The Story of a Door

Not a metaphorical one.


In 2004 or 2005, my parents, my youngest sister, and I moved to California. We had “sold” (I put that in quotes because we got almost nothing for it) the house I, my sisters, and my dad had grown up in to my older sister and her boyfriend. California was going to be our new start. Before we left, I begged my parents to find a house to rent before we left New Jersey. They didn’t listen, as usual, so when we arrived, we wasted a ton of money on a hotel while house-hunting. I liked every place we looked at except one, which is the one we moved into. The back yard was the only thing I liked about it, but not for long, because my parents basically turned it into a giant ashtray.

My other younger sister stayed behind in New Jersey, until a feud with older sister led to her joining us. Heather, who ended up carrying most of the financial burden of the family, got the living room to sleep in. She said she didn’t mind because she got control of the TV and the couch was very comfortable, but I still felt bad. I’ve always been very protective of Heather, partly because I always felt my mom was too hard on her. Since Heather worked hard during the day, and I was usually up all night in the adjoining dining room on the computer, I wanted it to be very quiet at night for her. My parents didn’t seem to share this concern.

They would both get up multiple times each night to go outside and smoke, going out the back door through the kitchen, which was just behind the living room. My only problem with this was that they wouldn’t close the door quietly when they did go in and out, so Heather was always almost woken up every time they came in and out. Every single night, when I saw my mom or dad headed out, I would go over and ask them, eventually beg them, to please close the door quietly. Turn the handle, open, slowly release the handle. When you come back in, turn the handle, open, slowly release the handle. I would explain ad nauseam that they were disturbing Heather, please open and close the door quietly.

They would just look blankly at me, and then not do what I asked. Eventually I gave up and told them I would open and close the door for them. More blank looks, then a nod. But when they came back in, you guessed it, they would slam the door. I didn’t understand. I don’t now. For a while, Heather was the only one in the family working. She was so stressed that she was having migraines and other health problems. I wasn’t working because my depression and anxiety had me virtually housebound then. The only money I had coming in was my disability money, which my parents took every month. If they’d spent it on rent and bills, that would’ve been one thing.

We lost that house, and California, and had to return to New Jersey to live with my aunt, because my dad lost his job, what Heather and I brought in wasn’t enough, and instead of paying rent, my parents spent all the money on my mom’s doctor-shopping and enough painkillers to keep her asleep all day, every day. She did work for a while, but in her usual way, for a few months before quitting and expecting us all to cheer for her. I was making Christmas cookies the day she came in and announced she had quit her job. That’s when I knew California wasn’t going to last for us. I felt more at home my first week there than I have in decades of living in New Jersey. I wasn’t happy, but I could’ve been there, maybe. I had just taken the step of enrolling in college when I learned we were being evicted.

I was in college in New Jersey until recently. I loved it, but eventually my financial aid and loans weren’t enough to keep going. I doubt I’ll ever get to go back. Another door closed forever, this one quietly.

Author: athlynne

"From mirror after mirror, No vanity's displayed. I'm looking for the face I had Before the world was made." - W.B. Yeats

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