I stepped through the doorway.

Now I know this doesn’t sound all that unusual. I mean really, how can stepping through a doorway be unusual? Sounds kind of silly when I say it out loud. I don’t want to come across to you as weird, but it’s what happened. Perhaps it was a strange door. You know the type. The ones made of stones, magic runes, or whatever. Those that scream, “Open me!” with promises to take you to some faraway fantasy land. Well this wasn’t that type of door. In fact, it was probably the most unassuming and mundane door that I’ve ever stepped through. Seriously. I can’t even tell you what color the door was. Is boring a color? Well it should be because this door was definitely the color boring.

Am I moving too fast? Let me slow down for a moment. Sorry, I tend to get carried away like that. Are you still there? I hope I didn’t lose you already. Now, where was I?

Oh right, I was talking about the doorway. Ok, so here’s what happened. I stepped through the doorway. Wait, I already said that. Oh right. Yeah, I seem to be having trouble remembering all the important parts that came right before that. Bear with me for a bit, I’m really trying here. Ugh, you see, I got here from there (wherever “there” is), because I know I definitely wasn’t here before. At least as far as I can tell. How can you be certain where you are at any given time anyway? Maybe it’s just me but most of the time I can’t tell where I’m coming or going. And while that’s normal (at least for me), there’s something about this time that’s a little different. Actually, a lot different if I’m being honest.

You see, and I’m not quite sure how to say this, but. . . I don’t know where I am. Like, at all. I stepped through the doorway and managed to enter the literal unknown. And I mean “literal” quite literally. Not sure if that makes a whole lot of sense. Forgive me, but I’m in a place where nothing make sense. Sustained coherence was never one of my strong suits, even more so now given where I am (if I’m anywhere). I can see things and people…and yet, nothing about them makes any sense. Everything swirls to-and-fro in a chaotic mis mash of colors and shapes. Things move in a hectic precision, here-there-everywhere. People step forward and then move back, buildings rise and fall in rhythmicity, and nature races toward an unknown horizon in desperation. I feel as if I’m caught in a painting that’s constantly being made and unmade before my eyes. It’s both beautiful and unsettling. I feel strangely captivated to move forward but also paralyzingly hesitant to take that risk. Can beauty terrify you? I’ve never been afraid of beauty until now.

Can I go back the way I came in? No, that doorway is gone. Okay, take a breath. I can remain here, or I can risk moving forward. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been one for risk taking. Decisions take me weeks, if not months to make, by which time I’ve forgotten what I was deciding about anyway. Is no decision a choice? Focus, I can’t do that here. Now is not the time for philosophical nonsense. I don’t get the sense that I’m in any immediate danger, but I also can’t stay here. It’s like that nagging anxious feeling that something is wrong when everything is supposedly right. But I’m anxious all the time so I’m not quite sure if that’s a fair assessment. Here goes nothing…

I take a step forward.

Nothing happens. Well, something happens because I see that I’ve taken a step. My body moved at least. I heard the clack of my shoe as I stepped forward. Strangely it’s the first time that I noticed the floor. Up till now I had been so captivated by what was around me that I totally missed the floor’s subtle, but now obvious, weirdness. The floor, a deep black, stretches on and on for infinity both below and beyond me and into the unknown. Should I take another step? I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do. I mean I already took a step forward and nothing happened. I guess I could try hopping. No, that’s ridiculous. I can’t hop across the floor! It’s then, as I’m debating the merits of hopping, that I hear them—the whispers. I can’t make out any specific words. I swear everything was silent before. Deathly and eerily silent. When did the whispers start? There’s something frantic about these whispers. Like an unnatural busyness to the sound. As I listen, I get the sense that they’re surrounding me. How close are they? 10 feet…5 feet? My God, it sounds like they’re close. Well that’s not good. Or is it? Ok brain, listen. I must do something, for I definitely don’t like the prospect of spending eternity with whatever is making those whispers. And yet, there’s something about the whispers, an insistence of sorts, that urges me to move. I get the feeling that stepping forward is the right thing to do.

