Doors (The Closing)

by L. L. King

Continued from Doors (The Opening)

I stand at my apartment door trying to mentally prepare myself to walk inside a place that I haven't set foot in since the night of Justin's death. It’s been exactly a week since the funeral and almost two weeks since that night. During that entire time I never returned to my apartment.

I’m still not sure how I ended up at my mother’s house but that’s where I found myself the morning after that fateful night and that’s where I stayed. Mama tried her best to be there for me and I admire the strength that she was able to muster.

Mama was different from most of the mother’s that I’ve come across. She loved us, there was never any doubts in our mind about it. She cussed us out and beat us with things that could only be deemed weapons of mass destruction; I’m talking about switches, extension cords, thick leather belts, thin plastic belts that seemed to whistle through the air, and even her house shoes.

She never verbally said that she loved us. She never gave us impromptu hugs and kisses. She just wasn’t that way. But we knew it and accepted it and we all turned out pretty good. Three high school graduates with my sister going on to finish college and get her masters regardless of her two kids and one on the way. None of us had ever been in jail. Being black in today’s society where spitting is against the law in some places, I can’t honestly say that any of us hadn’t ever been arrested.

Mama cooked. She cooked for me every single night but I barely touched the plates that were placed in front of me. Her maternal instinct told her that I would get through this whether I ate her food or not.

She hadn’t cooked like that since the time that she was trying to find a new daddy for her three kids. My biological father had succumbed to injuries that he’d sustained in a motorcycle accident eight months before that. Eight months may seem like a short time to a person that was on the outside looking in, but the truth lying just beneath the surface of our family’s pool of secrets was that my father was run off the road by a vengeful husband.

The husband, overcome with his grief and remorse, approached my mother a couple of months after the funeral to tell her the truth about how my daddy died. Before the man could even finish his story about my father’s affair with his wife, my mama’s sadness had turned into cold bitterness towards her late husband. It took eight months for mama to find someone that she felt was worth her time. It took a lot less to get over her loss.

Mama spoke for me when family and friends came around to give their regards. She smiled while I could not. She answered questions when I wouldn’t. She said thank you when others told me how sorry they were for my loss. All that she did for me during the day took a toll on her mental state at night. I would hear her late at night in her bedroom crying her eyes out with as little sound as she possibly could. It’s hard trying to help someone with a broken heart when your own is broken also. I know that now. Mama knows that too.

My sister and brother chipped in as much as they could too. Even my nieces and nephews did a little. Shay, my niece would come and sit by me and be still as a statue. She never tried to say a word to me. She just knew that something wasn’t quite right with this gentle giant that she called Maine. All of them knew it. Instead of genuine smiles and hugs as well as kisses, they were now greeted with stony stares and misty eyes.

I’d been walking around mama’s house in a vegetative state. After Justin left this world, it was as if he also took every single emotion that I had with him. I still haven’t shed a single tear. My whole entire being just shut down. When I awoke that next morning, I felt an emptiness inside me that was far different from anything that I’d ever felt before. When I got out of my mama’s bed, I refused to say anything. The house was already full of family when I walked out of the bedroom. My niece ran towards me but stopped dead in her tracks when she was greeted with a pair of empty eyes instead of the smile that she was accustomed to. I went to the bathroom and locked myself inside until my brother knocked lightly at the door to ask if I was all right.

People paraded in and out of the house to give me, and the rest of my family, their regards. News travels fast in my neighborhood; the catalyst being Mrs. Belinda. She’d adored Justin also but couldn’t resist being the first one to give the bad news. I acknowledged the presence of my family and friend by barely noticeable nods of my head and nothing more. My gift of speech had been surrendered to the afterlife along with Justin.

Justin’s funeral was hard for everyone whose life had been touched by him. His babysitter began bawling at her first sight of the miniature casket that no one should ever have had to make. Her sorrow rippled through the crowd. I heard the screams that only black women seem to know how to make but I sat expressionless. My mother fainted right in front of me but I never shifted my eyes. My mind soaked up everything going on around me as if it were a sponge.

