The door, a grand double entryway made of rich deep wood.
What kind of wood? Who knows? I’m not a wood guy. Why is it practical that I should even know that? Why is this doorway practical at all anyway? What pretentious person would pay all this money just for a doorway? It’s nice, but it’s dark. Almost black, but kind of red at the same time. How much money does a not-quite-black but kind of red door cost? It seems like the kind of thing someone with way too much money has made so that people are forced to stop and ask these very questions. I mean, why not just the normal door, right?
There are no windows in the doors. In each there is a wrought iron grill that protects a hinged panel that opens inward, allowing the person inside to see out. Wrought iron? Seriously? This is 2023! Why on earth would a person with all this money buy two doors without windows, then make sure they could see out of them anyway. It’s so pretentious and stupid. Why not just buy a video doorbell?
Oh. There it is.
So then what is the point of the wrought iron grilled panels in the door? It only proves my point!
I should leave. I should just go away and not come back. I don’t need any of this. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to even consider being involved in something like this. It isn’t right. This isn’t how it should be, not like this.
I could see if it were on better terms. On my terms. If I could control the situation maybe this wouldn't be so bad. Maybe that's what I need to do. Control the situation. Meet it on my terms. That’s it. Ring the bell! Go ahead! Ring it! This stupid door doesn’t scare me! I’m a man! Ain’t I? I’m not afraid of any door!
I reach out to ring the bell, knowing that once I do I’m in. Once I ring it there’s no going back. Once it’s rung it can’t be unrung. Once it’s rung there’s no place to hide. Is that what I’m doing? Am I hiding out here on the other side of the not-quite-black kind of red door hiding from the video doorbell? Is that what I’m doing?
Yes. It’s what you’re doing.
How can this even be? How can something like this just happen? What are the chances? I mean, in my life, pretty damn good. Whatever can go wrong has already gone wrong; you just don’t know it yet. When you finally find out, don’t worry, there’ll be some imposing doors with wrought iron and no windows to give you plenty of time to dread it. And there will be a video doorbell that’s probably been recording you all this time.
Damn. They’re probably watching me right now. What kind of people are they? Who would do that to a person? Leave them on the porch languishing on the other side of their fancy door with its wrought iron and fancy doorbell. Why wouldn’t they just open the door? Don’t they know that this is an impossible situation for me? Don’t they know that I don’t want anything to do with this?
I don’t, right? I don’t. Right?
That’s why it's ok to go. It's ok to leave.
But it’s not ok! It’s not! It never was! What am I supposed to do, just ring the bell? Knock on the door? Sit on the couch and enjoy an iced tea, and exchange pleasantries. Who even knows what kind of people these are?
They can’t be bad people. I can’t imagine any of this was easy. Well, it’s not easy on me either. That’s right. But you’re on this side of the door. What’s it like on that side of the door? That’s not my problem, why even bring that up? Because once you know, you’re on that side of the door. Are you sure you want to be?
With a door like this who knows what kind of situation is waiting just on the other side? What if it’s cold and unfriendly? What if that’s the kind of place this is? What if beyond that door it's all antiseptic, all painfully clean, all order? What if it's happiness and rainbows and unicorns? What if it's dreadful and you could cut the tension with a knife? What if it’s empty? Empty of all those things that make a house a home? What if the time I’ve been waiting outside this door means I’ve run out of time?
I lunge and push the button. I knock on the not-quite-black kind of red door. I push the button again. I step forward to examine the wrought iron not window. I step back so the camera can see me. I shuffle my feet on the ground looking from one to the other and back up to the not window again. Then back to the doorbell.
Nothing. Maybe they’re not home. That would be something, wouldn't it? How is that possible? There are three cars in the driveway. How rich are these people? They have three cars and giant double doors and video doorbells and no one is home? What’s their fourth car?
I knock again.
“Sorry… S… Sorry. Hello?” The voice came from the speaker.
The voice from the doorbell speaker sounds tired, very tired. Not just tired, but drained. Drained of everything that makes life worth living. Drained of its will to take another step.
Don't answer. Just walk away. Just do it.
You can’t just walk away. You can’t do it. She needs you and she’s in there and if you don’t answer who knows what it might mean?
She doesn’t even know who you are.
You’re not even a memory.
She needs you! That’s what the agency said!
You’re the only one that can help! She needs you! You! You specifically! Not someone like you! You!
“Hello? Michael, is that you?” The voice pleaded. It actually begged. It sounded so tired. So drained. So… sad.
“Yes!” I shouted, my fright taking my voice to octaves I didn't know it could achieve. “It’s Michael! The agency sent me. We spoke on the phone.”
“Yes. Thank god. Thank god for you, Michael. We’ll be right down.”
There’s still a chance. Go now! Once that door opens you’re in!
The latch trips.
The door opens.