In the years before I was permitted to drive, I lived in a town with negligible public transportation. This necessitated a series of paths and trails that wind through the golf courses and unobservant neighbors yards leading to wherever my younger self desired to go. Which, at that time, was mostly the record store “Tunes” in Marlton, NJ. The main trek my friends and I took to head south was through a patch of woods that wrapped around a collection of apartment buildings. This trail, littered with beer can covered mattresses, was blazed enough to ride a bicycle through with ease, but untamed enough to hide the antics of older kids experimenting with white-picket witchcraft, and who knows what else. I never had reason to linger back there, but as a thoroughfare, it was ideal. In 2005, the copse was destroyed. The trees were removed to make room for a cul-de-sac of cookie cutter houses. This now absent trail, carved by unseen suburban forebears, was likely not mourned by anyone. The residential street, while uglier than a clutch of unkempt flora, still provided passage for those cutting through.

And then, one day they installed a split rail fence to delineate the two neighborhoods. Whoever was being paid to erect and maintain this fence was unwittingly starting an uphill battle against local travelers set in their ways. People would hop the fence, and lift their bicycles under, over, and through the wooden planks. Myself included. The section of fence bearing the brunt of human erosion began to chip and crack, eventually leaving only the bottom of the three rungs. Subsequent slats were installed and destroyed. For years, a silent and unmalicious battle was being fought on both sides. At one point, a length of wire mesh was attached to the newly installed section, perhaps in an attempt to legitimize itself as a barrier. This too eventually folded over and gave way until it became a tangle of splinters and staples on the ground. And this is how I left it before leaving my parent’s home for several years.

Currently, having enough idle time to wander the stomping grounds of my youth, I returned to this fence to discover a permanent dirt rut leading through a gap in this familiar but defeated fence. We had won the day. Humanity’s desire for an effective shortcut is as relentless as the ocean.


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