 I heard a thousand people, give or take, tell me how sorry they were for my loss. I never nodded my head or told them thank you. I stared in space at nothing that anyone else could see. I saw visions of Justin though. All his first times of doing this or that filled my head. The first days that he crawled or ate solid food. The first time that he tasted candy. His first teeth, steps, emergency room visit, haircut, and shots all flooded my mind. I was in my own imaginary Land of Oz: a place that was miles away from the reality that I am living in now.

Mama, the wicked witch of all directions, put me out of her house. She may not feel that way but I do. I woke up this morning to find her cooking breakfast and my bags at the door. She even went through the trouble of washing my clothes before she packed them. She never once verbally told me to go but sometimes seeing is believing. She fed me one last time without ever saying a single solitary word.

After I finished my plate, eating as slowly as possible, I prepared to leave. As she was walking past me to the living room, I grabbed her and hugged her as tightly as I could without suffocating her. She held back her return embrace at first but quickly relented. I loosened my hold on her, kissed her on the cheek and began retrieving my things.

When I’d gathered everything, I waited at the door for a few seconds with my shoulders sagging hoping that she would see my pitiful sight and tell me that I could stay with her forever. When she said nothing, I turned around to see her sitting on the couch with her hands clasped beneath her chin, staring at the TV set. I sighed loudly to get her attention but she never responded. I glanced at the TV screen to see what could possibly be so interesting that she would choose to ignore me. Sportscenter was on; evidence that the channel hadn’t been changed since the previous morning when my brother had come over. Mama could care less about any type of sport. I got her message loud and clear and left to go back home: a place that I had been dreading.

On my way home, I stopped at the Jewel supermarket located near my apartment. I don’t know why I stopped. I had no plans to cook anything but I’d gone anyway out of habit: just as I’d done when Justin was a part of my life.

Justin had loved the shopping carts that doubled as toy cars. He’d open the play-door and get in without my assistance. I was a big kid in a grown man’s body and I would always push him as fast as I could without being kicked out of the store and swerve all over the aisles. I’d pretend that I was going to crash the cart and then turn at the last possible second which delighted him to the point of baby ecstasy.

There wouldn’t be any more games like that though: not today or forever more. Instead I chose to get a regular shopping cart. I wandered through the aisles aimlessly, picking up things that I may or may not have needed. When I’d thoroughly walked through the entire store, instinctively, I stood in the ten items or less checkout line. If my mind had been in the right place, I would have remembered that the cashier for the line was usually Margaret: another one of Justin’s many admirers.

Before I’d made it to the front of the line, I’d realized my mistake but it was too late: Margaret had already spotted me and gave me her customary wave. She didn’t notice that Justin wasn’t with me until she’d finished ringing up the customer in front of me. She retrieved a lollipop from her apron and leaned over the register as I came forward. It used to bother me that she would give him candy but she adored him so much that I had quickly begun to just look over it.

“Oh no. Where’s the baby?” she asked when she realized that I neither had the car-cart or Justin. I was still in my silent mode and never answered her. She didn’t seem to notice. She just stood up straight, replaced the lollipop, and continued talking: “You know that you shouldn’t have come in here unless my baby was with you. How could you do a poor old lady like me like that? Those big brown eyes make my day ten times better. How is he anyway? Credit or debit? A couple of weeks ago a baby was killed right up the street from here . . . poor child . . . poor parents too. Cash back? Oops, I’m sorry. You’re paying with cash. Silly me. Anyway, in a perfect world, a child always outlives his parents. At least that’s what the Chinese say.”

