Under Construction

Submitted into Contest #204 in response to: Set your story in a desert town.... view prompt

6 comments

Contemporary Speculative LGBTQ+

The door was thick, brown, and it smelled like sawdust from the construction site across the street. Though that might just be the air quality in Arizona. I breathed in the smell, not knowing if the remnants of wood, powdered concrete, and dust would end up suffocating me, filling my lungs with gunk that the doctors couldn’t remove. That’s what happened to Pa. His death always made the world smell like chemicals, like asphalt and epoxy. The alley door was awkwardly placed, wedged between two brick buildings. It was too thin –like it had skipped a few meals– and the wood was unremarkable, with chipping white paint and a beveled look that may have at one point had sharper edges. Now they were dull, but smooth, and as I ran my hand over it, I was surprised at the power of wind and it's good friend time; the way they could change the nature of something’s shape little by little. Together they could alter microscopically, so that the object never knows the difference. Maybe the wind has been changing me too. Maybe it’s been brushing my skin cells away one by one, ten by ten, hundred by hundred. Maybe it’s changed me, forcing pieces of me away so that I’m the only one who can ever recognize what’s left. 

Marin keeps saying that I’ve changed. It doesn’t seem like it to me, but maybe the changes have been so gradual that I’ve missed them. Maybe I’ve been just like a frog in a pot of water, not realizing that something or someone was increasing the temperature degree by degree. At least that would be a death that changed me, made me burn hotter. Now it feels as if I’m being slowly wiped away, maybe I’ll have never existed to begin with. Maybe moths have the right idea. Maybe they know that to burn for a moment, chasing the light, is better than to waste away one degree at a time, not knowing that the world around you has made you different. 

The door was different too. I could tell, and that made me interested in seeing what was behind it. Maybe the door was like me. Maybe it was hiding the most significant parts of itself behind a weathered exterior: chipping paint and a crumbling façade. I looked up at the brick building once more. The rest of it was well taken care of. I could see the window sills painted a fresh, crisp, white that looked like it had dried a few days ago. The bricks were clean, as if someone took a power washer to them until they sparkled. The door didn’t make much sense as it was. It felt as if it were placed there without a care, like the owners were unsure how to use the space they were given. Maybe a door in the back alley was easiest. 

I ran my hand over the round doorknob, feeling the sleek metal and the tantalizing jiggle of an almost turn. It wasn’t enough to tell if it was locked. It was more like a tease, “you can twist me if you want to,” it said. When I secured my fingers around the knob; twisted, and pulled, I was surprised to hear a soft click. I tried pulling the door toward me, and was unhappy to find that it only pushed inward. I wanted to bring a piece of the door with me, I wanted it to come out into the back alleyway where I stood; away from the bustling noise of the street, away from the long hours at the construction site, away from Marin. I wanted it to be somehow back in this space where I could understand it. Maybe then I would be able to understand me, and then maybe I could hope to understand us. Maybe in pulling the door toward myself, I would be able to take back the piece of myself that made Marin love me. 

I yanked on the door, both hands holding that silver knob. I yanked and yanked, waiting for the hinges to give way. I braced my foot on the wall for leverage, even as I knew somewhere in my mind that it would be easy to push forward. It would be easy to let the door swing open on its own, and follow it into whatever space was beyond, but I was stubborn.

The stile around the hinges started to crack. It splintered, sounding not quite like a piece of paper that had been crumbled into a ball, but more like a shattering. Splintering. It sounded more like my soul, and it occurred to me as I yanked that maybe some part of me was cracking with it. I pulled one last time, feeling a residual ache in my shoulders from a day of heavy lifting, but the door gave way and flew out into the alley. My hand stayed on the knob as I stepped to the side, narrowly dodging the door as it flew and slapped to the ground with a thud that felt louder in the surrounding silence. Splinters of wood and chips of white paint created a path of breadcrumbs toward their fallen whole, and I was left staring at it, thinking that maybe it had been better where it was. It wasn’t quite regret that came over me, more of a recognition that maybe the door wasn’t the actual whole, maybe the building was, and I had become whatever it is out there in the universe that had changed something, changed me. I had torn away a piece of its paint, a couple hundred of its skin cells, and I didn’t feel guilty.

Out of curiosity I turned back to the now empty doorway and found a storage closet left behind. There were ropes, watering cans, rakes, shovels, gloves, and crates of who knows what. I didn’t go in to check, somehow it felt like a violation. There was nothing left there for me. I turned back toward the street and made my way home. I made my way down the dusty walkways under the glow of a blinding sun. It’s been dryer than usual, but the tap hasn’t gone out yet. I finally make it to my front door where I knock as if I don’t already live there. Maybe Marin’s been waiting.

July 01, 2023 00:58

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6 comments

Kevin Logue
18:58 Jul 05, 2023

You have a very unique style and creativity. I got genuinely invested in what was behind the door, but that was never the point was it, it was the what ifs, the maybe. Very interesting piece Evelyn, a thinker it is!

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Evelyn Griffith
20:51 Jul 05, 2023

Thank you so much for the kind comments! I'm so glad it drew you in! I definitely wanted it to be more about the possibilities than what was actually there! Thanks so much for noticing! I hope you have a wonderful day!

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Casper Sparks
16:55 Jul 09, 2023

What a compelling read! I am impressed with how you made an industrial setting so personal and intimate to the narrator. Reading their thoughts on how they have changed on a cellular level gave me the mental image of a person watching their cells gently blow away in the wind like grains of sand. I also enjoyed the build-up of tension leading to the door opening. My personal interpretation is that pulling the door toward them is a metaphor for taking back a sense of identity or empowerment. Thank you for sharing!

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Evelyn Griffith
18:03 Jul 09, 2023

Wow! Thank you for the kind comment. I agree that there’s a deeper metaphor here for how people change over time and how that shows. Thanks for reading!

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Mary Bendickson
12:03 Jul 03, 2023

Sounds like door abuse to me. Tear down the doors to your baggage and garbage.

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Evelyn Griffith
14:47 Jul 04, 2023

Haha! I suppose so! Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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