Why Not Leave

Andy has been standing at the back door for three years now, his hand resting on the cheap wood handle.

“What’s for dinner, Ma?”  he shouts.  He can hear her whistling.  He grimaces.  He wants to tell her he hates her.  He wants to tell her he loves her.  He can smell fried onions wafting from the kitchen . . . again.  Last night it was the must of boiling potatoes.  He’s grown thin standing there watching cars pass on the side street, the birds that build their nests in the hedge, the young couple that sometimes stands in the cul-de-sac and kisses.

The glass is strong, almost translucent, almost.  He can see his vague body like a ghost, the way, as dusk approaches, darkness gathers inside him.  He can see the smudges that cover his body, prints and palms of other people’s hands.  He’s begun thinking about what it would be like to open the door.  The stories play out in the night as his body sways somewhere between sleep and waking–it is silent.  Here is Andy with guitar in hand, the big record deal, the girls, the coke, the stay at Betty Ford.  Here is Andy going to college, the job at the bank, the lawn that seems to stretch into nowhere.

But lately, he sees himself posed by the door, the wall clock chiming behind him.  His pencil legs barely support him.  His face is gaunt.  His mother is sitting at the table looking through him.

“Memories, like the corners of my mind,” she sings.

“Ma! Crap . . . morbid crap.”

She looks up only half seeing him.  She rises, walks to the sideboard and pours a tall glass of vodka.  Andy watches her turn it up in one long, slow gulp.  It is then that he feels the door open like a mouth, a turbulent wind gathering around him.  He can feel the pull . . .

He usually finds himself crying as the vision clears, as the phantom wind sets him softly back in the dark house.  And when the dream is gone, he lifts his foot, the same foot placed in the same space, the half-toe shape where the carpet is worn.  There next to the metal seam where door meets wall running up to the latch that is always open.  His forearm muscles tense.  He can feel the resistance of the sliding door, the inertia of weight and ambivalence.  His eyes are closed, his jaw set.  And then the tick of releasing metal stops him.

“Shit,” he whispers and presses forehead against the ghostly forehead in the glass, as if some part of him is disappearing and he wants nothing more than to lean in and kiss himself goodbye.

P. Ivan Young

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