On the wall of my office at home is a framed picture I'd like to jump into. It is a photograph, taken by Joel Meyerowitz, from a collection of photos he made and titled Cape Light. "Hartwig House, Truro, 1976'' he called it.
It's a day in summer. I'm guessing July. Full summer, after the wondering of June and before the hot length of August.
The view is of the narrow center hall, looking toward the front door. The walls are white, plain, solid, clean. The door is halfway open, come in or go out, suggesting mysteries and possibilities at the same time.
It's an old house. The doors have latch handles, metal and large, the sort you'd find at a hardware store with narrow aisles and fans hung from a ceiling of pressed tin, paddles whirring hot July breath, slowly. One of the doors has a porcelain knob.
Hartwig House has wood floors planked wide, with creases between the planks big enough to fit a pencil. They'd creak like old bones.
But nobody is there.
There is a bedroom off to the right, a sliver of which is visible through another open door: Queen-sized bed, covered in one of those perfectly white spreads with a pattern stitched in, the sort your grandmother might have had. A slice of a dresser is evident: No-nonsense pine. A black and white photo looms above the dresser. It might be a wedding picture. Or it might not. It's as out of focus as a dream.
Could it take me?
The hall is bright with shafts of haphazard sunlight. Late morning, 11 or so. The front doorway is wrapped in light, a puddle of which collects on the floor, consoling a worn throw rug.
You can see outside, through five small, rectangular windows to the right of the door: A tree, perhaps blooming, white dots of something peppering its green.
Every couple months, when the wanderlust grips me like a virus, I look at the photo and hope it'll take me.
Last year at this time, I wrote to a barkeep in Ireland and asked for a job. His pub was in Kenmare, County Kerry, along the welcoming and beautiful southwest coast. My letter to Mr. Michael O'Donoghue appeared in this space.
A couple I know from here hand-delivered the column that contained the letter, while on vacation over there. O'Donoghue never responded. Probably thought I was joking.
We don't live long enough to be shackled by convention. Dreaming only matters if we act upon our dreams, which is why I'm writing O'Donoghue again. If he ever offered me work, he wouldn't have to ask twice.
Let fantasies alone
Meantime, I'm staring down the sun-kissed hall of Hartwig House, its friendly white walls and mysterious bedroom with the probable wedding portrait inviting closer inspection. Who lives here? Whose room is that? What's just outside the door? The day: What was it like? How does one spend his full-bloom July in this welcoming house in Truro?
I was 18 in 1976, young and improving, my choices as open as the front door in the picture, nothing but sunlight awaiting my face. A whole life of Hartwig House wonder, not yet visited.
It was a long time ago.
Hartwig House is in Truro, Mass., near the tip of Cape Cod.
We've vacationed at the Cape half a dozen times; we go through Truro once in awhile. I could find the house, maybe, if it were marked by name. I've never wanted to, though. Fantasies are better left alone. That's something you learn as you get older.
Dreaming, though, dreaming is different. The photo will have me one of these days. I'll walk straight into it. Or maybe straight into O'Donoghue's pub.
Personal note: Thanks in part to caring readers, Lou Elefante has a job. The 48-year-old manager, unemployed for more than a year, was the subject of this column March 16. John Gillen, a member of a committee seeking a director of finance and operations at All Saints Church in Kenwood, read the column and contacted Lou. Lou started work there Thursday.
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