My Front Door, A Finchhole
Tony Del Degan
It had not been long since I'd moved out into my apartment - away from my parents. My mother never left my heart; she was always there, speaking through the telephone receiver. She'd reserved a seat for herself in my head - a balcony seat to watch the stage. Sometimes, I felt as though I couldn't act, and my efforts were in vain. Sometimes, I wondered if she was enjoying the show, or merely watching it. There were some days where I saw her seat empty, and I'd realize I was now a man; responsibility weighed heavy over my head.
Morning light found the crack in my blinds. I woke in my bed - the same I'd slept in for many years, the mattress bought with my own money and the frame built in the garage. Furniture was expensive, but just now, I had a lot of it. Gothic velour chairs inhabited corners where the sun couldn't taste my dwelling, crouched in the shadow like color in slumber. Everywhere, there were tables, upon which I stored my comforts.
Stacks of paper pushed aside - likely important, and therefore, easily forgotten. Curios and decor, collected over twenty years of life.
I got out of bed, surrounded by it all, and crossed to the bathroom door.
The tub was sterile concrete. Rays from a dim light were absorbed by the stone of the walls. Industrial. I readied myself, dressed in my uniform: black trousers, black jacket. I combed my hair last night; I wouldn't this morning, or it would fall too flat.
My front door was a normal size. I clicked open the lock, and opened it.
How did I get here?
I must have gotten off at the wrong stop. Train tracks run to my right - brick wall to my left. This is the industrial quadrant of the city: flat, barren, and cold. Gravel crunches. My shoes slip; the gravel is trying to pull me under.
Someone could come around the corner and mug me, or kill me, or worse. I'm just waiting for it now. Standing. Floundering. Alone.
The tracks start to rumble, then cease. I pick a direction. Something is watching me.
It tears at my skull, boils the fluid in my ear canals. My feet carry me forward, running now.
No. There's something there. It's going to kill me.
I turn, and a second alarm sounds, fighting the first. They both conspire to envelope me - dash my underdeveloped thoughts against the sides of my skull in a frenzied psychosis. I feel it closing in around me. Something is coming.
I'm home now. My apartment is part of a complex - a concrete box. Sunlight pours like rain through the caged skylight. Dust dances in the fall. On both sides, black iron railings and stacked doorways loom; before me lies a cafe. Round tables are packed amongst metal shelves, where packets of coffee and dried goods await purchase. The tables are empty.
I climb the steps. They're thin and precarious. Eventually, I reach my apartment.
The door is open.
Someone took it all. Everything. My bed is gone, and my shelves, and dresser, and comforts. At least they left my bathtub; it's far too heavy. I touch it; it's cold. At a time like this, I wonder what my mother would think of me. Is she sitting there, in her balcony seat, or is she gone? I can't see her through the glaring haze of the stage lights. They burn me.
They left a table. Easter chicks - little balls of fluff with plastic feet and beads for eyes. Pipe Cleaner beaks squeak sideways. It's just as I left it: organized in neat rows. Chicks in clusters, equally spaced - snakes and birds in columns. The tablecloth is cheap, but it looks like silk.
I should install another lock. That'll keep them out.
A deadbolt that slides out, sealing the door. It screws in easily, like it was meant to be there. If I wasn't stupid enough to procrastinate its installation...
I go outside, shut my door. My feet click softly on the steps in descent. I enter the cafe. A girl now sits at a table. Her hair is dark, long - so is her outfit; it's too dark to tell what garments they are. Maybe she's a wraith.
"Do you live up there?"
She's talking to me. I didn't think she would. "I do."
"I live across." Her finger points - the opposing wall, and its doors. "We're neighbors."
Now she wants me to sit down. I do. There is kindness in her eyes, and a spark of wisdom. Maybe, or maybe I'm too hopeful.
"I'm an artist," she says, after a while. "I write poetry."
"Finally. Someone as smart as I am." That was stupid. I couldn't have said a single thing worse than that. It was supposed to be a joke.
She laughs. I thought she'd leave.
"What do you write about?"
"Oh, well.. I don't know." Her coffee steams wistfully; her pale fingers grasp the cup in idle thought. "Sometimes I feel... well - alone. I write about that. I don't really get out much."
There's a smile on her face. I've never seen anything brighter. Later on, I say: "I have to go to work tomorrow, so I can't stay out late."
"I'll see you, then."
I get up from the table and leave her. It feels as though something tears away from me and stays. When I see her again... if... it'll return, and I'll feel it - but only in her presence. If she goes, then that hope goes too, and I'll lose it. I'm not sure how much is left to give.
But until tomorrow, I can't know.
My front door has shrunk to the size of a finchhole. I slip my hand inside, find the latch, and blink. It allows me entry. The rooms are bare, as I'd left them, with only the Easter chicks and the snakes and the birds left for company.
But I don't think it matters.
There is more to life than that. I feel the stage lights dim, enough to let me glimpse the room. I think I see my mother, and I think she's smiling.