Stairs and Ropes

Written By: Corinne DiOrio

You are seven years old. The abandoned bunkers you and your family find at Shadmoor State Park tower twenty feet over your small body. Their grey exterior covered with green algae and dirt turn you away but the open doors turn you on. Kicking the sandy ground with your pink light up sneakers, you start toward the entrance. Right before your foot touches the cement floor of the bunker your older brother stops you by wrapping his long arms around your tiny torso. He scoops you up, throws you over his shoulder and steps back. Your mother and father lead the way through the doors as though they were checking for danger. Once they give the “okay” symbol with their hands, your brother sets you down on the ground and you run inside. Stairs and ropes. That’s all you see. Stairs and ropes. You begin to explore, grabbing your mother and father’s hands. The silence of the building is eerie, so you hold onto them so tight that their knuckles turn white. You lay your eyes on a staircase in the corner of the room. It’s faded red paint was chipping off but the sun rays shining through the windows lit the stairs up in the most enticing way and the way they spiraled above you had you mesmerized. You let go of your parent’s hands, look up at their faces and nod to let them know you’re okay. Just as your mother tells you to stay close to her, your brother grabs a rope hanging from the ceiling and swings from one wall to the other. Your parents scramble to catch onto the rope, petrified of its lack strength and are distracted from their curious seven year old. You take this as an opportunity to climb the spiral stairs leading to a cement platform. The hard floor, coated with sand brushed up in front of you and into your wide eyes as you walked toward them. When you finally reach the glorious staircase, you crawl to the top on your hands and feet. You sit criss crossed on the platform and watch your mother capture your brother hold the rope in his hand on a disposable camera she bought at the local drugstore. Suddenly your mother’s face turns white and you see your father’s hand move from his sides to the top of his head.
“Corinne?” he yells. He scratches his head and his forehead crinkles into tiny folds.
Your eyebrows raise when you hear your name and you start to giggle uncontrollably. As you are about to tell them where you are, your brother’s wondering eyes lock with yours and before you know it the whole bunker is ringing with laughter. Your mother and father run to you with tears in their eyes and smiles from ear to ear. Your father is tall enough to reach you without climbing up the stairs, so when he stretches his arms out, you jump right into them. He kisses you on your head and you feel his chest relax underneath you. As you are carried out of the bunker, you watch the red staircase get smaller and smaller before you leave the building and they’re gone. Shadmoor State Park leaving you with a memory of family and laughter.
You are twenty years old. Your boyfriend of three years brings you on a spontaneous hiking trip. You are surprised in a good way when he pulls his car into Shadmoor State Park. As you step out of the car and begin walking through the trails filled with green leaves and mysterious rustling in the trees, a sense of comfort comes rushing through your body. When you see the old bunkers in the distance you grab your boyfriends hand. He follows you through the sandy path jumping over rocks and up the hill where the bunker stands. You stop at the front of the building that looks much smaller than you remember and your heart sinks because the doors are boarded up. Before you begin to tell your boyfriend of what it used to be like, you notice broken beer bottles half buried under the sand and you smile. The beer bottles representing fun times and although the doors are closed, the bunker walls still retain memories. You look up at your boyfriend while wrapping each finger tightly around his hand and smile.
“I’ve been here before,” you say.
Before you begin to tell him of the ropes and the stairs, the memories of a curious seven year old flash through your mind like the pages of a scrapbook are being flipped in fast forward. You both sit on the rocks surrounding the boarded up building and talk for two hours. You made a new memory.
You didn’t know it then, but you know it now. These bunkers are filled with history. The same bunkers that were once flooded with soldiers from wall to wall, whose tears fell from their eyes and to the ground like raindrops, were the same bunkers that filled you with memories. Their walls hold times of tears and loss, but also of love and laughter.