Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The house on the corner

When I was growing up, there was a house on the corner of my block that exuded an air of mystery, perfect for wild, roaming imaginations. The house was non-descript enough: It was an old bungalow painted a deep, rusty ochre. Part of the mystery lay in the fact that we had never seen any of its inhabitants, but the most mysterious of all was the sign on the garage door: “Beware of Monkey,” big and flamboyantly scrawled on the white door with the same rust-coloured paint as the siding on the house.

There was no question in a child’s mind that a monkey undoubtedly resided in the house. Through the years, my friends and I tried to sneak peeks into the house, hoping to see a monkey hanging off the rafters or having tea in the kitchen nook. Alas, we never saw any living creature. After numerous unsuccessful attempts (and unlawful trespasses), the monkey in our imaginations transformed from a benevolent tea-drinker to a tortured soul, caged in the basement – a suffering creature who had lost its voice in despair, without any hope of wandering free in the wild Amazon jungle. Perhaps its torturer had boldly announced to the neighbourhood to “beware,” warning all possible intruders to steer clear of his mad-scientist laboratory. Fatality would ensue for anyone who uncovered his deep, dark secret.

By the time I reached my teenaged years, the monkey had already slipped from its “Holy Grail” status in our adventures. As we zipped down the hill on our bikes and passed that corner, our eyes might turn and focus for a moment on the loud, sprawled letters on the garage door, but only for a moment. Then, we would continue down to the park at the end of the street at breakneck speed and engage in the silly/serious girl-talk characteristic of adolescent girls.

Years later, possibly in the year I was to graduate from high school, the bungalow was torn down and a new three-level monstrosity (in my eyes) was built on the lot. By then, I was too grown-up to care about the tortured monkey in the basement, and the demolition of both the old house and the childhood fantasy passed without much notice or ceremony.

Years have passed yet again, and now I’m living in another town, far away in both time and space from that house on the corner. Yet, as I think of the little girl who stood wide-eyed with wonder, who ran her hands on the rough rust-coloured siding, who stole glimpses through the curtained windows, I feel a sense of loss. I miss the monkey, the certainty of its existence, the possibility of uncovering a mystery, and the little girl who wondered and believed and cared whole-heartedly.


  1. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
    Thanks for leaving the kind comment on our blog. I have been wondering who has been visiting us from Whitehorse. I really enjoyed reading some of your writing.

    Oh, and I'm sure that monkey made it out of there alive. ;-)

    ChouChou Shu

  2. Happy Valentine's Day! I was looking for your anti-Valentine's post!