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// Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Winter's daylight yawns and crawls up the vines of the old sanitarium. Inside, the decor is a calming blend of pastel colors, smooth blends, and happy hues. Its walls are covered in a flowing tapestry of soft, diamond-stitched padding. Rays of fanned down from the glass ceiling, filling the corridors with streaks of white-washed yellow.

Corridors have three levels: top, middle, bottom. Each level has forty doors: twenty to the left and twenty to the right. Each door is fitted with a head-sized porthole window, perfectly centered at shoulder height.

When viewed end-to-end the corridors are a sprawling grid. Rows and columns—lines upon lines—frame, connect, and define the internal landscape.

The mind easily replaces the materials of the building—its brick and mortar, protected glass, hinged metal doors—with the honeycombs of a beehive. Visitors could easily become lost in this system of seemingly undifferentiated cells, if not for the doors.

Each door is decorated by its owner and reflects the occupant's fancy. Here, in this place, a door is more than an entry and an exit. Doors are a source of pride. They're expressions of individuality. They're signals and signs: When one is open it means "welcome!" When one is closed it means "do not disturb" or "go away!" When one is broken it means "danger within − enter at own peril."

From the vantage point of a doorway's threshold so much becomes known.

Inside one room the Lunatic cradles an Old English clock and smiles. "Time," he whispers, "a true partner."

Next door the ancient Expeditionist reminisces about the fierceness of an African safari, the world view at Everest's peak, and riding on the back of a giant stingray in the Bermuda Triangle. "Ah," he sighs. "Those were the days. Those were the glory days."

Down another corridor a would-be starlet hesitates, dramatically, and on cue. In her doorway a cockroach looms, ten feet tall, devil-red...and grinning. She can only stutter, "A d-d-demon in the door never kn-kn-knocks."

On the top level of the oldest corridor the slender, red-haired, green-eyed Bedchamber Mistress coyly laughs and sips her Thursday tea in the company of the Monastic Prince (a handsome fellow; refined and charming, though awkward and clumsy in the presence of a lady, as the tea stains on his lapel suggest).

In the room across the way, huddled in a corner, the Wretched Insomniac secretly and amorously admires the little tea party. To himself he seethes, teeth grinding, "Not again. Not again! Why does she pick him and not me? She cavorts with a loon. I should be her audience. I am her chosen! It's not fair. Not fair!!!"

At the center of all things, and in the center-most cell of all things, is the resident Messiah, forever lost in tongues. His hands raised high above his head in unconditional welcome. His body bobbing in place to an unheard rhythm. His eyes wide and wild and distant and focused; his heart filled with a fiery passion; his body a golden chalice that runneth over.

His neighbor, the Beeswax Artisan, trembles at the sonic power of the utterances. Figurines rattle on their shelves. His soul is chilled by the prophecies he can never understand and the imminent doom that lingers nearby.

From behind a rainbow-streaked door the lovely Muse sobs in silence; her voice lost to a mysterious ailment. Her tears are filled with unspoken poems and profound inspiration, which can only drip and splatter onto a cracked floor, and eventually evaporate into the nothingness, becoming the "never was."

But the cast of characters does not end there, for there are more doors and more residents behind their doors —

The Philosopher – A great procrastinator vis-à-vis words and an obscurantist bar none. He pontificates at great length to any passerby, and when the mood does strike him, turns to his door and vents in confusing soliloquy.

The Pupil – Always nipping at the heels of the Philosopher, never adding anything to the meat of the meaning; his pliant will ever changing by the words he hears.

The Comely Onlooker – A witness to every scene, in order to be seen, she speaks of the obvious and the droll, by choice, as neither puts her heart or mind at risk.

The Eavesdropping Interloper – Appearing like a shadow, or an ant, or a piece of lint, he becomes part of every conversation. To the great benefit of others he has experienced everything they have, only in more severe, more extreme, or more vivid ways.

The Purple Ghost – A squat, box-like figure, forever cloaked by a purple sheet, moves with absolute grace within the cell, as if floating on the very nature of air. No one has seen the form beneath the sheet. And no one knows if it is a Mister or a Miss.

The Restless Coward – Constantly trying to pick a fight with the things in the shadows, but losing his nerve whenever they bare their pointy teeth.

The Scrivener – Forever writing in notebooks, days and nights are spent jotting and sketching, and writing and revising; thinkering and tinkering, and twisting and turning. One idea bleeds after another, until the throb of the mind-storm subsides. To him every thought is a tendril and every sentence a life. None are left behind.

The Vigilant Maintainer – A portly man who sweeps the floor with a broom that isn't there and then flies into a rage when he can't find the dust pan.

Each misfit in his or her (or its) own way arrives at a state of intimacy; a place where they can steal a peek into their soul pockets and admire the trinkets of their dream treasures.

Outside the sanitarium the snow dies, but inside its walls the lives of the residents grow and unfold through the constancy of their conversations, and the swing of their doors.


Words became characters in my mind, though they were more descriptions, adjectives, and impressions than fully formed entities.

Still, I imagined a time and a place where those characters, or at least their impressions, lived together and lived out their uncommon lives. A community of so-called misfits.

And those misfits, the ones in my mind, eventually became the inhabitants of "Doors."

P.S. A note slipped under the door: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

© Copyright 2009,2012 Christopher V. DeRobertis. All rights reserved.

This text composition is a work of fiction. Names, places, institutions, events, incidents, characters, persons, locations, and/or organizations either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Full Creative Writing Disclaimer.