The grandkids were all sitting on the floor. I couldn’t believe that they wanted to hear my story. They typically showed very little interest in me, but they asked, so I told.
“How did I get to where I am today? It was the door I chose. Things are so different today. We didn’t have personal computers, tablets or cell phones back then. Back then, your future was determined, or at least you believed it was determined, on Door Day. You kids probably can’t even imagine it, but I remember.” And I did remember.
Why didn’t they look as nervous as I was? I hoped there was no arm-raising involved. There’s no way my “antiperspirant” would earn that label today, I thought. Well, I might as well suck it up and go into the auditorium.
Whew, there must have been others who were as nervous as I was. The place stunk. I looked around the auditorium and could see the tables set up. There was a dealer at each table. Just one dealer per table. I had heard that you could get an idea of the dealer’s cards, by examining the dealer; by really looking at him or her. I wondered if the dealer’s gender was a clue to the cards in his or her deck. Of course, some of the lines weren’t available to me. Some lines were by invitation only. My Dad was a mechanic. Dealers whose decks I choose from would be unlikely to contain the doors available to those in the “invitation-only” lines even though I had been told that while the decks of doors varied from dealer to dealer, there were a few cards that showed up in all decks.
Where were my friends? I had thought we were going to meet up and pick a line together. Maybe I was too early. I was always either too early or too late.
“Hey, no loitering. Once you enter the auditorium, you have to get into a line.”
“I’ll just go out and wait for my friends.”
“That’s not an option. You can walk the perimeter of the auditorium once, but the next time round you have to get in a line. You’re not allowed to enter the lines that are curtained off – I can tell by looking at you.”
It must have been my low-quality antiperspirant. It always gave me away – that and my stomach rumbles (nerves, not hunger). Even though I couldn’t see who was in the curtained-off lines, I knew who would be standing there; the cheerleaders and kids who were cool by virtue of money, looks or intellect. Money being the surest attribute leading to an invitation to one of those lines.
“Yeah, I’ll just get in this line.” I responded as I moved towards the line directly in front of me. Impulse control also suffered when I was nervous.
The line was moving incredibly fast. It didn’t take much time at all, and the hard-plastic chair (orange of course to match the school’s colors) at the table facing the dealer was vacated. I hadn’t even seen the last kid sitting there get up and leave. The dealer, in a black suit, with white shirt and black tie, waved me over. So much for getting a clue to the cards in the deck by examining the dealer. I moved forward and sat down. The fact that my sage-colored shirt clashed with the orange chair, increased my anxiety. The dealer, in this case a man, began to explain the process very matter-of-factly.
“So, I’ll shuffle the deck and then you’ll pick your door card. You can have the cards door side up, or door side down. I’m not supposed to, but I’ll go ahead and tell you. You can’t really tell where the door will lead, even if you can see the card before choosing. Particularly this deck. To be honest, I don’t much like this deck. It’s difficult to judge where the doors in this deck lead by looking at them. They are partially open, but you can’t see much of what’s behind the door. The line’s getting long so we better get going. I’m going to shuffle, and you choose. You must choose immediately after I shuffle. Cards face up or face down?”
All I could think was that I hoped my sage-green top didn’t show the perspiration that was accumulating under my arms. I blurted out (I tended to blurt out when I was nervous), “Face up.”
The dealer shuffled. He had been right. I really couldn’t make out much of what lay behind the doors pictured. At that moment, I realized that there was not much advantage to the cards being face-up. I grabbed a card. I glanced down at the door, and before I could begin to examine it, it grew and opened before me. I could barely hear the dealer’s voice in the background saying “Next.”
The door opened to a black and white, checkered linoleum floor. I knew it. I was destined to wait tables in a diner the rest of my life. I had worked at a donut shop during high school to earn gas money for my sixty-two Ford Galaxy (I’m pretty sure that Ford Galaxy owners were not allowed in the exclusive, curtained lines of students awaiting their turn with a dealer). It was thankless work. I pushed open the door, a little more so that I could enter, and saw what I still believe to be a small alien.
“Wait a minute,” grandson Cody called out. “You’re telling us that when you left high school you went through some sort of magical door and met aliens.” He was looking down at the floor, shaking his head back and forth.
“I’m not only telling you, that’s what happened. That door, opened to my life’s adventure. I had many great times and more than a little pain after going through that door. There were also many more doors. I choose to open them, and what happened next was always a consequence of my choice. Opening those doors led me here. They led me to be here with the five of you. I’m happy here, and even if I wasn’t it wouldn’t matter. I didn’t have total freedom-of-choice for the first door that I opened, but it led me to the other doors, and they led me here so it was the right choice.”
Cody looked at me incredulously and asked, “But what about the alien?” I answered, “Why do you think we all have two spleens?”
This post is in response to Dan Antion’s writing challenge (No Facilities) to write something inspired by a picture of a door. I picked the intriguing door pictured here which was posted on the blog, Retirementally Challenged.