The Day, Continued (Week 3 winner)
Keys, shoes, pointless umbrella – I had everything I needed and still stood staring at the door. I knew it wasn’t going to open itself. I knew it was up to me to cross the threshold to start my day.
And I didn’t do it.
I put the umbrella back in the closet. I put my keys back on the hook next to the door. I took off my shoes and put them back onto the mat. I did get as far as touching the door but not until I’d already undone my preparations, waiting to make even that minimal contact with the potential of the outside world until I’d made it clear to myself that there wasn’t a chance of meeting it that day.
From the safety of the big chair furthest from the door, I considered my options. I had built quite a comfortable life for myself within the walls of my apartment. I didn’t, technically, need to leave it for anything. The internet brought all the world I could stand and then some to my fingertips. I was, through my computer, able to meet all of my basic needs from the comfort of my big chair. Groceries found their way to my doorstep and friends appeared on screen at regular intervals.
Outside wasn’t a necessary part of my existence. Or, at least, I’d convinced myself of such. Even so, at least once a week I went through the process of attempting to go out into it. That day wasn’t new – I had gotten dressed and shoed and wrapped my keys in one hand and my umbrella in the other on fifty one other days. And, on each of those days I found myself back on my chair, staring at the door from the furthest distance possible in my apartment.
That day was my fifty second attempt. My fifty second failure.
Have you ever failed at something that consistently? I think it does something to you, failing that many times. I’m not really sure I had any hope around my failed attempts. Had I honestly thought that I would open the door that morning? Had I used the same old self talk script to hype myself up enough that I got dressed and put on my shoes? Looking back it’s hard to imagine that I had any belief left.
My chair supported me and held me, and that had been all I needed for a long time. All I had, anyway. My apartment was a fully furnished single room with an overstuffed chair, a bed that disappeared into the wall, a table that adjusted in height so it worked for all uses, a few pictures on each wall, and three bookshelves. The only wall without a bookshelf was the one taken up by what passed for a kitchen. It didn’t have full appliances – there wouldn’t have been room to live if it had. The range (no oven), microwave (half-sized), fridge (quarter-sized), and sink (single basin) got the job done.
Minimalist is what the wise souls on the internet called how I lived. Having a lable for it added ligitimacy to my mishigas in a way that was almost as comfortable as my big chair. I rubbed the arms of that chair as I contemplated what my day would be since it wouldn’t involve the outside world after all. For almost two months I’d had the pleasure of reorienting my day’s plans around my failure and I’d gotten rather good at it.
Tucking my feet underneath me I leaned back into the chair and closed my eyes. I had books I could read and house chores I could do, but in that moment I didn’t want to do anything beyond sitting in my chair and licking my proverbial wounds. As had happened on the other fifty one days, I went over my options and reasons and ideas as if doing so might help me move forward.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when my computer, not my phone, started ringing. The sound was jarring all on its own and only more so because it was such a rarity. Talking on the phone was something I avoided only slightly less than the outdoors and anyone who knew me understood that calling was something reserved for dire emergencies. Those non-existent calls would come to my phone, though, not the computer.
It took me a minute to decide to act and another minute to get myself up and over to my computer. It wasn’t even on. It was sitting, closed, in its spot on one of the bookshelves. Unplugging it and turning it off was something I’d read about online as a way to limit the compulsive checking of all the things. For the last three weeks I’d been dutifully disconnecting it and shutting it down. The only change it had made so far was that I was getting a bit more activity in with all the time spent bending down to plug and unplug it every time I thought of something I needed to do online.
The ringing continued as I got the machine up and running. I found myself missing “the olden days” when phones, the ones that plugged into the wall, anyway, would only wring a certain number of times before going silent. My first taste of an adrenaline rush of, in my youth, came from racing across the ground floor of our family home to skid to a stop in the kitchen and retrieve the handset from the phone before that last ring. It didn’t matter who the call was for back then because there was no way of knowing. The simplicity sounded delicious in that moment.
I found myself shaking as I fought to find which app I had that could make a noise matching the ring I heard. It turned out to be one of the social platforms – one that I spent too much time on and that was the impetus to start disconnecting the computer. I paused for a moment of thanks that it was not, indeed, a phone call I was about to need to face. Once the app was open and on-screen I was confronted with the face of a dear friend.
“What took you so long?”
“I thought you were calling me and that slowed me down.”
She stared at me for a moment and I thought I saw the corners of her mouth twitch like she was holding back a grin. My shoulders tensed up as I readied myself for a fight.
“We both know I know enough not to call you.”
She was right. She did know me. She knew me better, or at least more honestly, than I knew myself. That the knowing wasn’t a two way street was something I’d struggled with for far longer than I’d struggled to leave my apartment. Helene. Helene Granscene. Helene Granscene in all her flamboyant, intense, loud, and boisterous glory had been placed next to me in the twelfth grade and hadn’t left my side since. For a time she and I led parallel lives though that’s not something most people would assume looking at us today.
She’d smiled and shouted her way through high school and college while I slinked along in her shadow. Helene took center stage in all venues while I was happiest behind the scenes, but we were together through it all the same. We shared a friend group made up of people quieter than her and louder than me with the two of us marking the edges.
“I have a proposition for you.”
My eyes narrowed and I pulled back from the screen. “What sort of proposition?”
“One that’s going to get you up and out of that damn apartment.”
“You’re not going to strong-arm me out the door, Helene. I’ll leave when I’m ready.”
“I said a proposition, not an intervention.”
“I’m not sure you have that in you.”
Helene was a force and always had been. We’d had similar conversations over the last few months and I knew she was shocked that she hadn’t gotten her way yet. History was behind her in that – I’d always capitulated to her desires in the past. She’d managed to get me on a bug-infested safari in Africa and on one of those ridiculous glass bottomed ledges that were all the rage in skyscrapers. When I retreated into my apartment she let it go for a little while. In the last couple of months, though, getting me out into the world seemed to have become one of her projects. She wasn’t nearly as used to failure as I was.
“Can I at least tell you what I’m thinking? Would you actually listen without shutting me out?”
“I don’t think I’m up for it today. Maybe tomorrow.”
She looked down and, even though I am well aware of how technology works, I leaned forward as if I could peer over the edge of the monitor to see what she was seeing.”