We call this place the Maze.
It doesn’t have a meandering path. It is not asymmetric. There is not a block of cheese at the end.
We call this place the Maze because it is hard to get out.
It’s not a prison, not really. In prison they feed you. In prison, you don’t need money.
People get out of prison.
When a person is in prison, they are a prisoner. We are not Mazers. We are still known by other titles. Assistants, cooks, laborers. Custodial engineers, previously known as janitors.
The doors here are not locked. No one keeps us from leaving. We could stage a breakout, digging into the concrete walls by night and hiding the holes in the morning. We could slip out into the world, into the daylight, into freedom.
But where would we go? We would be moneyless, hungry. Our jobs are here. Our parents. Our children.
I suppose when a prisoner escapes, he tries to fit in. He finds a new job and assumes a new life.
But here there are no new jobs. There is no other life into which we can slip. No fence, no grass on either side. It is all the same. It is all equal.
You might think we would at least not envy one another, but we do.
My neighbor’s saucepan is newer than mine, and not dented. There are apartments within the Maze without broken windows. Mine at least doesn’t have a leak, where many do.
But really, it all evens out.
I am not educated. I do not know the histories of words. I wonder, does -opia mean equal?
Everything is equal in utopia. Everything is equal in dystopia.
Is Ut good, and Dys bad? Good Equality, Bad Equality? Can both exist at once?
There is another compound. It is shrouded in tall, green trees, but I can see the corner of its roof from my apartment’s window. They don’t call it a Maze.
They call it the Habitation. A habitation is a place where something lives. Not a place something tries to escape.
I often think I would like to live at the Habitation, but I cannot do any of the jobs required to live there.
My parents are not educated, so I am not educated, so my young children will not be educated. Education is required to do better paying jobs.
Money is needed to become educated, but also to survive. We must prioritize. We must be happy with what we have.
What do we have?
We have strong walls. But nothing tries to enter them, except rats. And they do.
We have each other. Books. We can read. Most of our jobs require reading one way or another.
I daydream at the window, imagining the Maze is a prison. If I stepped out into the sunlight, could I assume a new identity? Could my identity be educated? I could say my diplomas were lost somehow. I’ve read many books. Surely I could pretend to know things.
Then, could I live in the Habitation? Would it be different, or only better?
I cannot imagine. I have never been there.
As the sun sets behind the rooftop and the thick trees in the distance, my youngest tugs my apron string.
This maze is not a meandering path, but I am deeply entangled all the same.