Behind the Door

97

My sister had a burnt wood door with a brass knocker and a dented door handle. I drummed a sad song on the doorframe and hoped that she would save my dying soliloquy. I made the brass knocker into my cymbals and pounded off quarter notes. My face pressed against the surface and begged my ears to hear her singing along on the other side. The door handle rusted with age and its color faded where hands gripped it time and time again. I placed my fingers over the marks that my mother and father left, and just as they did, I twisted the knob. It was stubborn, sealed shut, locked from the inside. My song began to wind down because I couldn’t keep up the tempo, and my knocking became weak. As I walked back to my bedroom, I inspected the metal splinters left on my palm and washed my hand with tears.

Her door was crafted in lost hope and a daily ritual of disappointment. Each evening I would sit outside her door and play the doorframe as a piano until my fingers turned numb. After I tired of my fruitless song, I would make up endings to the story of when the door first shut.

It always began the same way.

It was just the two of us at home, my sister and me. We were dancing recklessly to songs we did not know in our pajamas and mother’s lipstick. My sister made up lyrics in her rough and broken voice, but it sounded perfect to me. She was everything I had ever wanted to be.

We held hands and spun together, throwing our heads back, and chasing our feet in circles. I lifted my face to see her. The clock ticked slower and we moved faster and all I could see were her eyes. We squeezed our hands together. Two eyes blinking. With each twirl, our laughs formed a symphony. Two eyes that crinkled when she laughed and two eyes that cried tears as real as mine. Spinning, spinning, spinning. Two eyes so radiant that they could stop time itself with just one glance because all anybody needed to see was right there with my sister. She was absolutely beautiful.

Some days the story just stops here. I convince myself not to think any further and allow my lungs to breathe more slowly again. If I let the story end there, I get a few brief moments of relief to remember when her door was always left ajar and was still welcoming. But on most days, I cannot stop myself from remembering.

One moment we were dancing in circles and the next moment I was on the tile floor of the kitchen. My sister held ice to my forehead and told me to breathe with her. I could not breathe. She hovered her face above mine as she frantically called my parents, and I remember knowing she was crying, but not seeing any tears in her eyes.

By the time the door opened and the screaming began, I was too weak to move.
“You could have killed her!”
“What were you thinking?”
“I’ll never forgive you.”
My sister’s head still hung above mine; she would not move. I could not tell my sweat from my blood, nor my tears from her tears. She leaned over to my ear and whispered “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” before picking herself up and fleeing.

Then the quiet came. The buzzing in my ears faded until a pure silence fell upon me and I was lonely again.

It was then that I heard her door lock.

Each night I would picture a different ending and I would often fall asleep on the floor outside her room. My sister opened her door every day for school or for dinner, but she would never open it for me. Maybe she blamed herself for my injury or maybe she was afraid to hear me say I loved her, but I would sit outside her room forever if it meant I could have my sister back instead of a stranger stuck behind a door.

Yesterday, I pressed my face against her old door again and listened. I stopped drumming on the wood and I paused the story writing in my head. I just listened.

Several minutes passed before the quiet came. The buzzing in my ears faded until the purest silence fell upon me.

It was then that I heard the door unlock.

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Emily Char is junior at Dwight Englewood School in New Jersey. She is very active in her Jewish youth group as well as Model United Nations at her high school. She is an avid writer and her favorite subject is history.
Accompanying photo: “Brain Rising” by Elena Eisenstadt