* * *
Later that week, I was walking through a different neighborhood. My eyes were restless. After the previous incident, I was curious as to what other hidden messages I could find on my streets. Having only become familiar with this particular area half a year ago, what trove of quiet words were waiting for me?
It didn’t take long to find something strange. And this message was truly hidden. Not just because I hadn’t noticed it before, but because something had crept over the very letters themselves to cover the words. A golden plate, letters engraved, was partially obscured by years of dirt and haphazard asphalt. What I could read had a company name and an address. Directly below that, I deduced, were the words “NO LEAK TO BASEMENT”. The letters at the top right corner were almost completely gone.
The large, silver metal plate on which the smaller gold plate sat must have been a door to underground storage. Given the state of this thing, is there still storage down there? Are these doors still in use?
If the answer is yes, then perhaps these words still have meaning. Even in their current predicament, perhaps the handler of the doors has read the letters thousands of times and memorized the message. Even without the physical forms of the letters visible themselves, they still give instruction.
If the answer is no, though, do these words suddenly have no meaning? The signs of neglect seem to say, “This message is unwanted. It is old and outdated, unnecessary and useless.” If no one needs the message anymore, perhaps, it is okay to obscure it. Then what becomes of the words? Will they be lost for eternity?
Engraved in metal as they are, the letters themselves will exist for years and years to come, even if they are lost below layers of materials. An adventurous curiosity-seeker may one day unearth the words to light and air once more. Over time, does the message change once the context of time has changed? By then, there will be no basement to leak into.