A few months ago, my husband and I decided to walk through the cemetery near our house. We entered the main gates and continued along the winding paths that loop through the grounds. Naturally, our pace slowed — we got caught up in reading tombstones and searching for the graves of people we knew. The sun began to set as we wandered from section to section, until we found ourselves at the very back of the place with the unpleasant memory of a sign at the entrance warning that the cemetery closed at dusk.
It took about fifteen minutes to reach the front entrance and, sure enough, the big iron gates were closed. Bolted. Padlocked.
Since it was too dark to wander the cemetery grounds in the hopes of finding another (living) human, we did what we had to do: we climbed over the stone wall.
That sounds easier than it was. The stone wall is nearly chest high to me, so I needed to anchor my foot on the pillar part of it in order to gain enough leverage to grab the iron spikes imbedded in the top and hoist myself up and over. My husband is much taller than I am, but less agile. It took a little maneuvering (and a lot of pulling) to plant his foot alongside the spikes on top of the wall so that he could make the drop to the other side unimpaled. We ducked in anticipation of streaming searchlights and alarms, but apparently nobody cares if a solid, physical person leaves a cemetery. Even though the entrance fronts a road, not a single car even slowed down. We escaped with nothing more than a few scrapes and a fun story.
We’d shared our adventure several times before a neighbor asked why we didn’t just use the pedestrian exit.
A few weeks ago, we set out to find it.
Okay, in our defense, the pedestrian exit is nowhere near where we’d been when the sun began to set. It runs alongside someone’s yard, tucked away in a section we hadn’t yet reached.
I remembered seeing another gate that night but I thought that it, too, had been locked. Since we were back in the cemetery, we decided to see if my memory was correct or if we could have gotten out that way, too.
The gate was indeed bolted shut, but someone had bent the iron bars in an obvious effort to escape. That made us feel a little better … clearly, someone else had never heard of the pedestrian exit.
But even more intriguing was the fact that beyond the gate was a road we’d never seen before.
We had to be careful when we squeezed through the bent bars to explore. There was a piece of iron sticking into the gap, just perfect for snagging clothes or poking through skin. My husband slid through first, very carefully. Then he covered the protruding piece of iron with his hand so that I wouldn’t get caught on my way out.
Sneaking through the bars required precision and finesse. We couldn’t help but feel a little self-congratulatory when we reached the other side. We turned to savor our accomplishment …
…and noticed that the stone pillars on either side of the foreboding gates had been designed with gaps large enough for a person to stroll right through, whether or not the gates were closed.
I’d like to cast our apparent inability to find the easy way out in some sort of philosophical or noble light. After all, nearly two years of sameness has set the bar for adventure pretty low. Plus, isn’t there a way to turn this escapade into a metaphor for life? But, no. The truth is that we’re just not very good at getting out of cemeteries.
Apparently there’s another exit near the pet section. Maybe we’ll have better luck with that one.