She’d said everything without realizing that I’d never made a comment which wasn’t in the least bit unusual. That was typical of Margaret. I wouldn’t have expected anything else. As she turned to bag the groceries, she gave me an absent-minded glance. Even without paying much attention, she could tell that something wasn’t quite right. Confusion replaced her friendliness when she looked deeper into my empty eyes. She added two plus two but the answer confused her even more. She’d said one simple word: “No.” She took a step back and bumped into the cash register partition. Her hands seemed to flutter up to the sides of her face in slow motion. The customers behind me watched the scene with growing curiosity.

Margaret wanted me—needed me—to say something that would make her believe that she was just dreaming but I just held eye contact until the stark truth consumed her and swallowed her whole.

She regained enough of her composure to attempt to bag the few items that I had but her hands were trembling so badly that she was unable to. She beckoned to another cashier that was passing by. The cashier walked over to her and Margaret whispered something in her ear. The new lady said, “Sure, sweetie. Go ahead. I’ll let Tom know that you left. I’m sure he won’t mind.” Margaret rushed away with her hand over her mouth to stifle the sob that was threatening to escape.

The new cashier watched her until she had disappeared and then said, “Something must really be bothering her. I can’t recall her ever leaving early.” She handed me my bag, I mumbled thank you, and walked out of the store into a bright afternoon. I half-expected Margaret to come running after me to give me her condolences but she never did. I got into my truck and prayed that it wouldn’t start—but she purred like a kitten. I hoped that the gear wouldn’t shift—but it did. I wished that I had someplace else to go—but I didn’t.

Margaret losing control and her pain didn’t bother me. I didn’t feel any better or worse. The only think that I thought about as I drove out of the parking lot was whether or not to stop for gas since the needle was almost on E. I know that I should have felt something, but in a way I was just like my truck; I was running on empty in my own emotional tank.

I take a deep breath and finally get up the nerve to step across the threshold of my apartment door. The ring of my phone freezes my right leg in mid-air and I gratefully drop it again, still standing outside my apartment.

I let the answering machine get it. The base is on an end-table that is beside my living room couch. I could have easily answered it myself but I choose to listen to it from my perch instead.

“Um, Jermaine . . . this is Tracey. I . . . uh . . . called your mother’s house and she said that you were going home. I’ve been trying to call you all week. You probably already know that though.” An extended pause. “I want to talk. No . . . I’m lying. I just need you right now. Things have been kind of rough for me. For you too. Counseling has helped some but it still isn’t the same. I have another meeting tonight. The guy is the pastor of my mother’s church. Could you please come? At least call me . . . Please, just call me.”

Tracey’s voice had begun to crack when she asked me to come with her. That wasn’t normal. Usually her voice was strong and self-assured. Akin to always sounding as if she were being bossy. The woman’s voice on my machine sounded lost, on the verge of a breakdown, pitiful, and sad. It hurts me to listen to her but I feel that my hurt outweighs hers and selfishly push her temporarily out of my mind. I need to focus on stepping inside my apartment. I take another deep breath and walk in.

As soon as I am inside, I am almost knocked down by the memories that rush to greet me.

The living room has been frozen in time. Whoever had come over to pick up my clothes hadn’t touched anything else. Justin’s toys, clothes, and even his scent—the smell of baby lotion—was still as much a part of my place as it once was. I stand just inside the door, too stupified to move, too stubborn to keep still.

I have to get busy nd stay that way as long as I can; I have to remain in motion. If I sit down, even for less than a second, I know that I will lose control. Fortunately, since my apartment is still just as I’d left it, I have a mess to clean up. I force myself into a claning mode and begin with Justin’s toys.

As I pick up the toys, I am reminded of one of my favorite poems, Little Boy Blue. It’s about the death of a little boy. The loss of the child, or his absence, is made even heavier by the mention of the child’s toys that are patiently awaiting the touch of his hand. Justin’s toys seem to be the same way. They seem so lifeless now. I can already feel that this is going to be harder than I could have ever imagined. A pecan-sized lump quickly forms in my throat.

