Linda pressed the door carefully closed, listening for and hearing the soft metallic click of the latch sliding into its place. The sound was a comforting one, far more satisfying than the dull pneumatic sigh of a glass door swinging back into place or the slight bang of a sliding door, not to mention the infuriating futility of a revolving door. No, the quiet little click whispered comfortingly to her. Everything done and in its place. It is finished.
It had taken long to learn such pleasures. Her parents had screamed at her–CLOSE THE DOOR! As a child just beginning to push her way through these wonderful portals–CLOSE THE DOOR! If she stepped out of her room to check on something–CLOSE THE DOOR! She’d been threatened and punished and smacked and begged with tears–CLOSE THE DOOR!
And now she did. Involuntarily, she even pulled shut doors in hallways as she walked. She eyed car doors hanging open too long in the parking lot with trepidation. Four months ago, she had visited a local college campus, thinking she might pursue further education, but ten minutes in the dorms, with doors flung back perpetually, young women like her moving in and out like worms in a rotten apple, she had decided against it.
She changed into pajamas, closing the dresser drawers firmly. Drawers did not count, there was no requirement to close them, but she did so anyway, out of a sort of affinity. She was still adjusting to her new apartment. She had moved out only a month before into this tidy little place. It had two doors, one that led outside to the loft stairs and another guarding the bedroom. This she had closed with such gentle pressure.
She read awhile in bed, a manual on minimalist living, then shut off the lamp and fell asleep.
She awoke. It was still dark. And the question that sometimes came to her, only in the dark hours of the night, confronted her once again.
What if she did not close the door?
What if she left it open just a sliver?
Heart beating fast, she rose and hurried to the door. She touched the knob lightly with her fingers. She felt along the edge to feel it flush against the frame.
What if she opened it, just a little, and left it? What was the harm?
She pressed herself against the plywood, breathing hard.
“Are you there?” she whispered.
Silence. Then, softly, so softly: “Yes.”
Her hand gripped the knob. “Do you want in?”
A tremor of the air: “Yes.” Then, another exhalation: “Finally, yes.”
She turned the knob slowly. She heard the rub of metal as the latch moved.
CLOSE THE DOOR! Her parents spoke as clearly, more clearly than the thing waiting for her.
She tentatively turned the knob further, trembling, the sensation that pulled her from bed now coursing through her. She did not know if it was fear or hope or the nauseating pleasure of rebellion.
The knob stopped. It would turn no further.
“Are you safe?” she asked.
There was no answer, no sound. She stifled her breathing to listen and heard nothing.
“Are–?” Her voice broke. “Are you there?”
There was nothing behind the door. She knew it. Deep down she knew that there had never been anything, that her parents had been cruel, abusive, that she needed the certainty of a closed door, to be trapped in a small little room. If she opened the door, she would find nothing.
She released the knob and heard the click. She pressed the surface of the door to ensure its fastness. She returned to bed and tried to sleep.
She had never opened the door. She thought she would, finally, in her own apartment. To prove to herself that nothing was there. That there had never been anything.
Because there was nothing.
Nothing behind the door.
If she opened it only a sliver, and let it be, she would see that.
Tomorrow she would leave it open.
But tonight it was closed, and she was safe.