JANIE FIRST CLOSES HER BEDROOM DOOR when she is twelve because her family has just moved into their new house. She has a new room and a new little brother, Jeremy, and she goes off down the hall to look at his nursery and wonder when the jealousy will set in. At first, she leaves the door open. She walks a few steps and pauses to think. She turns around and closes the bedroom door behind her.
Janie opens and shuts her door too many times to count because her parents are painting the walls of their new house and they need to get inside and outside to get all of the corners. Janie watches them go and as soon as they leave her alone she goes inside and shuts the bedroom door. They reenter with brushes and paints, so Janie leaves and shuts the door behind her, enclosing her parents in the fumes of the lavender paint she helped pick out.
When Jeremy cries at night, Janie opens the door to her bedroom but does not leave it. She sits down on the threshold, where her bedroom’s teal carpet meets the hallway’s hardwood floor. She rolls over to lie on her stomach and rest her chin in her hands. She does not go check on him, because what is a girl to do with a crying baby? No one has taught her yet and Jeremy is just so new. His cries are shiny and pink with newness, just like the raisin wrinkles of his toes, and they are just as alien. He is a toy whose instructions were lost along the way, and Janie is fascinated. When her mother makes the sleepy, relentless journey down the hall from the master bedroom, pulled onwards towards the cry to arms, Janie shrinks back into the darkness of her room. She shuts the door behind her as quietly as possible, but her tired mother would likely not have noticed her there regardless.
The last day of summer is hot and Janie doesn’t open her door until 10:00 a.m. She is quite proud of herself––this is the stuff of teenagers, sleeping in like this. Adulthood will be upon her when she sees that ‘p.m.’ attached to the time of her rising. The buttery sun in the hallway beckons her almost as much as the smell of pancakes. Janie is so proud of her delayed sleeping patterns that she is not even upset that her parents have already moved on to their chores outside, mulching the front yard. It is a late morning, she seems to be exempt from helping with the mulching, and pancakes can be microwaved. It is hot in the buttery sun in the hallway and the coolness of her room was so pleasant that Janie shuts the door tightly behind her, trapping the air conditioning.
Janie opens the door on the morning of the first day of school. She is wearing an outfit made up of a skirt, leggings, a t-shirt, clogs. She returns to her room and exits with another outfit made up of a skirt, leggings, a t-shirt, different clogs. Once more, a return and an exit and she is wearing a skirt, leggings, t-shirt, boots with fur around the edges. A final turnabout in the hallway, a final pause, a final exit, and Janie is wearing a skirt, no leggings, a t-shirt, the first pair of clogs. The brown on the clogs matches the brown on the skirt and Janie nods her own approval. She closes the door of the bedroom behind her.
Janie returns home in the mid-afternoon, followed by the distinct smell of an afternoon school bus. This is the rank warmth of children sweaty from hopscotch and four-square. This is the sweetness of the apple that wasn’t eaten at lunch and instead was pushed to the bottom of the backpack where a mom will find it in three days and scold the child. This is the smell that clings to children who sit alone on the bus and spend too long in the gaze of their peers. Janie runs in through the foyer, through the kitchen and down the hallway. Her room is the last one on the left so there is time to hear what she cries:
“I never want to ride that bus again! I’m never getting on it! I’ll walk home!”
She shuts the door behind her, moving as if to slam it but not quite getting the right grip on the frame before closing it. The soft click is probably not satisfying to her rage.
Janie reemerges for school each day but the clogs from the first day never reappear. It is still warm out and so she continues to keep her bedroom door closed, as commanded by her father. He thinks it saves energy, having it shut, and she likes it whenever he praises her for remembering to close it. He calls her ‘conscientious,’ which is a word she doesn’t know how to spell but likes the sound of. She always appears at 8:15 a.m. because that is when she needs to leave to catch the bus. Her parents will not drive her, even though she cries. They say it is good for her courage. They say buses are good for the environment because they are forms of public transportation. They say they do not have time because of early meetings. They say she shouldn’t whine. She closes the door behind her and walks to the bus stop.
Janie eventually stops complaining each day when she gets off the bus. She comes home and leaves her door open after she enters her room, because it is autumn now and this will allow for a good cross breeze when she opens her window.