The last thing that I pick up is a yellow elephant-like toy. I’ve never known exactly what it was but it was Justin’s favorite toy for about two weeks out of his life. The toy could be stretched like a spring and when it was let go, it played a beautiful melody until it contracted back to its original length. Justin refused to go anywhere without it when I first brought home. I stretch it for old times sake and place it on top of the all of the other toys. The melody flows through the apartment and I move on to the next task as the sweet notes follow me.

I begin to pick up Justin’s clothes from the floor and put them in the laundry basket. I’ve picked up at least three pieces when I realize that I am folding each one. There is no use for that now so I stop and just start tossing them into the basket.

I try not to notice how tiny the clothes are but I can’t help it. The lump that had formed in my throat grows like a tumor with each piece that passes through my hands. His miniature shirts, socks, and shorts seem so inanimate now. The bright colors seem to have faded away in the two weeks that I was gone.

After I’m finished, I pick up the basket and take a dead man’s walk to Justin’s room. I pause just outside his door. The lump is now the size of a football and my throat threatens to seize up at any moment. I close my eyes, grit my teeth, and inhale deeply. I hold my breath for a few seconds and then exhale as slowly as I can through my mouth with my cheeks puffed out. I feel a little bit better and I step through the door with my eyes still closed.

I open them and see that the room has also been frozen in time: a model of what it once was. SpongeBob SquarePants is everywhere. Justin had just graduated from Winnie the Pooh and I’d given all of the Pooh paraphernalia to my brother for his little girl.

In the corner of the room is a SpongeBob child’s folding chair with a stuffed you-know-who sitting in the seat. On the twin-sized bed is a SpongeBob blanket and matching pillow. A package of magical SpongeBob Band-Aids are on the dresser. They could instantly dry tears just by being put anywhere on Justin’s body. He rarely cried but at the times that he did, they were always the instant cure.

I put the basket on the half-made bed. Justin hadn’t slept a full night in it in almost the entire month preceding his passing.

He had been crying out in the middle of the night sometimes during the previous month. Most nights he would just wake up and come in the room with me without the screams. Other times he would scream loud enough to wake me up as well as himself. The first few times that he did it, I’d rushed into his room to save him from whatever monster was threatening him. He would usually already be climbing out of his bed to run to me with his arms extended.

I started just waiting patiently in the dark on the nights that he screamed and woke me up since I knew that he would be coming to me. As I waited, I’d think about what it could have possibly been that could frighten him so badly. His life is so easy, yet he had unpleasant dreams. Now that I think about it, maybe he knew something that I didn’t.

The only thing that I would be able to hear as he came to me would be his ragged, asthmatic breathing as he drew closer. The silhouette of his body, outlined by the glow of a very empty fish tank in the living room, would be the only thing that I could see.

I’d watch as he carefully walked up to the side of my bed. I’d wait until he made his baby noise that was half whining, half crying, before I picked him up by his outstretched arms. The only way that I was able to get him back to sleep was to lay him on my chest and rub his back. If I would try to lay him on my bed before he was fully asleep, he would quickly climb back on top of me to resume his position.

His warm body would sooth me to the point that I would sometimes fall asleep before he would. Although I hated to know that anything was scaring him, I lived for those moments. He could have been eighteen years old and I would have done the same thing. Although I grew up in a household that was void of affection without any negative after-effects, I wasn’t ever the type to hold back my own affections with my son.

I have to get out of Justin’s room. I can feel myself slipping further and further into distress. I feel as if I just want to collapse right where I am. I hastily retreat into the living room and habitually go to the TV so that I can erase the silence.

My remote took a bath, courtesy of Justin, and I keep forgetting to purchase another one. As I’m reaching down to turn the TV on, I spot it—Justin’s shoe. The one that he’d kicked off.

I pick it up slowly, my bottom lip already trembling and my eyes burning with tears. It’s as light as a feather and I forget about the TV. I walk backwards to the couch and sit down heavily. For the first time since that night, I let the beast inside of me loose.

