Itís 6:46 and thirty-one seconds when the doorbell rings. My mom runs to answer it.
ďHi, Michelle!Ē I hear my mom call. Itís my sister. She left her college friends to have dinner with us tonight.
I have four minutes before I can go out and greet her. I can only walk through doors when the number of minutes is divisible by five. 6:46 and fifty-nine seconds. Not happening.
Itís the killer of what could be an okay life. Iím late for class all the time when Iím at school. A teacher will let me out at 1:50 exactly. I walk through the hallways in a straight line, starting with my right foot, ending with my left. I reach the door, but itís too late: 1:56. I lurk outside for four minutes before I can walk in. Late again.
Or Iíll have a doctorís appointment. Do you have any idea of how many doors there are in a doctorís office? It takes me twenty minutes just to get into the examination room.
The other things that bother me are much less obvious. Itís the door thing that kills me. My mother canít stand it. I hate that she hates it. It makes me feel so lousy.
ďRebecca?Ē my mom calls. ďMichelleís here! Why donít you come out?Ē
I check my digital watch. No way am I leaving at 6:47 and fifty-one seconds.
Iím bored. I hate waiting. Another reason why I hate my door issue. Standing in front of doorways is just so dull.
I canít play music. I can only listen to tracks five and ten, and I can only keep ten CDs in my CD rack at a time (thatís all it holds). I canít keep them anywhere else besides my CD rack because I just canít. But the point is that Iím sick of tracks five and ten on my ten CDs. Thatís only twenty songs. For the past who knows how many years. It gets boring.
I canít do my homework. I work on my homework in half hour blocks. I start at a certain time and work until half an hour. But weíll probably have dinner at seven, and itís already 6:48 and twenty-five seconds.
I have to go to the bathroom. I check my watch again. 6:48 and thirty-two seconds. Iíve got a minute and a half before I can go. I carefully sit down on the foot of my bed, right in the middle. I put my right hand down without thinking and leave it there for three seconds. I jerk it up once I realize what Iím doing. Down with my left hand for three seconds. It still feels uneven, so I hold both hands down for three seconds.
I donít like the number three. I like twos, fours, fives, and zeros. I hold my right hand down for another three seconds, then my left hand, and then both hands again. Six seconds for each hand separately, six for them together. Six is an even number. Good enough.
6:49 and eleven seconds. I should get in position. I stand up, being careful not to lean on my hands. I walk over to the door to my bathroom, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. I stand in front of it and look at my watch again. 6:49 and twenty-eight seconds. Half a minute of waiting time. Boring. Iíve had enough waiting outside of doors to last the entire world about two million years.
ďRebecca, come out and say hello!Ē my mom orders. She doesnít understand my door thing. She thinks I do it because I want to. I canít explain why I have to. Going through the door at a random time seems unthinkable to me. Itís the same as starting to walk on my left foot. I just canít do it. Actually, that doesnít make much sense either.
Itís like...you arenít suicidal, so you wouldnít jump out of a third story window. Well, why not try it? Whatís the worst that can happen?
Exactly. Youíd die.
Iím not saying Iíll die if I walk through the door at a random time, but itís just something I wouldnít do. Like you wouldnít jump out that window. Sure, you can envision it happening and everything working out okay, but that doesnít mean youíre going to take the risk. Iím not going to take the risk.
ďI have to go to the bathroom!Ē I shout. I glance at my watch again. 6:49 and forty-three seconds. Almost time.
I begin my countdown. Fifteen more seconds, fourteen more seconds...You think Iím a total loser, donít you? Nine more seconds...eight, seven, six...Iíve told my mom plenty of times: Iím sorry Iím weird. Three, two, one, go!
Right foot through the door, left foot through the door. That in one second. I check my watch. Yup, only 6:50 and one second. Now two seconds.
I shut the door and take care of my business and wash my hands. Now I need to wait until 6:55 before I can leave again. Going to the bathroom is by far the worst. In your bedroom, thereís stuff you can do. But in the bathroom, forget it. I wash my hands again. I wash my hands all the time. Itís weird, but I just do. They just feel like they need to be washed.
When Iím stuck in the bathroom, I wash them for a long time. Plenty of soap and water and all that good stuff.
6:53 and thirty-seven seconds. Enough time to put on lotion? Not quite. I could probably do it, but Iíd be taking that risk of missing 6:55. I canít put on lotion anywhere but the bathroom.
