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Fiction Sad

CW: Mental Health |


I have been afflicted, for some time, sitting inside this room. The walls are both a punishment and a warm place where I find comfort. Years have passed, I never thought I would still be sitting in this same room. If my younger self could see me now, I wonder if they would be compassionate or furious with me?

Whatever I might have felt, today that is all going to change. Today I plan to go outside. Not far, and just in small increments at a time. And for as long as I can bear until my chest caves in on itself, tearing through me like a black-hole. That feeling is my gatekeeper. My personal Cerberus that convinces me every day to stay in. And today I would conquer him.

I’m not quite sure why my apprehension about leaving my room began. I guess it was in small increments. Say something wrong, and I would be shamed. Make a mistake, and I would be shamed. Have an opinion and I would be shamed. Be and I would be shamed. After so long, it was simply too difficult to venture outside. My family became so frustrated with me, they would shame me too. So now I like to stay in my room as much as possible, and I never leave the house.

It hasn’t been at all unbearable. Sometimes I pretend I’m a ghost haunting my family. I’m here, but they do not always see me, and when they do see me, they aren’t quite confident in their reactions. Conversations have an edge to them and then they’re turned on their sides. If a thing like conversations could have sides, the ones I have with my family would be sharp, jagged, and would constantly catch on corners like fabric as you walk by; much like a hangnail.

But as I said, today will be different. Though I do have to think about how my family will view my going outside for the first time in years. I know they are frustrated and don’t exactly know what to do with me. But I know if I attempt to go outside, they will comment. Their comments have a sting to them, even when they aren’t intended to. No, I have convinced myself I would much rather not have an audience for my risky undertaking of venturing out of doors. It will need to wait till later in the afternoon when my family all have left.

I suppose I would also have to consider which neighbors would notice. Not that I know any of my neighbors, but I am positive they know of me. The grown child of the family down the street that never leaves the house. Then again, I never leave the house. It’s quite possible they would not know of me and think I am a burglar. No- never mind. A burglar only breaks in, they don’t break out. With this, I am convinced the neighbors’ seeing shouldn’t worry me at this particular junction.

I wait until 11 o’clock in the morning when I hear my last remaining family member pull out of the driveway. It’s showtime. All cameras are on me as I open my door. The quiet house now filled with my audience. I can hear them now, their anticipation driving me forward. 

I make my way to the end of the hall as I feel my chest tighten. I think how one day this will be a hilarious story to relay to people. “This one time I was too afraid to leave my house for almost a decade”, and we would all laugh. Other people would relate to me how they too had a difficult time leaving their homes just a few years ago. I would become fast friends with them and never feel alone again.

I’m back now, inside myself, at the edge of the hall. If I had a spouse, this would be the moment they squeeze my hand and whisper words of encouragement in my ears. They would tell me how proud they are for taking this risk, assuring me it is a risk and that I’m brave even if no one else really thinks so; they do. I would feel so comfortable in myself. They would offer to walk with me to the door, but I would decline, because I know this is something I need to do on my own.

I’m back now, inside myself. I need to focus. The front door is in sight as I round the corner. I make my way towards it in small increments, covering just a bit of ground at a time. The audience is cheering me on, my friends are shouting my praise, my spouse is smiling at me from the hall. I reached the front door.

A sense of calm washes over me. I look back and admire my progress. At the moment I am so happy I waited to do this when my family was not at home. I don’t think I would have gotten nearly as far as I did with them watching me. Judging me.

With my newfound strength, for the first time I feel as if I can actually go on and live my life. The world would not pass me by anymore. I could even travel to Italy, Egypt, or Japan. I would be free and brave enough to enjoy it. I reach my hand to the lock on the door with anticipation. This is my new beginning. I’m about to turn the lock when suddenly…

Knock, Knock, Knock

I freeze, I stop breathing, and I can hear my blood in my ears. I wait, silently.

Knock, Knock, Knock

My heart is pounding in my chest now. In small increments, I slide my eye over the peephole. I see the face of a man. He’s holding something, papers it looks like. He bounces between feet and he turns and walks away just out of view. I can’t see him anymore, but I’m not sure if he’s gone.

I stay there peering through the peephole. Waiting, not sure what for. Could the man come back? I can’t venture outside if he’s going to come back. What if he’s still standing in the front yard, just out of view? I can’t venture outside if he’s standing there. What if he knew I was there and he was waiting for me to come out? I can’t.

My chest constricts, my shoulders ache from the tightness. The black-hole is pulling me in, stealing my breath. I’m watching out the peephole, awaiting the inevitable. My body shakes, my vision narrows, and my eyes start to burn. It's time to admit defeat.

My spouse’s hand covers mine. I tear my eyes from the peephole to look at them. I expect to see disappointment, but all they give me is concern and understanding. “It’s okay,” I can almost hear them, “we can try again another day”.

I nod at them and let them lead me back to my room as they rub their hands on my back, telling me how proud they are of me. I pass my friends, “You’ll get it next time” they encourage. The audience begins to clap in my support, as I go into my bedroom and in small increments I close the door.


February 28, 2022 04:32

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10 comments

Caitlyn Kilbee
16:21 Apr 10, 2022

Beautifully written. I had an aunt who was agoraphobic and the detail is spot on. Love it.

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John Hanna
22:34 Mar 10, 2022

Hi Jules, I got your story from the critique circle where I get so many stories that are out of my usual genre. I enjoy them so much. As this is from the circle I have to point out as many faults as I can find in the hopes of improvements. There is nothing I can say, though; the grammar, spelling, punctuation, and word choices are perfect. I usually find at least one or two errors. I can't imagine being that afraid. I have more empathy for people that face real dangers. The old get biopsies and organ malfunctions that they must deal with wee...

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Jules Davis
02:40 Mar 14, 2022

Thank you so much for your feedback, your words are so kind, and will stick with me.

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Jem B
22:23 Mar 09, 2022

Accurate portrayal of mental illness and how it can affect the seemingly simple parts of life. The narrator's sudden surge of self-belief being interrupted and shut down in an instant is really emotional. Really good!

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Jules Davis
02:40 Mar 14, 2022

Thank you!

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Charlie Murphy
17:28 Mar 08, 2022

The ending was sad! I feel for the narrator. Great job!

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Scott Muka
03:41 Mar 08, 2022

Good story! My favorite lines: " Burglars only break in, they don't break out. " "I could hear the blood in my ears."

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Sharon Hancock
23:48 Mar 07, 2022

Thanks for a great story. I relate to this story in a lot a ways. I would be perfectly happy to stay home all the time. I honestly don’t understand why everyone wants other people to leave their houses so badly. I wonder if the speaker in the story would have felt any relief from the pressure of “you must leave the house” during quarantine . It is tough, I’m sure to deal with the anxiety that comes from the thought of leaving …and combine that with pressure from loved ones to “just do it”, and that pressure makes it so much worse, I’d imagi...

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Jules Davis
00:52 Mar 08, 2022

Thank you so much for your feedback and taking the time to read. This story was hard for me to write because I do sometimes struggle with anxiety, so this was kind of my way of exploring that feeling a bit more and then diving deeper into that kind of phobia of needing to stay in. ❤️

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18:23 Mar 06, 2022

Phobias are very difficult to live with. Great description of what a person goes through.

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