I weep. I could say that I cry but for some reason, that doesn’t quite fit. Tears flow from my eyes like rain. I weep silently as if I am afraid that the walls will hear. That just adds to my misery because I’m still selfishly holding back.

I long for company. Someone or something other than my own misery. But I know that no company would fill the empty space that has been left by Justin. So I continue to weep. Alone.

I lose track of time. When I become aware of myself again, I realize that my head is resting on my forearms which are on my knees. My tears dried up some time ago but I can still feel the ashy remnants of their tracks that sear my skin.

I lift my head and I begin the slow, torturous process of evaluating my life. I have to know know where I am headed. I try to think ahead to Monday, but I can’t. I try to think about tomorrow but even that is too far in the future. I can’t even think past the next few minutes.

I’d been a father until two weeks ago. For almost two years, I was a father. A good one. A doting, affectionate, loving one. Everything that a child could ask for. I didn’t claim to be the best father in the world but I was the best one that my son could have ever had.

I can’t remember what it was like not to having a living, breathing responsibility. My entire daily routine was based on Justin. I got up earlier to get myself ready. I would rouse him from his slumber when I arose. He was a hard sleeper, fighting and contorting his face to show his dissatisfaction. I’d turn on the TV so that he could watch cartoons as I did what I had to do. Most mornings he would lay there before he would follow me into the bathroom to watch every move that I made.

After I finished with my prepping, I’d get him ready to go to the sitter. By the time that we would make it out of the door, he would be bright-eyed and half dragging me along to the car. After I’d drop him off, I would anxiously wait until five o’clock to get to him again. I no longer worked overtime. The sitter would have been happy to have him for a little while longer but I wanted to be near my child.

When I’d get home, it was time to feed and then bathe him before we played together. I didn’t play with Justin. I played. I would be on my knees pushing toy cars and rolling around as if I were his age, if not younger. We’d have fun until 8:30, at which point he was thoroughly exhausted, and then I’d reluctantly bid him nite-nite as I lead him to bed. I’d read to him most nights but he usually never lasted past the first few pages.

After he was asleep, it was time for me to be a grown man again. I’d begin making preparations for the next day, talking on the phone, or getting some reading of my own done. The next day, the cycle would start all over again.

I don’t want to go back to being a grown man all of the time. I want my son back. I’d accept any miracle that I was given just to bring him back to me. His being stolen away is unfair and no one is being held accountable.

At that singular thought, I begin playing the blame game.

The first person that I choose to blame is Tracey. Pointing the finger of my mind towards her seems easy. If it hadn’t been for her coming to get Justin, then he would have never been inside that car. If she’d only waited for me to get his car seat or if she’d only had one herself, than he probably could have still survived: she did. If she’d left when she should have, then the timing would have been off and they would have never been in an accident at all. If she would have just been right for me the first time around, then it would have been us dying together, which is what I would rather be than to have to live without my baby.

After all of the possible scenarios that I can think of are expended, I still am unable to hate Tracey. I heard her cries drown out everyone else’s at the funeral. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw her body flailing as my brother and another man tried to hold her down. She was hurting. I still can’t bring myself to think that she’s hurting more than I am.

The next person that I blame is myself. To think that I was the cause of Justin’s death sends me into another bout of uncontrollable weeping. These tears are carving permanent tracks down my cheeks as I begin to think about all of the what-ifs.

What if I’d never let Justin go? Tracey hadn’t seen him in a month and I should have made her pay for it. I should have just taken him to my mother’s house. I should have told Tracey no and that she would have to wait until next weekend. I should have forced her to wait for the car seat. I shouldn’t have prolonged her stay. I should have just taken Justin downstairs to her. Those precious seconds or minutes that would have been lost or gained, had I only did things differently, probably could have saved my child’s life.

