I am a spy in the house of me. I live in disguise, my metaphoric black fedora slanted across my forehead, my belted trench coat flapping wide as I stride with purpose through dark and stormy nights. Though the streetlamps cast weak spotlights all around me, the black gloom successfully hides the parts of me for which I search.

Before, when I was younger, I avoided this work, not wanting to admit there were cave-like places of deception and fear where drunken addicts and scarred felons allowed what little joy they had left in their dank lives to wither into smoke like the endless cigarettes that burned their stained fingers.

Before, when I was younger, I followed only the lure of the light, believing that happiness only sprang from cool clear water whose shining surface reflected a multitude of sparkling gems. I would reach with sure hands under the surface only when I knew for certain that what would emerge gripped in my dripping palm would be a characteristic worthy of a storybook princess: kindheartedness or generosity or maybe even serenity and peace.

Now that I am older, though, I have felt the urgent need to walk the hidden streets that zig-zag across the map of my life. I shove my feet into scarred shit-kicker boots, grab my hefty police-issue flashlight and head into the unknown as often as I can. I am scared when I do this, I have to admit, but it doesn’t show in the determined set of my jaw or the swagger I pretend as I begin my journey inward. No, I am scared each time because there are so many unforeseen sinkholes and bones of broken dreams that can trip me up and slow me down, and I never know which one will flatten my spirit the way young boys gleefully squash snails and slugs on sunny sidewalks.

I only know that if I don’t go on this quest, if I don’t purposefully turn down dark alleys and rustle through the rusted garbage bins of my basic assumptions that I can never really understand or appreciate this gift of my life. I have to sneak up on myself, take surreptitious pictures of my falsehoods and foibles because otherwise I’d never admit to anything other than sweetness and light. Yes, I am a spy in my own house because I am the only one who can save me.

Carol Mathew-Rogers
February 2017