She wanted to write about her life; but looking at the empty page, the top one in a stack that laid there in her lap, she found the idea of writing intimidating. If she were to put down even one letter—even one mark—it would mar the purity of the page, and replace it irrevocably with clutter.
She was afraid, so afraid now, of clutter.
Lately she found it more and more difficult to follow the thread of her thought. She was lost, lost in her own labyrinth. Fragments of ideas floated dreamily across her mind, stumbled by foreign-sounding words and interrupted, from time to time, by images of faded faces, images that were yellowing and crumpled around the edges like old photographs.
How much longer could she pretend to be holding it together?
The air was no longer still. A sudden gust of wind ruffled through the pages. Soon the evening breeze would come passing through. She could see the bony white knuckles as she clutched at the pen. She wanted to write about her life, and tried to remember who she was, to whom she was writing, and for what purpose.
It would have been so much easier to write from a point of view other than herself. Perhaps the point of view of some inanimate object. A doorknob. It would be simple to pretend to be—no, to become one. The notion of being a doorknob—of it seeing her as she was, surrounded by her children, it seeing each one of her children as they grew up, crossing the threshold, coming in and out over the course of a lifetime—that notion somehow appealed to her.
At first, she imagined, the doorknob would reflect, with its shiny distortion, the image of her youth. It would feel her hand—warm and firm, in those days—as she pushed the door open, letting the children out to play, and later calling them back in for lunch, after which she would clear the table, mop the floor, wash the dishes and wipe them dry. She would even wipe the doorknob. It felt polished and happy.
In the course of time, when the children left home, and especially when they moved oversees and took the grandchildren with them, the doorknob would lose its smoothness. It would become uneven, even cloudy; she could no longer trust the distortion it offered. Maybe things never really happened the way it mirrored them.
Now she could get a narrow glimpse of the sunset. The door was ajar, twisting in the cold air. After a while, its hinges started to creak. She retreated to her kitchen, although there was no one there anymore for whom she could cook. For a long time she listened to the leaves blowing across the street, out there in the distance where children could be heard laughing. She listened to the door creaking in the wind, and waited patiently for a sign, a note, a word of some sort; kept on waiting until—with one croak—the door closed.
She locked herself in and started writing letters, some of which were never sent, for fear of revealing too much of her loneliness. Other letters she embellished along the margins, with a hand heavy with years but with the manner of a schoolgirl: She embellished them with pink flowers and long sequences of x’s and o’s for kisses and hugs, and then she sent them to that foreign sounding address, so that her grandchildren, who rarely came to visit, would know she loved them.
How would a doorknob feel to be barely touched, its latch rarely released, the lock always bolted shut? How would it feel to be in the grip of rust?
She glanced at the doorknob. Would it retain a memory of her touch, even when she is gone? Would it keep, in its own transparent ways and despite all that polishing, the layers upon layers of all their fingerprints?
She wanted to write about her life, and tried to remember who she was, to whom she was writing, and for what purpose; but if she were to put down even one letter—even one mark—all her love, all her loneliness, and all that bitter disappointment that this was all life had to offer in the end, would come rushing out, and nothing in the world could hold her together any more.
So without looking at the empty page, without embellishing the margins with pink flowers, and without long sequences of x’s and o’s for kisses and hugs, she marked one single, long line, as if writing with her trembling hand the whole length of the story of her life. Then, with a sense of finality, she crossed it. An X.
The wind whipped the pages out of her lap. They flew around her, some settling to the ground, some flipping higher, flapping into a big clutter in the air, then floating dreamily away across the landscape. In years past she would get up, catch them one by one and stack them back, with a strict attention to order; but now she didn’t care anymore. For a moment she thought she could see that page, the one she had marked X with a trembling hand. There it was, a white glimmer soaring out of reach above her in the wind. And then, in one puff, it was over.
Somewhere inside, a doorknob broke. A door flew open.