Just when I feel that I couldn’t shed another tear without dehydrating my body and turning to sand, my crying abruptly stops. I still sniffle and take erratic breaths but my eyes are dry for the time being. I sit on the floor and continue to blame myself until my emotions stabilize.

When I feel that blaming myself isn’t enough, I blame the only other being that could be responsible: God.

I’ve never been the religious type. I go to church when the feeling moves me and nothing else. When someone tries to persuade me to go, I become belligerent and flatly refuse their offer simply by being difficult. Until the funeral, I hadn’t been to church in almost a year.

I believe in God; I’ve convinced myself that there is a God and no one can tell me different. My main argument for believing in him is that there could not be a Big Bang without someone lighting the fuse. I can’t fathom a universe that has always been here: that there was nothing before the beginning and that that there will be nothing at the end.

I’ve read the entire Bible--the King James version—from the front to the back. Twice. I read it once right after I’d graduated from high school and then again when I was going through some things with Tracey. I wanted to believe every word that was written—whether they contradicted each other or not—but I just couldn’t. All of the stories sounded like fables to me: tall tales meant to drive home a point or moral. Anyone with good common sense could live right, I would always tell others when discussing religion.

I’ve been to a number of different churches in my lifetime. I’ve searched for myself through religion and found nothing. Every single preacher that has stood at the pulpit has had a different interpretation for some of the simplest passages of the Bible. No one seems to agree that one religion is the way. Christians thinks that Christianity is the only way. Catholics believe in Catholicism and so on. With all of the controversy, who chooses what is right?

I can’t bring myself to believe that God has a finger on every single thing that we do. I can’t believe that he preordains what our life will be like even before we are conceived. I believe in free will of all men. I believe that we control our destiny.

If God does preordain everything in a person’s life, then the problem that I have with him—I like to refer to him as a man—would have to be the choices that he makes.

I used to wish that if I could be granted one gift, it would be the ability to heal with my hands. I would have gone around touching all of the people who’d had no control over their destiny. I hate seeing people in wheelchairs, victims of their own innocence, confined for life. I also hated to see people born blind, mute, deaf, physically deformed, or otherwise handicapped. It hurts me to see such things and I wished that I could just touch them and make it all go away.

No one could convince me that God preordained such an atrocity. I don’t care if the parents were as evil as one of Satan’s angels, I still don’t think that it’s fair to the children who were guilty of nothing more than being born.

Even if the conditions were punishment, which crimes or sins weighed more than others? I see people who deserve nothing less than death for the things that they do—deadbeat fathers are an example—but they have beautiful, healthy kids with vibrant personalities and lives. Nobody is perfect. No one ever leads a perfect life, but there are some who have come pretty close. And they could be the victims of a preordinance? It just isn’t fair.

I’m not a saint nor do I profess to be but if Justin is punishment for something that I’ve done, then I don’t deserve to live myself. That thought sends me into another, entirely different, emotional realm. My sadness becomes mixed with a blind form of rage. I rise up from the floor, sobbing uncontrollably, talking to myself in an unintelligible high-pitched voice, and go into a fit of madness.

I feel that I must rid my life of the memories of Justin. I first grab the toy box and dump it and its contents in the middle of the living room floor. I fling open closets and take all of the things that belonged to Justin, whether he’d outgrown it, couldn’t yet wear it, or had been wearing it, and threw all of it on the top of the toys.

I go through everything: cabinets, closets, bedrooms, drawers, and underneath beds, and pile them up. I leave every door open as I rage through the apartment. I rip pictures from my walls, not slowing down to see whether or not it was a picture of Justin. I knock over things and turn my normally tidy apartment into a disaster area.

I go through everything three times and when I am satisfied that I have everything, I stand over the huge pile of baby things. I am breathing heavily but my crying has stopped and my emotions begin to subside as if it were the ocean tide—only much faster.

