My Son Gambley Said He Wants To Be A Door When He Grows Up
I lamely turned the steering wheel to pull into my driveway, nearly identical to the suburban driveway maze around me. I exhaled deeply, mentally stepping out of the stage costume I adorned for my nine to five.
My train of thought was a flak of personal and work memories, idling in a sticky web of fatigue.
I put the Tahoe in park, grabbed my bag, and got out of the vehicle. I could think of nothing more than relaxing to my regular routine of Monday Night Football - our own Philadelphia Eagles were taking on the Chargers this week. I thanked God each night for football: one of my few joys this time of year.
I opened the front door and trudged through the welcoming haze of comfort emitting from my home. A kind of familiar fog that makes your tense muscles immediately droop and slouch as your guard falls away.
I opened the fridge and grabbed a ham & cheese sandwich and a Michelob Ultra, one of my favorite combinations. Simple, delicious, yet refreshing.
Effortlessly, my legs dragged my lifeless, soulless carcass to my man-cave. The one all the guys on the block knew - the one all the guys in the neighborhood knew to come to for all the big games. I looked at my watch. Jeff McDonell should be over soon with the rest of the guys, actually; Jeff is a really good guy, always volunteering to DD or carpool. I’m just glad I don’t have to do it.
I flipped on the lights, cracked open my beer, and sat violently in my recliner, causing my Michelob to foam out of the top a little. I quickly slurped up the mess. An ethereal voice came from behind me, seemingly emerging out of thin air.
“Tobias, I need you. It’s Gambley. He’s talking about… you know what. Again.”
I took a sip of my beer, the action complementing the faux mask of contemplation I wore.
“Michelle, he’s imaginative. It’s perfectly normal. Let the boy be.” - I said, subconsciously very proud of life philosophy. “Just like Dad always said: “live and let live. “
“It’s gotten worse. His old friends have joined in with the other kids in teasing him. He draws pictures of doors all day in class. The only time he says anything other than ‘door’ to anyone in school is when he asks the teacher if he can go to “the bathroom” but he ends being caught hugging the door to the janitor’s closet. Can you please go talk to him? Remember what our psychiatrist said? Sometimes obsessions and unusual actions like Gambley’s can be cries for help or indications of deeper issues. Please go talk to him. I’ve tried. He doesn’t listen to me.”
I married a very smart woman, but I had no idea why she couldn’t communicate with her only child. Still, I never could find any holes in her reasoning. I just had no life left in me. Wearing the worker’s costume fourty plus hours a week made me a shell of a human. Still, I faked it, like all real adults do. Fake it till you make it.
“You’re right. I’ll go talk to him.” I flung my old and lanky bones out of the recliner and headed upstairs. One quick knock and I was inside. There I found Gambley, standing in front of his opened closet, limbs stretched outwards as far as they would go. Gambley stood motionless, making an X shape with his body. His eyes did not even register me entering his room.
“Gambley, bud, we need to talk. Mom says school has been a little rough for ya lately. Is there anything you wanna tell me? You know I’m always here.”
Gambley did not flinch and for a brief moment I was concerned over whether or not he was still breathing.
“Okay, bud, what is this really about? Your teacher called today and told us about the essay you wrote in class last week. You had to write about what you wanted to be when you grew up and you wrote a ‘door’? And “door” was the only word? Listen, I know grandma’s passing was tough for you. Believe me, it was tough for all of us. But like doors, sometimes life opens and closes new chapters in our life. No matter how hard we try to stop it, it will continue on. It will even continue on without us one day. That may seem cruel, but it’s how things work and we have to find what makes us happy. I know you’ll get through this. Your mother and I love you so much and we are always here for you.”
Gambley still did not move. I released a silent sigh of defeat.
“Okay, son, try to get some sleep. Tonight is a school night. I will be in the basement if you need me. Love you!” I smiled at him as I slowly shut the door behind me, feeling a brief moment of helplessness leaving my son frozen in place. But I quickly reassured myself that when I closed the door he’d be back to normal. This had to be his way of coping and he would simply get over it with time and that was that.
I made my way back downstairs to discover that Michelle had already went to bed. Strangely enough, Jeff hadn’t come over yet, even though the game started in minutes. I checked my phone - no new messages. I shrugged and grabbed the rest of the Michelob Ultra, making my way back to my mancave.
An entire half of Monday Night Football zoomed by in what seemed like no time at all. I figured Jeff and the guys just weren’t going to show tonight, which happened every now and then, so I quietly went back upstairs to see if I could take a peak at Gambley. Hopefully I could do it without waking him up but I’ve always been pretty clumsy. I cracked open his door. My eyes concentrated on his bed - empty. I panned over to the closet where I had seen him standing earlier. Something tall and flat was leaning against the wall. I slowly creeped up to it. It was a door, leaning unhinged against the wall near the closet. I quickly spun about, checking the room. No doors were out of place. Did Gambley steal a door from somewhere in the house? I ran back downstairs to check on Michelle. Our bedroom was dark so I crawled into bed to quietly wake Michelle up - she is always easily startled, so I have to wake her up with care.
I peeled back the blankets to find something that unnerved me deeply. Michelle was not in the bed. An unhinged door lay right where she slept, under the covers.
I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry out. I wanted to run out into the neighborhood and search every unfamiliar house until I found where they were hiding. But I didn’t - I couldn’t. I watched my body walk itself to the basement to watch the second half of the Eagles game. I watched me - or something - pour Michelob in my mouth at unsustainable rates. The entire case quickly disappeared and a mound of cans made residence on my floor. I felt nothing.
The tv focused on the game clock’s time: now 0:00. The game was over. My head involuntarily jerked downwards and my eyes gazed at the cloor. A blue horizontal line slowly travelled from from feet up to my neck, replacing my body with a far too familiar, thin wooden shape.
I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. I wanted to feel something, but I couldn’t. My goddamn son Gambley wanted to be a door.