You probably think I donít have any friends. Iím too weird for friends, in an annoying way. Who wants to go out to lunch with me if they have to wait for me to go through four doors (out of school, into a restaurant, out of a restaurant, back into school)? That could knock off almost twenty minutes of their lunch period.
Not to mention me freaking out that I forgot something. I do that all the time. Iíll be pretty sure that I havenít forgotten it, but I canít convince myself that I really, truly havenít forgotten it. And itís not material stuff like notebooks or pens. Itís stuff like locking my locker or turning off the water in my sinks and stuff. No one wants to hear about someone whining about crap like that.
I do have friends, though. Theyíre mostly my friends from elementary school, the few of them that managed to stay in the same school as me all through middle and high school. Iím not their best friend, but if I have a bit of company, I can deal. I canít really ask for more.
6:54 and forty-nine seconds. Yikes. Iíd better get in position.
I stand right in front of the door and start my countdown. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, go! Right foot, left foot, Iím through.
I sit back down on my bed, in the middle of the edge, if that makes any sense. I donít lean on my hands this time. I rarely make that kind of mistake.
ďDinner!Ē my mom calls. Sheís probably only calling for my benefit. She and my dad are probably talking to Michelle in the kitchen or something
ďComing!Ē I shout. I look at my watch. 6:57 and eighteen seconds. Great. Almost three whole minutes. It doesnít sound like a lot, but my mom can get pretty impatient. I can too, but I can deal with it better than she can. Iíve probably had a lot more practice.
I am a miserable person. Iím not trying to be depressing or anything. Iím just stating the truth. I am miserable.
I canít be happy at school. Everything at school bothers me. You know how teachers erase the board really quickly sometimes and they forget to erase that one little chalk line? It drives me nuts. Iím itching to go up and fix it, but I know that I canít. If I have to look at it for a long time, sometimes I start to cry. Itís just so horrible to see it there, glaring at you! It means that the teacher hasnít rubbed the eraser all over the board, and I just canít stand knowing that.
Iím such a freak. I know that too.
And then my locker. I canít stand my combination lock. There are only three numbers on it that matter, and thatís really not even. And you turn it around a couple of half/quarter turns or something. I spin it around about twenty times after Iíve put in the combination, but I still feel like Iím missing something even then. Itís pathetic. And every lock I see has to have the zero on the top. If the zero isnít on the top, I put it there. I get so many weird looks from people who have seen me fooling around with their locks.
And then thereís the actual school work. I write the same heading all the time, on everything. My name, Rebecca Larson, upper left corner. It needs to take up exactly 1 11/16 inches. Yes, I carry a ruler with me. Yes, I know that makes me seem like a math nerd. No, I do not care. Iíd rather seem like a math nerd than have my name look different on different pieces of paper.
Next comes the subject, lower left corner. I donít measure how long that is. Upper right corner is the date. I write out the whole month, then the day, and then the year. Like September 9, 2006 is when we started school. June 13, 2006 is when we end school. I wish it was June.
And then the assignment in the lower right corner. This is weird. I hate putting down my assignments. Iíll say ďnotes, textbook pages 412-418Ē or ďreading pages 192-194 + questions.Ē Donít bother to tell me that I am strange. I know that. Donít bother to tell me that I donít seem happy at school. I know that too.
I also know that I canít be happy at home. When Iím alone, like I am now, itís okay, but whenever Iím doing something weird (which is all the time) in the same room as my mom (which is a lot of the time), I get her disapproving looks. Her sadness that I canít just walk through doorways like a normal person.
She gets so embarrassed whenever she takes me out somewhere. Like to doctor's appointments. Oh, those are bad. They are bad. And Iím embarrassed too. But the worst part by far is my momís disappointment in me. I just feel so knotted up inside. If sheís really upset with me, then I start to feel sick. I get stomach aches all the time.
ďRebecca!Ē my mom yells. Oh god. The time. Did I miss 6:55?
I check my watch. 6:54 and fifty-five seconds. Oh man. I just came so close. I get up carefully and evenly and walk to the door, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. I glance at my watch. One second, go! Right foot left foot, Iím through.
