let the wind in?

The door has seen many iterations over time.  The remnants of several coats of paint cling to it, along with the fading marks of what may or may not have been graffiti, although it looks to have been applied with a brush.  The padlock that now holds it closed indicates either that the door is still in use or that the space behind it is, and the owner wishes to prevent entry through this portal.

There are no windows in the adjoining walls, so it seems unlikely that it was a home, with children slamming in and out as they chased one another in the afternoon.  Maybe, however, it is one of those colonial homes built around a courtyard facing in upon itself with a central garden and maybe fountain. It could be that around the corner is a more formal entrance, framed by tall windows, and that this door was used by the people who worked for whatever aristocrat resided with his family inside.  Deliveries came and went, hustled through back hallways to storage rooms or the kitchen, only to be brought out when the master or mistress called.

Maybe young men knocked quietly at an arranged time to meet with the young women who worked in the house, stealing a few moments of conversation and maybe a quick kiss while the owners were otherwise occupied.  Maybe, occasionally, leftover food was handed out to someone in need, whose plight would never cross the mind of the aristocratic family, but who might have been a friend of a maid or cook.

Maybe at some point, the money left, whether squandered by a careless heir, plundered in a revolution, or simply as a result of bad luck.  No-one oiled or painted the door any more.  The servants who once passed in and out through it found jobs elsewhere. The key was lost.  The arch began to fall apart and nobody repaired it.  The walls, built of adobe half a meter thick, stood strong, holding the door between them.

What is behind the door now?  What ghosts or memories? What stories could it tell, having watched generations grow up and leave, having watched workers come and go? If you open it will dust spill out from an empty space, or will you step through into history? Is the space beyond full of furniture, dusty and moldy, never to be sat on or eaten off of again?  If you open it, will you find the opening blocked by a new wall? We will never know, because we can’t ask the door, we don’t know the owner of the building, or any of the previous owners.  All we can do is wonder.

Now look around you.  Do you see that octogenarian sitting on the park bench, or walking down the street, very slowly, with a cane?  Or maybe the octogenarian is your parent or grandparent.  They are like the door.  You can see on their surface that they have weathered over time.  They no longer look fresh and new.  Maybe their lock is broken, or their arch starting to crumble.  They have watched generations come and go, seen history pass.  The difference is, you can ask them to tell you about it.  Why don’t you?

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