He Opened the Door

February 23, 2008
By Angela Jelenic, Euclid, OH

He opened the door to the nearest building to escape his shattered world outside. It didn’t matter what was waiting for him beyond the door. The thoughts running through his mind at that time told him anywhere is better then here. So he listened. Realizing it will be a while before someone finds him, he takes a look at the room that he now stood in. It was a slightly large café with two workers and 4 other guests. The lights were dimmed and quiet music was playing from the left. A musty smell lingered in layers through out the air with a tiny hint of brewing coffee tingling his nostril hairs. Scattered in the room was nine and a half chairs for artistic effect and a huge bookshelf overcrowded with worded pages. He still stood on the welcome mat that didn’t say anything at all. Instead it was just two colors, red and blue, that fought to be the dominant hue. At the counter stood the two employees. One smiled. One smoked. One prayed. One cussed. One wore blue. One wore red. After studying the room, he picked a seat at a corner table and sat. He’s been told before that it’s not polite to stay in a restaurant and not buy something. But he held no money and wasn’t the least bit thirsty or hungry. Also nobody else seemed to have bought anything either, so it didn’t bother him as much. There were still only four other customers. No ones moved from their original spot and no one else has entered. One person was weeping over a blood soaked letter. Two others were listening deep inside their ipods. The last one was just sitting there, looking as if he was lost in space. The whole scene, indeed, was more then a bit odd. Even though he was only fourteen he has had a love affair with every café in the half sized city. He’s always been thrilled with them. The irregular shape the buildings could take, the many types of people who marched in and out, the sophisticated style that swept through every day. However there was no particular café he favored over the others. Each one gave him an equal feeling if fitting in. But loitering in the café that never existed until today didn’t just give him a sense of attachment, it started to characterize him.

The day grew older and the five customers still sat still like statues. Imagining his parents being worried he decides to break the mold and leave. This he stands up and tiptoes to the door. Looking back at the others he sees that no one is looking at him. No one watched him move and no one even seemed to notice the scenery had changed. One squeak of the door knob and he heard people mumbling. He opened one eye. Now two. And family members bombarded his hospital bedside. They spoke loudly and all at once. But just waking up he didn’t comprehend anything. A vast number of questions viciously fed at his mind. Yet the words that escaped his mouth only said, “I want to go home.” Still hospital policies made him stay one more night. During that time three strangers, each in glowing white coats, chaperoned his dull earth toned room. They talked to him as if they knew him for years and looked at him as if he wasn’t worth their time. Asking him questions trying to get inside his mind. But he wouldn’t speak.

His parents were in denial that anything was wrong. Saying it was an accident he ended up in that café. So he was sent to school in the same way, did all the work to get good grades, and at the end of each day lay his head down in the same place. For the weeks following they acted as if the event never occurred. Until it happened again. The café was smaller, the lights were brighter, the music angrier. The two same workers stood in the same spots but there was only one other customer. Furthermore, the mat at the door was still at war. His seat at the corner table has been waiting to connect with him again both physically and emotionally. And like before, he didn’t care to go up to the counter and buy anything. The only other person was a kid a few years older who rocked back and forth muttering under his breath. Even though the cafés appearance changed the feeling it gave to him was equal to the feeling he got from his first visit. A feeling of connection. He felt it here and only here. And because of this he didn’t just want to make it an over night love, he wanted a marriage, a commitment. But enough time was spent at the café today so he departs. With one foot out the door he’s resting in his hospital bed again.

Everyone searched high and low for the reasoning of his trips to the café. He knew where it laid but wouldn’t speak in fear of them being able to fix it. As a result, to try to make him talk, they took his key to the café away. Hiding it under lock that he didn’t know the combination to. But there were many keys all around that could open the same door. So the doorknob kept turning, the hinges kept squeaking, the welcome mat kept fighting. As he visited the café more frequently, his parents got more desperate trying to keep him above ground. But the efforts were going to be the death of him. He couldn’t take the therapy sessions, the constant questioning, and everyday being exactly the same. So he hopped on the next train and never again saw his families face.

After days of traveling alone, he just wanted to go home. And since he was in the middle of nowhere no one could stop him. He reached in his bag took out the blade and sat in the damp, dead grass. Besides one bare, twigged tree nothing was watching. Pulling back his sleeves he started crying. Unwrapping the bandages on his arms he started remembering his life before it got to this. He stopped crying and put the knife to his wrist then slid it across his bare skin. Before he lost the use of his arm he repeated the process on the other. He now laid on soaked, red grass and was finally going home. The music kept playing, his chair kept waiting, and he kept bleeding. Even though the size of the building was different, the light a little darker, the two same employees stood at the same counter doing the same things they always did. And at his feet the battling mat looked bloodier then ever. One hand at his stomach he realized he was starving. His other hand to his throat, he was thirsty. With ten full steps he stood before the counter. “Welcome to the Rotten Skull Café. How may we help you?” He was home.

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