Down the hallway, right, left, right, left. I reach the dining room. Thereís no door to our dining room, which is good. It just opens out into the hallway. I can walk into it whenever I want to, at any random time. I turn. Right, left. I walk straight. Right, left, right, left, right, left, Iím in my seat. I pull it back with both hands. I sit down. I rub my hands along the edges of the seat. I do this every time I sit in a chair.
ďHey,Ē says Michelle, coming in. ďI havenít seen you in awhile.Ē
ďSorry, I had to go to the bathroom,Ē I say, partly lying, but not really. Iíve given up explaining my issues to people. They just think Iím nuts.
You must think Iím nuts.
My mom comes in and starts serving out the pasta. My dad comes in afterward, carrying a bottle of beer and a glass. The rest of us already have drinks.
ďSo Michelle, howíre you liking chemistry?Ē my dad asks.
ďThe labs are so long,Ē says my sister, ďtheyíre from, like, ten to four and we canít eat lunch at all. But the actual material is pretty interesting.Ē
ďHm,Ē says my dad, helping himself to green beans. My mom takes a sip of water and eats some pasta. Iím about to take a bite when I feel the familiar swooping sensation in my stomach. I forgot something. Again.
ďI think I left my bathroom water on,Ē I say. ďI need to go turn it off.Ē
My mom rolls her eyes. I sense the disappointment. But I canít stand leaving the sink on. Itís weird. I really canít remember if itís on or not. Itíll take me forever to go, but itís fine. I want to wash my hands again anyway.
I get up from the table and walk to the doorway of my room. I glance at my watch. 7:09 and thirty-five seconds. They can totally see me from†the dining room. Iíll have to pretend Iím interested in their conversation.
ďI like chemistry,Ē I say randomly. I hate chemistry. Itís so hard to do labs evenly.
ďThatís nice,Ē says my dad, giving me as strange look before turning back to Michelle. ďSo what was your European history teacher telling you?Ē
I glance at my watch. 7:09 and forty-six seconds.
ďRebecca, if youíre going to go, just go,Ē says my mom. I cringe mentally away from her unhappiness with me.
I should walk through the door. What could possibly happen? Iím not going to die or anything.
But logic wonít save me in this situation. Anyway, ten more seconds to go. I look at my watch again. Seven seconds...six, five, four, three, two, one, go! Right, left, Iím through.
I hate my life.
I walk to the bathroom and look inside. The water is off. I wonít go in to wash my hands, even though I really want to. I wonít make my mom have to wait longer for me.
I pace around my room, right, left, right, left, right, left, turn around, right, left, right, left, right, left, turn around, repeat. I check my watch. 7:12 and nine seconds.
I need to stop this. Itís making me so unhappy. It makes my mom so unhappy. And it will all get better once I stop myself.
I stop walking. I try to convince myself to lift up my left foot before my right. I canít make myself do it.
Okay, maybe thatís starting too big. I take a step with my right foot. I keep my left foot in place. Iím not going to move it. Iím not going to move. I wonít move it.
This is agony. I feel off balanced, and it drives me crazy. I need to move. Iím getting tenser and tenser. I have to even things out. I have to. But I wonít let myself.
ďStay strong,Ē I mutter. Talking to yourself can be effective, but itís not this time. My brain is screaming with effort and anger. Lift up the foot! Step with your left foot!
I canít! Itís like my conscious. I need to stay still. I need to stay still. I will not move.
My face is screwing up. My eyes are getting wet. A tear forms and drops onto my cheek. That does it. I step with my left foot.
I feel awful. Iím sick of myself. I almost had it. If I had held through the crying, the shaking, the sickening, I would have been able to do it. If I had stayed in that position until it just didnít matter anymore, I wouldnít have my stupid habits.
But Iím starting to realize that thatís the longest Iíve held myself in an unbalanced position. Iíve gotten better.
ďRebecca?Ē my mom calls. I glance at my watch. 7:14 and twenty-four seconds. I station myself by the door.
If I keep on practicing, maybe some day Iíll be able to do it. Maybe some day Iíll be able to step with my right foot and not my left. Maybe Iíll be able to start walking with my left foot. I wonít need to measure my name on my homework and I can listen to all of my music. I wonít even care if a teacher erases the board properly or not.
But the best thing would be if my mom wasnít fed up with me all the time. And I could walk through doors whenever I want to.
Well, practice makes perfect. Iíll just have to keep practicing.
I walk through the doorway at 7:15 on the dot.