I don’t know what to do. I had no plan when I’d started my violent rage and I have no plan now. I’m lost. I have nobody or anything that I can turn to now.

I fall to my knees and look SpongeBob in his inanimate eyes without really seeing them. There is a new feeling inside me. Actually, what I feel is the deep absence of one of a person’s most basic feelings: I have lost all hope.

There is no need to continue on.

I don’t want to live another day.

I am going to be with my child.

I go to my bedroom closet and retrieve the Adidas shoebox from deep within. The box is heavy. Too heavy to be a pair of shoes. I open it and look at the cold piece of steel that it contains. A midnight black Smith and Wesson 38 that I’d bought years ago soaks up all the light in my world as if it were a black hole instead of a gun.

I sit at the edge of my bed and stroke the gun with the tip of my right index finger as I gaze down at it. It looks so harmless; definitely not something made to rip through flesh and bone. I’d bought it on a whim a few years ago. I’d always had an interest in guns but I’d never owned anything that was more powerful than a Wal-Mart pellet gun.

The only times that I had ever fired it had been at a shooting range. I’d taken classes on how to take care of it, handle it properly, and, of course, shoot it. Good marksmanship eluded me and the length of time between each range visit increased. I stopped going altogether when a woman challenged me to a friendly shooting contest and I ended up losing badly. She’d asked if I was blind in one eye and it took everything in me not to use my remaining bullets on her. The only thing that kept me from doing so was the high probability that I would have missed anyway.

I have no intention of missing my target tonight though. I get up from the bed and get the bullets from the bottom drawer of my bureau. They were hidden at the back underneath my dress socks that haven’t been touched since before the last time that I’d gone to the shooting range.

The placement of the gun and the bullets were redundant when it actually came to using them for protection. I would have to ask an intruder to wait a minute so that I could first get the gun and bullets and then load it for it to be of any use. Luckily that absurd request never had to be made. The most ironic thing of all is that instead of turning my gun on another human being, I would instead be turning it upon myself.

I load the gun with only one bullet. I think that that’s all that it will take and if it doesn’t, then I don’t feel that I would be in any condition to pull the trigger a second time to finish the job. This will be, literally and figuratively, a “one shot” deal. Like Justin.

The decision to take my life was easy. Thinking about where I wanted to do it was a difficult task. My first thought was to do it on my bed. I would lie down and just do it. Since I would already be lying down, I wouldn’t have to worry about falling and hitting my head in something. As crazy as it sounds, I am more worried about damaging my body further after taking my own life. The comforter set that was on the bed was a Christmas gift from mama though. I imagine that she wouldn’t want me to mess them up.

Doing it in the bathtub, living room, or kitchen all pass through my mind and then are discarded as if they were mere post-it notes. I finally say the hell with it and decide on the couch where the only issue will be whether to sit up or lay down. However, I would hate to fall forward and hurt myself so lying down seems to be the best position.

Oddly enough, there are no indecisive thoughts going through my head as to whether or not to commit suicide. I never once stop to reconsider my actions. I am on a mission; a kamikaze that has never been to Japan. The repercussions of the end – my end – don’t occur to me. My views on suicide have suddenly changed to fit my perception of my own life.

I’d always thought that suicide was selfish. That those who did it were crazy. When they – people who committed suicide – were gone, when their suffering had ended, their family and friends still had to live through their pain. A mother, father, sister, brother, friends, and associates would have to suffer for the rest of their lives. The kind of suffering which would diminish with time, but would still make occasional appearances at the mention of a name, smell of a scent, or a visual image which would immediately bring on a flood of memories strong enough to be followed by the sting of tears.

I don’t think about the consequences of my final action. I fail to look far enough ahead to see the tears of my own family and friends. I never think about the hypocrisy of making my mother feel the way that I do over the loss of a son. A loss that would be compounded by twenty-plus years as compared to two. I think the same way that others who have seriously contemplated suicide think: that our problems are unique and that only we can solve them. Instead of thinking about the ripples that my death would leave forever, I think about lying down.

