I live in the outer suburbs of Philadelphia, but would not call it bucolic, farm country. We have woods and fields and farms nearby, certainly, but generally it is suburban housing, town homes, and apartments. So, I was surprised to find an old red barn right down the street in this suburban neighborhood. I was even more surprised to find it marked with this question:
Now, I have lived in this town for nearly twenty years, and do not recall the first time I saw this, but I imagine it has been there for quite some time. Who wrote it? Why?
When I took this photo today, I parked in someone’s driveway, and gave a cursory (as in, hardly at all) search for the owner of the barn. I did not knock on any doors, because – to tell you the truth – I found the painted question vaguely chilling, presented as it was. Very American Gothic, and not in the best sense. The thought of encountering (disturbing) the writer seemed potentially – well, let’s just call it risky. An old man with a shotgun comes to mind.
I had visions of someone (a woman, of course) imprisoned inside, crying out for liberation. I even zoomed in on the window, half expecting a ghostly face appear. In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I discussed this barn with my son, who did not remember it, but suggested that I stage a photo, complete with a manacled woman, chain trailing from the barn. In his defense, he is an artist, and watches entirely too many horror movies. This discussion may have planted disturbing thoughts in my head.
But, what does the query mean? What is the “this”? Is it an indictment of 21st century suburbia? A wistful longing for the past when the barn stood in an open field, rather than on a two lane road, surrouned by houses and apartments, and the roles of life were clear and sacrosanct? Is it the complaint of a woman cheated by the siren song promise of independence, or a man disenfranchised by the discontent of his partner? Or, maybe a political statement, a dramatic shot across the bow in some municipal skirmish?
What do you think?