She closes the bedroom door each night, after saying goodnight to her parents and Jeremy and 10 minutes before she goes to sleep because she likes to journal in bed with a gel pen saved in her nightstand especially for this purpose.
Janie still smells like old apples and tears some of the time, but the scent of one who sits alone no longer clings to her. She has made a friend on the bus, just as her parents anticipated but not exactly as they anticipated. Her new friend’s name is Mary Blair and she has invited Janie over to have a sleepover at her house. Janie’s parents discuss it in the kitchen while Janie sits in her room with the door open, pretending to do a math worksheet while not really thinking about math at all. She doodles pictures of triangles, fall leaves, Jeremy, a cupcake, Mary Blair’s pretty gold star earrings, on the margin of the worksheet. Her parents discuss the sleepover, saying that they probably shouldn’t let their daughter stay at a stranger’s house so soon after the move. Janie shuts her bedroom door, hard. A few minutes later, her parents come and open the door. They have changed their minds, they say, because it is good she has made a friend. She ought to go, as long as she can get the phone numbers of the parents and ensure that someone will be chaperoning at all times. Her mother shuts the door behind them as they leave. The parents and Janie are pleased on either side of the door.
Janie exits her bedroom and heads down the hallway with a tightly-rolled sleeping bag in one hand and her mother’s tote bag in the other. Her pillow, with its dark purple flowery pattern, is wedged up beneath her arm. She has packed her toothbrush, hairbrush, floss, deodorant, her mother’s makeup mirror (stolen) but no makeup, her favorite bracelet, a nightlight which is mostly unnecessary but good to have just in case, and a change of clothes for the next day. Janie must run back and shut her bedroom door behind her because her hands were full the first time. Her palms are a little sweaty and leave a mark momentarily on the metal of the door handle.
Janie returns the next morning carrying all of her items except for the bracelet which she seems to have left behind. Her face is serious and even though Jeremy is giggly today she does not go to see him first. She enters her room and shuts the door behind her.
Janie leaves her room at 8:15 a.m. on Monday but is not dressed for school. She says she doesn’t feel well, that her throat hurts, that she has a bad cough, that she might have a fever.
Janie’s mother offers to take her temperature but Janie says she will do it herself. She is a bad liar but an infrequent one, and Janie’s mother needs to leave soon in order to have enough time to drop Jeremy off with the sitter before getting to work. She leaves Janie with a kiss on the forehead and a cup of soup in the fridge in case she gets hungry.
Janie does not open the door of her room. She sits just on the inside of it, with her back pressed up against the wood. Her head rests just below the doorknob and she is holding her journal that is reserved for her special nightly reflections. Janie does not write anything, but looks at her doodle of Mary Blair’s pretty gold star earrings. Her doodle has continued in the past days to include the delicate ear which holds said earrings. Her fingers trace her own drawing of Mary Blair’s dark, thick hair and her little neck. Janie did not know how to draw collarbones so they are only lines but they are thin, smooth lines drawn with care. Mary Blair’s face is not filled in yet so it is blank except for her eyes. But her eyes are light with dark eyelashes and they have been traced so many times that they are darker than everything else on the page.
Janie picks up her gel pen and draws another cupcake and thinks of gold star earrings.
Janie opens the door only to go to the bathroom and to fetch the cup of soup. She returns it to the kitchen sink and even puts it in the dishwasher like the conscientious daughter she is. She walks back down the hallway. She thinks of gold star earrings and shuts the bedroom door behind her.
she, her, hers
College of Arts & Sciences
Class of 2018, Area Program in Literary Prose, Spanish
I wrote this piece for a younger version of myself and of anyone who permits themselves to feel before they even know what that can mean. To me, so much of this story is about the wonder of first realizing what it means to love someone or even just to be attracted to them. Then to experience how the clarity or beauty of that feeling remains, although that realization can create friction and fractures within the rest of your life. In terms of my artistic pursuits, I am a fictionwriter, screenwriter, director, amateur podcast creator, and a poet. I love the intersection of the visual, the auditory, and the linguistic, which is why music is one of the greatest influences in my creative life.