In the dimness of the moonlight, we can’t see far. We walk along a stretch of gray sand in near silence. The wind clicks, whispers, and mumbles conspiratorially. To the right, approximately parallel to our path, the dark body of water laps, repeatedly, lapping, with no discernible rhythm, at the shore.
My attention is scattered. I sometimes just listen to the water as we walk. Sometimes I watch the doors planted in their frames in the sand to our left as we pass them. The water. The wind. And, to the left, door after door that we’re walking by.
“You keep passing that one”, says the fox, my perpetual companion, looking back at that particular, peculiar door which I am very aware I keep passing.
There are a number of doors. I stop sometimes and look inside, sometimes poke my head inside. Some of the doors are slightly ajar. Some of them swing open as we draw closer, and a wave of sound and light and smell will hit us, pulling us in with unseen force.
I do keep passing that particular door, even though it stands out from the rest, even though it is clearly the most enticing. Its gravity is like that of a planet.
My companion the fox is implacable, “You should go inside and spend some time there. You know they change every time you pass… “
I know. The room is always different inside. You could say the worlds inside have a very high rate of entropy. The space and its contents change between passes. Concepts blur together. Sometimes different people are in there. They are always different in some way.
I’m passing her door again. I just can’t be in there right now. I don’t have the oxygen. I’m walking by her pink and purple door again, feeling guilty for not going inside. The glittery sparkles catch the moonlight. I just hope this time it doesn’t burst violently open as we pass, inundating us in light and sound… drawing me in…
Some rooms hurt to look inside, to be inside. Sometimes, often, I feel compelled to enter anyways.
There’s this one door I used to enter all the time. The door was dusty and drab brown, but the handle stayed clean from being turned so much. The paint on the handle was worn from being turned over and over. My hand might have blistered from turning that handle. Most rooms get visited occasionally. They pop up and I think “Oh sure I could go in there again…” and spend a little bit of time inside, immersed in its uniqueness. But this room… even when the door wasn’t passing, I’d seek it out. I’d turn around and run backwards to find it. I’d again turn the handle and rush inside, to find myself once again inside that camp on Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, in the year 2011. I’d pace the camp and live it again–not nostalgically. Not like gently tracing over old scars. More like scratching a wound that should have healed months ago, that might have healed if you’d only left it alone. For maybe a year before I quit drinking… every time I let my guard down, and every time I took the crowbar of alcohol to the boards I’d put up to keep myself out… I’d find myself standing at that open door again and walking through.
I haven’t fully unpacked what any of that means. I just know I had to keep going back. It was a need. A hunger. I just had to.
We hardly made any progress on our walk during that period of time. We might have even gone backwards. I kept running back to find the stupid door again. I still pass that door occasionally, and a fine dust blows out from underneath, coloring the gray sand we’re walking on. I smile to see their colors and disparate textures mix. I’m happy to be free of the need to go through. I could look in, just to see those vague moments and mountains again, and watch my younger self smoke a pipe by the burn barrel while everybody else smoked cigarettes…
My companion the fox thinks I should go in there again – not through the dusty old door that I hardly go in anymore. There isn’t much in there anymore anyways. It’s vague and quiet now. If you don’t go in a room for a while, it gets quieter. The colors fade and blur and shapes turn translucent.
He thinks I should go through that door. Her door. The one I don’t have the energy to go through. It’s coming up again.
It repeats more than any door has before.
As we walk by this time, the door is slightly ajar. Inside, I see myself, the last time I broke down. Jessica and I are sitting in the car after cleaning the house, and I’m weeping. It’s the last time we will ever be there, in the last home where Rebecca still had a body. The car is filled with the smell of cleaning products. We’re about to leave the island of Oahu for good, not likely to ever return. It’s another moment of painful punctuation–the ninth period at the end of her sentence–and I’m feeling it, allowing myself to feel it, because I know I have to feel it sometimes.
I stumble backwards and fall onto the gray sand. I might start running. I didn’t want to feel that then and I sure as hell don’t want to feel it now.
“Just let me walk past a few more times.” I’m pleading with the fox. “That wasn’t that long ago. I just need a little more time.”
My companion the fox is not cruel. He suggests and nudges, but doesn’t insist. He reminds me that the room is changing, like they all do. It would be a shame to let them change too much before I visit again.
I feel that. I hear it. I don’t want to have to wonder what I missed. This is where Rebecca lives now, the only place where my little girl lives, behind that door…
We walk for some months longer, and now Christmas is coming… and now some of these doors are decked out with evocative symbols and decorations. There are more doors in a season so specific, with such triggering aesthetics and smells. Most of the doors are open now. I’m catching scents and seeing things. I see her door coming up again soon and I keep walking. My companion the fox looks up at me, just checking in.
I approach her door, breathing deeply in slow counts.
The door is slightly ajar, and warm red sand spills out from underneath, mixing with the dark gray sand of the beach. The door is slightly open, and from inside I hear one of the songs we used to play in her room when she couldn’t sleep. There are bright moving lights inside, playing on the walls of her room.
I open the door. and hold my breath. and step inside.