First Rule of Recreational Trespassing:
Stick to the shadows. The dark will conceal you.
It is roughly ten PM. My roommate, Anna, is lying flat on her back on the wet pavement, her body partway under the fence that surrounds an unused factory pier. I won’t fit so I’m holding her bag, watching her shimmy, sucking her stomach flat and pushing down her breasts with her hands. When she is through, and standing on the other side of the fence, I hand the bag to her and crouch down into the shadows cast by a freight truck.
From where I am hidden by darkness, I watch her boldly walk around the enclosed area with no regard to the factories with lit windows and music coming from within. The bright flood lights create long, dusky patches where she might not be seen, but she ignores them, walking in the visible places instead. I turn around to face the row of buildings. Anna’s recklessness forces me to be more cautious.
I move out of the truck’s shadow and sprint about fifteen feet to a dumpster. The space I am occupying is not concealed enough for comfort, but it offers the best vantage point of the entire avenue flanked by dock and factory. To my left I hear Anna’s footsteps, which sound impossibly loud. Poking my head out from my hiding place, I see the concentrated beam of a flashlight scanning the street about two buildings down. There is no sign of the person wielding the flashlight, and it isn’t coming closer, so I creep over to the truck to wait.
Second Rule of Recreational Trespassing:
Always, always, always be aware of your surroundings.
Anna comes back from her survey of the pier while I’m pressed against the metal on the illuminated side, watching the circle of light still dancing. I go to the fence and take her bag.
"There is a man with a flashlight over there, so hurry up," I whisper calmly as she drops to the ground and starts wriggling. About halfway under, she gets stuck, and that’s when I notice that the lights and music have been turned off in the factory across the avenue. She’s laughing, pushing her chest flat with one hand and trying to raise up the fence with the other.
"Look. The lights are out. That means someone will be coming out soon, probably right through those doors. If he does, and you’re still lying there, I’m not getting caught with you," I say with more urgency. She frowns, and forces herself free. Now, with the threat of being caught more real, she follows my lead, staying close to the walls, hidden in darkness. Suddenly, we hear a creaking door, and footsteps coming from around the corner. Anna grabs my wrist and pulls me down, behind a car. I hear her breath, too loud; now she is nervous.
We creep out from our hiding place, see a man and we run.
Third Rule of Recreational Trespassing:
Trespass where there is something to see; unnecessary risks are a fool’s choice.
We are walking down the dark, empty street, dull factory buildings and warehouses looming on either side. My roommate is enthralled by the spinning textile machines we can see through the windows, the murky alleyways and the quiet thrumming of electricity that surrounds everything.
"You know," Anna says, "you’ll always wonder what was on the pier because you didn’t go in."
"My boobs wouldn’t fit under," I answer, "And besides, I could see everything that was there through the fence and you couldn’t get to the water anyhow, so what would be the point?"
We’re both right. I wouldn’t fit, but I’ll always wonder what shimmying under the fence would have felt like at that moment. However, I also know that what she wanted was to be near the seawater, and she went in knowing that it wasn’t reachable. Going in was an empty gesture, maybe for my benefit, maybe for hers.
Fourth Rule of Recreational Trespassing:
Never talk to strangers.
When we started out on our walk, Anna was ducking into open factory doors to ask questions: 'what do you make here?', 'what sort of machine is that?' and so forth. She asked a bored looking security guard if he knew when the trolley tracks were last used. Each time, I hovered nearby, but not too close, ready to break if necessary, my hand covering the knife in my pocket. She trusts everybody; I trust nobody.
I notice a security company car to our left. There is a man reading inside, but his window is open and he will see us soon, so I try to steer Anna over to the other side of the street. She notices him, too, and stops.
"Hey! Are you a real cop?" she yells. I pinch her arm, hard, and keep walking, not looking to see if she’s following or not.
"I don’t know; are you real girls?" comes the answer from behind me.
My roommate hurries to catch up, and then grabs my wrist. I can feel the tension in her fingers.
"I thought he was a policeman," she says. Shaking off her hand, I explain that late at night, in deserted streets, it’s best not to initiate conversations with anyone, official looking or not. She 'hmphs' at my warning, though she hushes when I tell her about the time a security guard asked me to get into his car and followed me when I refused.
"There’s no one out here to come running if you scream," I say casually.
Fifth Rule of Recreational Trespassing:
Heed all obvious warning signs.
By Armed Guards
"Let’s go in there," Anna says, pointing down an alleyway that is mostly concealed by shadows and has a sturdy-looking fire-escape, "we could climb up to the roof."
I point to the sign and say no.
"They aren’t going to shoot us; we’re girls, we can talk our way out of it," she whines.
I spend the next few minutes of silent walking assessing my feminine wiles, and how they would hold up to an angry man with a gun. She is twenty-eight, and I am twenty-two, long past the age of calling our parents and a warning. We are old enough to be arrested, old enough to know better. Basically, we are too old to give in to urges to go exploring at night in private property, or that’s what they’d tell us.
"Look," she says, "a doggie. I’m going to go over and say hello."
She starts walking over to a pale white dog that is tied to a post near an open doorway. I let her go without saying anything; she can make her own mistakes. Seconds later, the animal is on its feet, barking madly. We quickly walk away.
Sixth Rule of Recreational Trespassing:
Where the street ends, we find what we’ve been looking for. There is a section of dock that hasn’t been properly fenced off, and after taking a thorough look to ensure that we are alone, we walk through the gap. Anna raises her arms and looks triumphant, stamping, which scares up some gulls from under the dock. I sniff the air and look out on the water (which is black and smooth like obsidian), but keep my attentions fixed mostly on the street, keeping watch.
When she is done experiencing the water, and complaining about New York City's lack of open piers, we walk back to the street and we see it. Boon! An abandoned lot, with the gate wide open. There is a light on in the building, but we go in, and there are no cars parked anywhere on the site. I step into the checkpoint guardhouse, lean out the window and ask Anna for identification. She won’t come in, and I make ghost-noises at her through the doorway.
Then she finds boon number two. An old, abandoned train, on tracks, with doors half open and windows knocked out. It is in a separate fenced-in yard, but there is space enough at the chained gate for us to fit through easily.
Seventh Rule of Recreational Trespassing:
Always come prepared.
She stops at the fence and turns around to face me.
"Maybe we should come back another day," she says.
I ask her if we have flashlights in the apartment, and tell her I carry a knife. My worry is that other people (thieves and rapists) have the same idea, are already inside the cars, waiting. We walk away, but I glance at the train, wanting to go back, to do it alone. It’s an irrational impulse, I know, based on my wish for something more than I’ve got. A little adventure. Excitement. I turn my eyes back to the street, straight ahead.
"Christa," Anna says to me as we head back to the apartment, "can we bring thefez with us when we come back?"