By Sasha Fagelman, ’24
My fingers trace the edge of the small porthole that sits centered on the heavy door. I sigh and gaze through the thick glass of the window. There’s nothing to see but the smog but I always look. Hope isn’t bountiful these days so it’s become more of a habit than an act of want.
I start fiddling with the pearl necklace that dangles around my neck, feeling the smoothness of the glistening gemstones. As I begin to walk away from the door, I sense a movement in my peripheral vision.
My heels make a loud screeching noise as I do a double-take to get a better look. My mouth opens slightly in disbelief at what I see. My grip tightening on the stem of the wineglass in my left hand.
I take a deep breath, “DAVID, WILL YOU COME HERE PLEASE.”
The soft padding of small feet accompanies the looming silence as my son makes his way to my side, “Mama? What’s wrong?” he asks looking up at me.
Forcing myself to give him a reassuring smile, I shake my head, “Nothing, sweet pea. I just want you to tell me if you see anything through the window.”
David looks at me like I’m crazy, “But nothing is there?”
Pursing my lips, I feel my patience waning, “Just do it.”
David shrugs, “Okay.” He stands on his tippy toes and peers through the window, his eyebrows moving up in surprise.
“There, there’s a yellow thing in the window.” He points. “What is that?”
Looking out the window, I take a sharp breath in. So there is something there. “I don’t know, honey, why don’t you go get your father?” David nods and takes off, his footsteps more urgent this time.
Soon he comes back, dragging my grumbling husband along with him. I look down at David, “Why don’t you go play so your father and I can talk?”
David shakes his head, “No.”
I take a long sip of wine, “As you wish. Don’t ask for therapy when this comes back to haunt you in 10 years. Hell, if we’re even here then.”
A laugh erupts from my throat and I get a disapproving glance from my husband. “What Rob? Do you really think this place will hold up for that long? No one answers our messages anymore, everyone is as good as dead. We won’t last for much longer either.”
Rob holds up his hand to stop me. “Enough,” he says in a tired voice. “Just tell me why you got me?”
I smile, “Alright. You don’t want to face our inevitable future. But can you deal with what’s happening in the present?”
Rob looks confused which makes me roll my eyes out of annoyance. “Look out of the window.”
I walk to the living room, draping myself over my favorite armchair. I watch Rob’s reaction to the yellow thing with curiosity. This is the most interesting thing that has happened in months. He takes his glasses off and proceeds to clean them carefully with the sleeve of his sweater, replacing them on his face before looking outside again.
He studies the yellow thing for a few moments and then turns to me, “It’s a child.”
I throw my arms up, wine flying out of my glass. “Horrah.”
Rob stares at me with disappointment or sadness, I can’t tell. He glances at the carpet, “That won’t come out.”
Looking down I feign a frown, “Shame.”
I go to refill my glass, “So what are you going to do?”
I open the bottle and top off my glass. When I turn around, I see a familiar worry crease arrive on Rob’s face. Something old arises in me and I walk over. Almost pulling him into a hug but brushing that urge away. It’s too late to fix us. “We’ll tell it to go away.”
Rob shakes his head, “It? This is a child, Julia.”
I sigh, “You already told me this.”
He gestures towards the door with his hands, “We can’t just leave them all alone out there.”
I walk over to the window and look out again, squinting my eyes to see through the smog. A small figure in a yellow jacket moves in the distance. Rob begins walking around the living room in anxious circles. He clenches his jaw and stares at me. I stare back, “What, just what, do you want me to do? We can’t open the door.” My eyes flick at the silent David who is no doubt listening as he stares out the window. Snapping my fingers to grab his attention, I speak, “Get away from there, honey.”
Rob smooths out his jeans, “But THEY are out there. Another person and they’re going to come here. Do you really want to have turning them away on your conscience?”
Raising my eyebrows, I scoff, “And you want to let them in? Is that so? Just forget it and make the most of the time you have left.”
Rob sits on the edge of the sofa, looking defeated, “That could be David.”
I sigh and set myself next to him, “You know you’re putting David at risk if you open the door.”
Rob runs his fingers through his hair, “I know.”
Turning back to my husband I exhale tiredly, “Rob. You know what we have to do.”
He closes his eyes as if to block out the weight that hangs in the room, “Yes.”
I hear the sound of metal moving against metal, my stomach twisting as I turn around and see David’s hand wrapped around the door latch. The creaking of the hinges shriek in harmony with the horror that fills our faces. Everything seems to be in slow motion, the frantic beats of my heart being the only thing centering me in reality. Before I can call out to David, the door opens, revealing a small figure in a yellow jacket.