I take a step forward. And then another. One more.

Each time I take a step the whispers grow harshly silent. Almost like they’re uncomfortably holding their breath at each step I take. The world continues to swirl to-and-fro around me but in a manner that seems less threatening or unusual. Maybe I’m just getting use to all this chaos, but somehow, I’m confident that it won’t affect me. I just need to keep stepping forward. My steps quicken, I’m now in a full stride, the whispers grow distant as they retreat into the background. The shapes and colors that once filled this space fade into the black nothingness. The only sounds I hear are my shoes clacking across infinity. I grow bold and turn my walk into a run. Faster, faster, and faster I run toward the horizon. I feel frictionless, as if the world were devoid of even a single particle that could impede my forward momentum. It’s then that I see it. More like I almost ran into it. I slip backwards and crash onto the nothingness below me as it appears before me. The doorway.

I pick myself off the ground and take a look. It’s literally just a door. Old, wooden, and gray, the door looks fairly worse for wear. I touch the doorknob; it jiggles a little. It’s obviously worn out, so I stop messing with it as I fear it might break off in my hand. I decide to look around and walk behind it. The door floats in the darkness. It’s then that I notice how the space around me had grown very small. Can the infinite feel small? What was vast and expansive has now collapsed around me. It’s almost claustrophobically small. I understand now that I have no choice. I must open this door. Everything about this space has brought me to this moment. I place my hand on the doorknob and turn. The door clicks and begins to open. I hear the whispers again. Loud, demanding, but now clear. I hear them saying,

“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning…”[1]

I step through the doorway.

“Watch out!”

I nearly crash into someone walking into the door I just came out of. I look behind me at the door. That’s the mundane and unassuming door I was trying to remember earlier. You know, the one with the boring color. I now see that it’s some kind of bland beige. No wonder I couldn’t remember it. It’s bright out, the sunshine is warm and embracing. Around me people move hurriedly up and down the busy sidewalk. Basking in the sunshine are maple trees that line the street. Suddenly it dawns on me where I am. This is my neighborhood. My apartment is only a couple of blocks down! Being close to the park, I usually head this way to buy a cup of coffee before my morning walk. I turn around to look once again at the door. The sign above it reads, “Beginnings and Endings Bookstore.” That’s weird, I don’t remember this bookstore being here before. But there’s also something vaguely familiar about it. Ok, here goes nothing…

I step through the doorway.

“Hello! Welcome back! You dropped this.” A cashier reaches under the counter and hands me a book.

“Thank you.” I say confusingly as I take it from her hand. I look at the cover. The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. Can’t say that I’ve heard of it before now. “Look, I think you have me confused with someone else. I’ve never been here before and I’m sure this book doesn’t belong to me…”

“What are you talking about?” the cashier says harshly as she begins attending to another customer. “You bought this book like 30 seconds ago and then dropped it on your way out the door. I figured you’d be back once you remembered.” She returns her gaze to the other customer. “That’s $15.06 please…”

Holding the book in my hand, I begin walking back toward the door. I notice that there’s an old bookmark tucked within the pages. As I open it the faded white paper bookmark falls onto a black floor. I look at the page it once marked and notice that a portion of the text is highlighted. It reads,

“How concrete everything becomes in the world of the spirit when an object, a mere door, can give images of hesitation, temptation, desire, security, welcome and respect. If one were to give an account of all the doors one has closed and opened, of all the doors one would like to re-open, one would have to tell the story of one’s entire life.

But is he who opens a door and he who closes it the same being?” [2]

I step through the doorway.

[1] Ecclesiastes 7:8 (ESV)

[2] Gaston Bachelard, The Poetic of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon, 1994), 224.

Photos by Christopher Martyn and Umanoide on Unsplash

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