The Front Door

Posted on: December 1, 2015

I was always surprised by the long drop to the ground from that window, no matter how many times I did it. I would lie with my stomach on the window, my legs stretching down as far they could before I would let myself drop to the grass. I hit the bushes most of the time, and almost always lost my shoes, but every now and then I would just miss and land with shoes intact. On those nights it seemed luck was with me. Strange, but when I left the house by the window, life's forbidden possibilities seemed so close at hand. Grandpa must have known I escaped. I think he planted that bush there to make it harder for me, but he never said a word. Doug was always there, waiting in the dark with a tender kiss.

That night we were headed to a party at Roger's house, a ten minute walk. Roger’s parents lived in the center of my little town -- alcoholics who always seemed rumpled and sad. They encouraged Roger's friends to hang out there by ignoring all company. The house was dingy, but you could tell it used to be nice -- a white wood-frame 50's style home with oversized rooms and lots of character. The back part of the house was added on later with narrow halls and lower ceilings. It felt like a cave, the perfect hangout for us.

That night the blender was making margaritas in the kitchen; Mrs. was doing the honors. It was rare to see her out of her bedroom as she was quiet -- not shy, just closed off. Her presence that night was explained by the fact that some relatives of Roger's were coming over and she wanted to see them. They were attending A&M, which made them celebrities. I had a secret dream of going off to college. I never mentioned this to any of my friends. I didn't think they would understand the urge to leave this town.

Doug got me a special margarita with sugar on the rim. He took care of me that way. It was a nice touch, but it made it messy to drink. We were asked to sit around the living room with the parents. Seemed to be the price of the special drinks that night as Mr. and Mrs. had never said a word to us before. We usually just went to the back of the house with the TV on mute and the hard-rock music on so loud we felt it, or we sat around on lawn chairs in the garage where an old ping-pong table sat untouched. I never even saw a paddle. Roger would have the music blaring from his crudely made plywood speaker cabinets housed in trunk of his car. The treble speakers were under the dashboard inside. It was a serious system, if unattractive. With all this heavy metal, not much talking went on. But this evening we were sitting around the living room and it was very uncomfortable, like being in a police lineup. I kept getting sticky sugar fingers, which I tried to wipe off on the sofa when no one was looking.

Mr. and Mrs. were asking what each of us planned for the future. Doug was planning on becoming a welder since he heard it paid real well. Jeff was thinking along the same lines, but he one-upped Doug saying he wanted to do the underwater kind. Roger did not know and said so with annoyance. Just as the question was about to get to me, the phone rang. I was relieved and disappointed in the same instant.

With the distraction of the phone, Roger dragged us to the garage avoiding the margaritas so his parents wouldn’t trap us again. He had beers in the ice box outside. Tonight Roger decided the stereo system had to come out of the car so we could hear it properly. This took an incredible amount of effort--things were cut and reassembled. Roger was proud of that system. After he got it out and working again, requiring some electrical tape and wire stripping, Ozzy Osbourne started playing. We’d seen him live two weeks before after camping out for tickets overnight. We were still all about the bat eater.

By the time we were all getting lazy and stoned, a small, nondescript sedan pulled up. Out stepped a young couple about twenty years old. They seemed deliberate in their movements, or maybe I was just in slow motion. They said they didn't have much time. They just wanted to stop to say hello. They seemed so goal-oriented in that one statement. The tension in the garage went way up and the music went down. Everyone wanted to impress them. Sentences were complete, voices were loud enough to be heard. But mostly, we all wanted to hear what their life was like. They had one more year to go til graduation, and they were already getting offers from Amoco and Conoco, not as welders but engineers. They didn't stay long -- half an hour at most, and Mrs. never made an appearance, but they made an impression on me.

We all were a little depressed when they left. The party kind of fizzled. We felt empty, without purpose. What were we working towards? It was a long, silent walk back to my window. I was bad company and I don’t know why I tried to hide it. Getting back in was always harder, but we had it down. Doug would lock his fingers together and I would step into his hands as he flung me up. Tonight I said, "I got it, you can go". I don't know if he understood, but he nodded as he turned to leave. I waited a bit, and then decided to just go in through the front door.

Written by: Deborah Dwight Brown
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal

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