Opening the Exit Door

"Are you willing to see where this leads?" he asked.

"I don't know how not to," she answered.


This month I had the pleasure of spending a bunch of time in New York City. I originally went to help a friend move from Harlem to Chelsea. Little did I know that we would be able to see the High Line from her new place or that I seriously wouldn't want to leave (for a thousand reasons other than the proximity of the elevated walkway). A trip that was supposed to be just three days ended up being extended to almost a week (...well, maybe I'll just leave tomorrow...I'll just spend one more day and leave tonight...Um, do I even have to leave at all?), which allowed for plenty of opportunities to explore. And, of course, I found myself wandering to all the spaces that screamed art.

My recent travels have brought me to understand that I am drawn to spaces that hold words and spaces that hold art. Anytime I find a hybrid of the two I am unable to not explore further. To this end, I found myself wandering into an unassuming building that Google Maps told me held Aperture, an art gallery and bookshop (win). Upon entering, I was unsure what the building's primary purpose actually was, as there was nothing in the lobby, no real directory, and just a huge stairwell. 

Even more confusing was that as I reached each landing, there was a huge door with a very intimidating sign that read, "PUSH TO OPEN - ALARM WILL SOUND," with a crazy exit man dashing out of the door during what can only be interpreted as a real emergency. There is something inherently intriguing about spaces that have been deemed "off-limits." Maybe it is just me, but I always want to know what lies behind the DO NOT ENTERs and the closed curtains.  

Let me stop here and say I love to open these doors. In most causes, there is no alarm and it is a huge ruse to keep the rule-followers moving along. I can't help but find out if an alarm will really go off, and if it doesn't, where the door leads. So at the fifth floor, I opened the door, and walked into a gallery. Huge photographs and books everywhere, all natural light streaming in through the expansive paint-chipped windows. I was in heaven. 

As I wandered through the rest of the building (opening all the doors), I found hundreds of pieces of art in thirty-two (actual count) galleries. I spent three hours wandering in and out of these spaces, some as small as a storage closet and some larger than my whole apartment. No one said hello to me, but no one asked me to leave either. It was wonderfully exhilerating.

In this life, there a lot of exit doors. Most seem dangerous, or scary, or offer threats for opening them. Exits that warn us that they should only be used in extreme cases and only when there is an emergency.  There are consequences if we are reckless in daring to open those doors under other circumstances.

Sometimes, though, the exit doors are actually just an entrance to something more incredible than we could have ever imagined. Is there a risk? Of course there is. The ultimate risk, though, is missing the enchantment that could be waiting on the other side.  

(h/t to JAR for the title of this post)