Three men in dark suits wait to cross the street. Above, neon lights blink indicating that, even at this hour, people await the presence of strangers to provide seemingly mundane services at the right price. The youngest man says to the visibly oldest, “Usually the place with the smallest sign is the best.” On a dying evening, that’s a phrase that gets you down a rabbit hole to worlds you don’t want your kids to go to and your wives to know about—but for some, the journey is all but natural.
The cab had let them off in what looked like a rundown factory alley, one where you’d expect blue collared, soot-faced workers to come out in the afternoon with lunch pails, drenched in sweat. But they knew it had to be here: New worlds bringing new context—a home for the fantastical.
They walk past a building with dingy steps succeeded by washed out logos on a brick wall. A barber, a tailor and then the name of something of interest shows itself, muddled amidst the necessities of life. They turn the corner and find themselves on a narrow street, lights blinking with faces friendly and welcoming. Crossing it, they walk up the stairs, find a shiny door with a discreet marker and open it to discover a jazz-filled fantasy land straight out of a Gatsby affair.
Inside, they suddenly become strangers in a stranger land—as if they had become characters in their favorite foreign novel.
The older man, maybe 50, looks at the young one and says: “Is this it?”
The thing about rabbit holes is that they’re not easy to find, but when you find them, the reality of their unfitting existence in the fabric of one’s present universe doesn’t often sync—because rabbit holes aren’t physical, and neither are they immediate. The thing about rabbit holes is that they exist in their own neon universe, and only when one consciously traverses a landscape of doubt and uncertainty will they show themselves.
The middle man, the only one without a tie, had held his tongue until this moment. He grabs the older man and stares into his eyes: “I know you’ve lived until today by the numbers, and I know you’ve always been told what’s right and what’s wrong. But all of that is over. Because on this side of paradise, no one will care if you walked away from certainty. On this side of paradise, no one will let you go for searching for what you’ve lost. On this side of paradise, no one will forget you for finding out who you are.”
Like a scene out of an Ozu, the older man took off his tie and sat down while the younger man hearkened the help for a bottle of sake.