The Door: a short story

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The Door

Some days I think, I could do it, easy, no problem. I could become that great thing. I could shine for the people. But that’s exactly why I don’t.

It’s just hard work after all, isn’t it? That’s all it takes. I know that already. It’s easy to do hard work. One foot after the other. Give me a more attractive challenge, give me something that’s worth a damn.

But hard work is respectable, nonetheless, and everyone thinks that being lazy is sad and kind of evil. So I guess I’m kind of evil, tainted with this disdainful inclination of thought and resistance toward anything laborious. At least I’ve got the balls to resist that magnanimous call to arms cried out by those who need something to do. I don’t do anything—and that’s hard work. Have you ever faced a wall of time? It’s like being a prisoner for life, like dark, dank days of solitary confinement, I imagine. It’s like that one record-breaking tidal wave that surfers are all afraid of and make up silly names for. It’s a little bit like god.

Right now I’m trapped atop a hill near the end of a small island that has no name and has been mostly ignored by civilization. I say trapped in an exaggerated way since I brought myself here to discover what contribution I could make to the world by existing here for a while. And how will I know if I was successful? I realized that maybe I’d have to die first to be noticed, so I began to write down this little account—and if you are reading it now, well I must’ve been noteworthy after all. Although if that’s a contribution or not, who is to say.

From where I’ve placed myself on this dried mud-covered slope of rough stone, I have an almost panoramic view of the smooth turquoise-jade water. No waves, just an uncanny clarity all the way down to what might be a coral-reef bottom. But it’s likely not the bottom. To my right is a gaping cave full of water that also seems to go on without end, but in fact it probably just ends in a few more meters of stalactites and timid fuzzy bats. I imagine pirates parking coin-laden ships within its cool shadows.

The only sound to keep me company and soothe me to sleep is the narrow cascade to my left, tumbling delicately, endlessly, each hour, each day, just the same motion, constant and undisturbed—is it possible to disturb a cascade? Much of my time here has been spent watching this infinite motion of water—or simply closing my eyes to hear its voice, this ever-new water, an unchanging change, perpetually renewed and yet exactly the same. How many patterns and inflections must have come into existence only to instantly disappear as the water splashes down from the top, fumbling over different crags and nooks and edges, slipping over dead leaves and old moss.

But I admit the the glimmering cave ceiling competes for my attention, its slow-motion ripples of light massaging the inner belly of this red stone mountain. The reflection brings to life the pale orange space as if you can see the very atoms that comprise this stone perform their ancient dance of existence.

Between the cave and the cascade, there is a wide spread of sandy cliffs, and up toward the ledge of one of these cliffs, I have spotted a rectangle of black, a cut out darkened doorway. It must be a door—it’s too hard-edged, there are perfectly devised corners on top, and I feel the eyes of something, someone from within that depths of darkness. How can there be no one if there is a door, if there is an inside, hidden from all of this vast and exhausting outside? Oh how exhausting it can get. It only makes sense that someone uses this door to separate themselves from what can be an overwhelming abyss that first nurtures you—only to kick you around, shrivel you up and then smash you into laughable, forgettable pieces of dust.

Yes, I’m sure that someone feels they belong within that carved out space—why else take the time to make such a perfect human mark where none is needed?

Before I left, I would see old men in the dry village sitting crumpled and silent on a bench. It could have been a small park if it was a city instead of a village. I watched the backs of their silver heads under worn woolen caps that had probably been there for years, and they watched the distant clouds move slowly toward them. They saw the odd passerby coming down the narrow path, pressing heavy boots over dots of goat shit. They sat and stared, unmoving, hypnotized by that which has encircled them, that which they have allowed to encircle them—it’s just Time. They think of all that has passed because there is nothing left to come. They let the air in and out of their sagging bodies only out of habit. It’s hard to give up after so many years. Maybe if it hadn’t been so long.

Which is why I’m still here, sheer idiotic habit. It would be, I suppose, relatively simple to leave this spot, find my way down and figure out a method of escape. All feasibly—in fact I’ve come up with 37 ways to extricate myself from this situation. Done, completed, back to civilization. And then what? I’ve even thought as far as that—what would become of me upon my spectacular return to the bored world, the excessive, goal-oriented world. You’re either for or against—is there an in between? Maybe there is now, here, where I hesitate, my self-designed limbo, doing absolutely nothing.

Have I done enough yet in all my years on earth? When and how will I know? If only I could meet the timid creature who hovers in the half dark of that doorway, from where he must have a wide knowing eyeful of this godforsaken place and my resistant shadow that mars it.

If I let myself go toward that door, if I venture out to discover who or what hides within—maybe I can resolve this concern of mine, maybe we will have a frank discussion, and as he has been here long before me, he understands this dilemma in an entirely greater depth than I do. His desire to create this door is his desire to help others who also wait in painful conflict, so painful that it can no longer be felt. When the pain has filled you completely, when you are made of pain, it is no longer pain, and you can finally pretend you are free. I’ve been pretending for awhile.

Suddenly, before there is time for Time to notice—for I have been out of her sight for awhile—I am there, perched beside the door, fingers crooked and aching so I remember that I have fingers, knees digging into the jagged rock surrounding the seductive entry way.

There is no need to call out a greeting; he has already done so by the very fact of this door. My left foot hovers over blackness, I stick my head into damp dark. For the first time, the rhythm of the cascade disappears, that infinity is abruptly cut off, silenced as if it never existed. My right foot stands on the downward sloping rock and the smooth water is just as smooth. It never changes and I still don’t understand this—never a breeze, never rain, never a curious jumping fish or fallen piece of crumbled rock; as if everything is waiting. I want to know why, but all questions cannot be (or should not) answered. Even he cannot explain this to me, I am sure of that.

I look below my hovering foot into the impossible dark and imagine him waiting somewhere near, watching. For or against, my left foot swings up and down like an absurd pendulum. For or against, I tilt my head to listen for a voice inside, my right foot slips. For or against, there is no in between.

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