Once upon a time, I stood at a door. I knocked. One. Two. Three times.
The door to a small house, which had a small front room, and a smaller door under the stairs, and the smallest space where I curled myself up and pretended to not exist. I could hear them calling for me, wondering where I was. I bunched myself smaller. Tinier. Less space for me and more space for air between
In the small house with the small front room and the small door under the stairs and the tiny space that I was tucked into, I heard the knock upon the big, big door. The one that led to the big world outside.
But the big world was full of light. And people. And noise. And not all the noise was good. I learned that before, once upon a time in that big world. Some noises sounded like sharp cracks of breaking ice in a pond that I fell through, all the way to the bottom.
And here I am in this room.
She’s knocking again and I’m scared. I’m scared because I feel myself expanding, pushing out, reaching out my little hands towards the sound. I missed her. I want to stay small but I keep expanding.
Warring worlds within a tiny little body. All the fighting is going to break her ribcage apart. She’s got Luke trapped in there fighting the Death Star. And Lord knows they call it the Death Star for a reason.
But she keeps expanding, I can feel it while I’m knocking. I can feel her reaching for the doorknob. She’s listening to me singing a lullaby. And no matter how much she wants to hide, the feelings are exploding. I sit down next to the door and wait. I’ve got all the time in the world for this one.
“Baby, I’ve got all the time in the world for you,” I said.
You ain’t got no guarantees and this world might take you out the minute you open this door. But I’ve got all the time in the world for you, and I’m not
going anywhere, even when the world closes your eyes. I’m still going to be here.
I could hear her fingers fumbling slowly on her lock collection. First the one at the top of the door, and then slowly all the way down. Five locks. Ten locks. Twenty, maybe. This baby’s got a fortress, that’s for certain.
And this was just the small door to the small closet.
But I can hear her creeping into the big room now. And she sniffs. Something’s crawling up her throat, choking her breath away. All her locks can’t save her now and she’s trying to be brave.
I’m in the bigger room now, the one without all the locks on the little door of the little closet. She won’t go away. She’s just sitting outside the door, waiting for me. Doesn’t she know how bad I am? Doesn’t she know I’m not okay? Doesn’t she know that I’m supposed to be invisible?
She just keeps waiting. I can’t stand it. My nose tickles with something, something that feels foreign. And my throat is clogging up now. I can’t breathe. There’s something weird and wet on my face.
Suddenly I’m done waiting outside this door. That little girl is standing in there and she has got no one. She thinks she has to stay in the little closet and hide away from the world. Someone told her she wasn’t enough, she just wasn’t enough, so she’d better just be nothing instead. I can’t stand it. I can tell – she feels so sad. So lonely. And she isn’t big enough to open this door on her own.
I’m done knocking. I walk in and she’s standing there, in a nightgown, dragging her blankie, a thumb in her mouth. She’s crying like she’s missing something. But she shrinks back from me. She runs back to the closet and slams the door. I can hear the locks.
“Oh my darling.” I whispered. I knelt next to the door.
“Oh my darling.”
There’s no other words for this one. “Oh my darling.”
She’s crying. She’s screaming in that closet. All the dark things in that closet are scaring her. But she can’t open the door again.
“Oh my darling.”
I take a deep breath and I’m watching fingers twitching back and forth and suddenly without warning… the door flies open. A writhing little body catapults herself into my arms, sobbing. And she cries because they died and she was alone, and he hated her, and she was alone, and all the alcohol and love in the world couldn’t cover up the holes she had in her heart because she was so alone. And if she just would have been a little better – everything would have been okay.
And we just cried because it was finally okay to.