I was always too afraid to open the door in the basement. It was in the furthest corner, and it didn’t make any sense. There was no more house in that direction for it to be under. From a distance, it looked like a heavy ornate door, like the door in a cartoon dungeon, with heavy iron bands across it. When I was older, I looked at it closer, and noticed that it was painted that way, that it was in fact an ordinary door. I still didn’t open it. The room behind it would obviously be filled with dust, and I was worried about bugs or rats. Not that I feared them, but there’s a difference between encountering a bug, and walking into what’s probably a room full of them.
I know, I seem timid. Maybe, I am. People say “No risk, no reward.” But I’ve known a lot of people who’ve taken risks without reward, and a few who claim they’re taking a risk, when really they’re just investing somebody else’s money, and surprise, they succeed. Yes, this is all justification, but also, maybe avoid people who say, “No risk, no reward,” they don’t have your best interest in mind.
I’ve been thinking about the door lately. I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to be the sort of person who opened the door. It’s not hard to imagine. Door openers fill our fiction. Nancy Drew would open the door. So would Harry Potter. Almost every hero would. They make the choice to look for trouble in a world that is already more or less safe. Yeah, there is darkness, there are shadows, but the creatures who live in them, only lash out when you disturb them. Otherwise, they’re content to nibble around the edges. They take from you, but they leave you alive so they can take from you again. Maybe, I’m tired of being nibbled on.
“Mom, what was behind the door in the basement? In the old house,” I asked when I called her.
She’s distracted. She’s cooking dinner. I always picture her cooking dinner when I talk to her. I can’t imagine her picking up the phone in any other room. Honestly, I don’t even picture her in her current kitchen, but the one from the old house, that’s where she always took calls. Like there was no way for her to simply focus on the person calling.
“There was the door to the basement.”
“No, the other door, in the far corner.”
“There wasn’t a door.”
“There was. I remember you telling me to not open the door. It’s one of my first memories.”
“You were always making things up as a kid. Can’t you let things go? I don’t think you ever realized just how happy your childhood actually was. But there’s always some accusation isn’t there? Now, I didn’t let you go through a door? Why can’t you be happy?”
I wonder that myself.
“I’m sorry, Mom. You know I love you. But yeah, I should get going. I’ll call you next week, okay?”
“Okay, dear. I’ll speak to you soon.”
I don’t blame her. I just wonder about the door. Maybe, if I’d gone through it, I would be happy. Maybe, letting the shadows nibble on you is no way to live.
I sleep with the light on. I dream about the door.