After my wife left me I felt a terrible loss because she took the dog and the cat with her. She left angry.
Don’t blame me. We both agreed we didn’t want children. A friend of mine told me that would change. He told me so sitting slumped over on a barstool with a begging look at the bartender who kept telling us the place was closed. He wasn’t drunk, well not stupid, pie-eyed drunk, he just didn’t want to go home to the wife and kiddos – all four of them. No, five total, if you counted the wife. He has a sweet wife, really, just a little, well a little…she’s a little dumb. She’s a great mother, though, but they had agreed that they would not bring any children into this awful, dying world. Like I said they had four.
I held my ground on the whole pregnancy thing. Now my wife is someone else to someone, with a little girl that “means the world,” to her. I know my wife, she’s sorry she let her biological clock get the best of her. I know she misses the long weekends listening to Lake Michigan pound the coastline and reading by the fire. Yeah, I kept the cabin because there was no way she could afford it, not with a kid. Sure, we sold the two-story house but I’m fine with a small apartment downtown. Little has changed for me – except for the damned door knobs.
She showed up when I was moving in, my wife that is. She showed up about three months pregnant to make sure I was “okay.” I told her in no uncertain terms not to show her face at my apartment again and that this was not some “adult,” type of divorce where we were going to be friends and concerned about each other.
Actually, I said no such thing, I just told her I was fine and got back to rearranging my apartment. She had no business being there. The friend who didn’t want to leave his bar stool spoke loud and fast at her for about fifteen minutes. I didn’t see her leave.
That night while I was on the toilet reading Jaws, the door knob rattled. I shouted at Ralf, my big dumb golden lab to knock it off and go to bed. Then I remembered that Ralf, the big dumb lab went with mommy. I sat there, book in hand and stared at the door knob. Why had I shut the door to go to the toilet? I was the only one living in the apartment. I didn’t have to worry about offending anyone.
The door knob softly rattled.
The door knob shook and turned as if someone was going to wrench it out of the door and then suddenly went silent. I felt cold to the bone. I sat there until I felt my feet go numb. When I stood up my knees were wobbly. I made lots of noise, flushed the toilet twice and open the door suddenly with a wide sweep. The apartment was completely quiet and gray-dark. I heard the noise of after hours downtown, a comforting sound and noticed the dim glow of street lights. I walked about turning on all the apartment lights and the TV. I slept on the couch and was to work early.
Yeah, that’s nice by the way. I can walk to work and do. I’ve lost five pounds already and some envious people are looking at me and saying I need to take it easy.
So, when my wife had this guy’s daughter she plastered her ugly little face all over Facebook. Friends who didn’t know what to do with either one of us put their little thumbs up under the kid’s picture so I closed my account and I started reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I even bought the audio book and have it playing while I cook. It’ s a little galley kitchen in the apartment. I miss the big old kitchen in the two-story house we sold but I don’t cook like I used to; I can still cut a great salad.
One night I woke up to a door slamming and thought that one of my neighbors was having a loud fight. My bedroom was dark and I was aware, in a groggy sort of way, that the room was too dark. Where was the night light that I kept in the hallway? I didn’t become fully awake until I heard the rattle of a doorknob. My bedroom door was closed. I had lived in the apartment almost 10 months and I made it a point not to shut any of the doors leading into rooms (the closet door knobs never protested up to that point).
I have no idea what made me brave, I simply got out of bed while the door knob jiggled in the door. I grabbed the thing and felt an electric shock go through me. The only thing I remember is my teeth chattering and trying not to urinate and feeling…I don’t know…terrified. Absolutely terrified.
“Janet, I think my apartment is haunted.”
“Janet, are you still there?”
“Yes. What makes you think it is haunted?”
“The doorknobs rattle in the door and last night I tried to open the door while the doorknob was moving and something…something happened.”
“I know a good priest.”
“I’m not joking.”
“Neither am I.”
“You never went to church a day in your life.”
“I know I started after I left you. Jeffery goes.”
“Yeah, well never mind. I wouldn’t want you to miscarry.”
“I’ve already had the baby.”
“Yeah, right never mind.”
I hung up before she could say another word, disgusted with myself that I had called her but I couldn’t shake that feeling of apprehension. I spent the weekend up at the cabin. I left instructions with the apartment’s handyman to change every damned doorknob in the place. When I came back every doorknob on every door, including the closets, were changed. I deliberately closed the bathroom door Monday night and continued reading The Count of Monte Cristo. When I had finished, hands washed and reaching for the doorknob the damned thing began to rattle. I stood in the bathroom for an hour. When I opened the door – nothing.
At Wednesday’s board meeting I lost track of the conversation, thinking about what my apartment would look like with no doors. I could use beads or heavy damask material for doors. My boss pulled me aside later and asked if I was okay. The job had actually been great, sales were up and my department was top of the line, so I was a little impatient that he pulled me aside.
“Listen, you’ve lost weight and you are here early and you leave late. I know things have been tough but I want you to take a few days off.” The boss walked away before I could protest. I wanted to shout after him to come on over and use my toilet but I didn’t.
I can survive my wife leaving and becoming instantaneously pregnant with a younger guy named Jeffery instead of Jeff (who actually goes to church) but it’s the doorknobs that will unhinge me. Is there a pun in that?
I take the week off and spend it at the cabin. It’s on the Wisconsin coastline, due north of Chicago and a place of refuge. I thought I’d miss her but oddly enough I miss the dog. Ralf and I would walk the coast while my wife and the cat would read by the fire. For the first few days I looked at any door knob before I turn it or pull it but by Wednesday morning I forget all about doorknobs and thought about grilling steaks, putting together quiches with sweet potato crusts and mixing together egg custards. Salads didn’t cross my mind and I finished The Count of Monte Cristo.
I returned mid-afternoon on Saturday thanking my boss mentally for the good advice. The apartment seemed small and cramped to me so I opened a few windows and thought about maybe buying some plants to help freshen the air. I stood in the middle of the living room and said, “I like it here, it’s close to work and I don’t have to park on the street. This will work.”
For the first time, the door knob on the closet rattled. It rattled violently. I stood and looked at it for a moment. It rattled again and then settled down into a tapping and then stopped. I strode with determination toward the closet door and swung it open wide.
I stayed in a hotel that night and had movers take my stuff to a really cool loft apartment in an old Victorian. It’s a little further to work if I drive but I don’t mind the walk to the L even on cold days; it clears my mind. I started going to Mass and I talk to the priest every Saturday now, he’s a good guy.
The good news was that I was able to keep my deposit and I was reimbursed for all the new doorknobs. They put the old ones back. The handyman figures that she showed herself because of the new door handles. He told me she was usually pretty quiet with women tenants and she hadn’t shown herself in several decades. No one knows why she hung herself in the closet.
“One lady told me she thinks she did it for love. Of course, the manager and owner think everyone’s crazy but hey, they gave you your deposit back.” The handyman was a nice guy but I wish he would have told me she had hanged herself in there, I’m pretty sure I would have known we wouldn’t have been compatible.