As I lie here on the couch, a fleeting moment of trepidation passes. It is over quickly and the only evidence that it had ever been there at all are the goose bumps that cover my entire body. I begin to think about where I am going; I think about what it will be like on the other side.

Death has always intrigued me but I had never been so curious to find out myself. The thought of the unknown is mind-boggling. Television shows about people seeing white lights at the end of a tunnel, reincarnation, judgment day, and flat lines would have me staring at the screen for the duration of the program. The thought of passing from this world into another is like trying to fathom an infinite universe: I can’t.

The time has come and I lift the gun and place it against my temple. I begin to place pressure on the trigger and then stop. I think about the neighbors. I think about the noise of the gun. I don’t want to disturb the other people of my building. I get up to get a pillow from my bed, removing the pillowcase since it was also part of the comforter set.

Pillows muffle the sounds of guns; at least that’s what is depicted on TV. I resume my position on the couch, press the barrel of the gun as deeply as possible in the pillow, and prepare to see what the opposite side of life is like.

It isn’t until I am in the process of taking the final action that my heart begins beating fast. I can hear it’s rapid drumbeat hammering against my chest. The pace of my breathing also increases and becomes shallow; my mouth becomes cotton dry and my throat seizes up. The only thing left to do is to utter some superfluous last words. The only words that I can think of at the spur of the moment sums up my entire life simply and completely. I close my eyes and in a soft, desperate voice I say to no one in particular, “I’m sorry,” and pull the trigger.


My life has ended. I heard the loud deafening bang and knew that the neighbors had to have heard it. The pillow didn’t do a damn thing.

Death isn’t at all like I imagined it to be, if that makes any sense at all. I can still feel the weight of my body pressed against the couch cushions. And the gun; it’s still in my hand, having passed over with me, which really messes with my mind.

I open my eyes but I’m not floating above my lifeless body. There is no tunnel and no white light. The only light comes from the fading daylight outside. My heartbeat and breathing gradually return to their normal pace as I look around the living room.

The house is still in disarray. My instant passage from life into death didn’t clean it up, as I would have thought. I sit up straight and inspect the pillow. There is no telltale hole in it. No feathers or pillow fluff are suspended in the air. I’m confused. I let the pillow fall to the floor and then drop the gun on top of it.

I stand up but it takes a bit of effort. My muscles and bones still feel out of shape and there is a dull, almost imperceptible ache at the small of my back. I begin walking through my apartment and my eyes don’t believe what they are seeing.

I’d heard a bang. Loud and clear, like a boom of thunder heard while outside in a storm. The sound didn’t come from the gun though. I don’t bother to check the gun’s chamber. I know that the one bullet that I’d loaded would still be in place. I wasn’t dead although I’d pulled the trigger. Somehow, I’d missed my target once again.

Every door that I’d opened in my emotional fury was closed. The doors to the bedrooms, bathroom, closets, and cabinets were closed tight. I didn’t close them. Invisible hands much smaller than mine had shown me the way with one, last, logic-defying feat. I am not surprised. I feel Justin’s presence surrounding me; he’s everywhere and nowhere all at once. His invisible, yet ubiquitous, appearance comforts me and tells me that everything will be fine.

The bang was the simultaneous closing of all the doors one last time to put an end to a chapter of my life. My book was not yet completely written. Justin’s story, however short and bittersweet, had to end. It didn’t end the way that I wanted or when I wanted it to but that was beyond my control. Nothing will bring Justin back. Nothing can take his place. Doors open and close over and over again. I will miss my son but fond memories will lie on my chest as if it were his warm body for the rest of my life.

I begin the slow process of recovery by cleaning up my own mess. I have a meeting to attend tonight. I need someone to hold my hand and cry with me. Only Tracey’s hand will do.

Doors (The Closing) by L. L. King

© Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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