Walking into the lobby, fumbling for my key fob, I mindlessly stub my index finger into the button to call the lift, and stand in a familiar silence with a pretty blonde girl in office attire. No casual Friday, I thought to myself as I gazed jealously at her perfectly polished black-on-black silhouette. She must be a lawyer or something. When the comforting ding of the lift signalled its arrival on the ground floor, I trudged my New Balance shoes into the lift, tapping my key fob and pressing floor five with the same irritated attitude that I did it with every single day. The system never seems to cooperate with my key and it wound me up. Behind me, she glided into the lift in an almost ballet dancer like fashion, not a single one of her blonde strands shifting out of line for even a second. She taps floor five – the same as me – and the doors slide closed in unison.
The silence continued, the atmosphere marinated in anonymity. We exchange a forced smile through pursed lips as we ascend floor after floor. Level five. There’s a moment; it’s almost as though we bid one another a silent, faceless farewell. She bounced out of the lift and turned right, the tail of her neatly flowing trench coat engulfing her delicate frame. I hear her key slide into one of the doors. It sounded exactly like mine did – they’re all the same doors in this apartment block, so every entry to every door sounds harrowingly identical. In a flash, the familiar clunk of the closing door sounded, and she was gone. Her weekend had begun, just like that.
As I walked the opposite way down the corridor to my apartment, I took a moment to notice at each door. Black. All of them. A chunky, matte silver handle the only thing standing between me and what lay on the other side – only our human restraint adheres us to boundaries, preventing us from ever seeing beyond those black doors.
For a moment my mind removes itself from the building. My mind paints an imaginary blueprint of the building. Twelve apartments per floor. Seven floors. Three towers. 252 apartments. 252 capsules of life. 252 homes to probably double or triple as many people. Behind every one of those black doors is another story. Another answer to a question. Another ending to the book.
Some days I work for myself, from home. I’ll amble down to the coffee shop underneath our building, or nip out for a lunchtime run. I pass people by. I wonder what they think when they see me. I allow myself this moment of narcissism as I start conceptualising what I could be to them. Am I unemployed? Am I off work sick? Am I rich? Do I work nights? What do they think is behind my black door, other than the empty coffee cup they see me clutching, or the sweaty running shoes I wear as I pound past them in an unjustified fluster. That’s all they know of me.
Behind my black door is my one bedroom apartment I share with my boyfriend. Behind my black door is a pretty simple, contented life of two twenty-somethings in love. A good day behind my black door is a great episode of Masterchef, a new blend in the Nespresso machine, finding $10 in a pair of old jeans. A bad day behind my black door is a crappy day at work, the car running out of coolant, getting stuck in traffic, worrying about a family member near or far. I’m lucky the walls behind my black door have mostly happy stories to tell.
I never saw the pretty blonde girl again. But I still stare at her black door. And the others, wondering what’s behind them. I let my mind wander into an endless daydream of unknown possibility about what’s really behind those black doors, what stories the walls would tell. I take comfort from the fact I’ll likely never know. My hopeful fascination the only source of reason.
That pretty blonde girl. I hope she is a lawyer. I hope she’s happy. I hope she really does command my envy.
I never want those mysteries to be shattered by the real story. The heartbreak, the sickness, the bankruptcy, the loneliness, grief or emptiness. The stories I create behind those doors can’t be tainted. Everyone behind their black door remains nameless. All I can do is leave those black doors closed, each with their own ending to their own story. I just pray that their story is as happy as I painted it.
A wise person once told me, every man is an island…and it’s true. Everyone has their own benchmark for tragedy, their own pillar of happiness. Your bad day at the office, your broken ankle, that few thousand dollars you lost. Those things could be paradise to someone else. Every man may be an island, and in my case, every man’s black door hides a story I’ll never get to read the end of.