Through Any Given Door

2.01 Part II, Torn Pictures, San Jose

 San Jose, San Francisco, Hawaii
1954 – 1957

1954 • San Jose, California ~ I’d reach up and rap the doorknocker twice.
I’d say, knock, knock.
She’d say, who’s there?
I’d say, Cathy.
She’d say, Cathy who?
I’d say, Cathy me, silly, your daughter! Wouldn’t we laugh!

I don’t recollect how I got there or who dropped me off on her doorstep; in hindsight I suppose Dad did and waited in the car across the street. Who knows, and it didn’t really matter; I was coming to live with my mother! My happy feet did a little jig, the pigeons in my stomach on the wing and my heart thumping so loud there was no need to ring the bell.

Knock, knock. I heard her padded footsteps, the lifting of the inside latch, the swoosh of the door. I looked up expectantly. My knock, knock died in my throat. Her eyes passed somewhere over my head. Her arms hung at her sides. Then my mother stepped back, let me by, closed the door, and did an about face out of the dim entry. Picking up my yellow suitcase with brown striping, I trailed after her into in the rectory’s dining room where she pointed to the end of the long pew pushed up against the wall. Her wire rimmed glasses perched on a nose that looked like mine, her round face framed by short jet-black curly hair, her mouth set in a downward frown I tried to mistake for a smile. Her voice tight over her rounded shoulder, she ordered, “Be quiet and behave,” echoing with, “sit there and don’t touch anything,” as her features disappeared through the white Dutch door. With my Naugahyde case deposited beneath me, I dangled my feet, sitting still on the hard bench, obediently folding my five-year-old hands in my lap.

“How did I get here?” I puzzled. “I didn’t do anything wrong! How could this be happening to me?” This is not at all how I thought it would be. I thought she’d be happy to see me, but she didn’t seem to care.

The room waited in pin-drop stillness. I studied the red-flocked wallpaper, the tatted doilies, and the rectangular dining table that was set for the two priests: wine goblets, silver spoons, the scatter of white plates, the linen, crystal, and pewter—all waiting, sitting in silence—like me. I waited most of my life for her to come back for me. She never did.

My mother was living in a small room off the church’s rectory, working as a cook and housekeeper. She couldn’t stay now that I’d arrived, so we moved to a nearby one-room basement apartment down the street. Silence took up residence in our house and we disappeared into it, surviving in the same quarters, living alone together, each in our own world.

Unfortunately, life was going to get worse before it got better.

to be continued …

© 2018. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. Yours is some of the most powerful, profound writing I have ever read. I hope it gets out there to a broader audience. It needs to be heard by the many and not just the few, though very fortunate we are to be among the first.

  2. Juliette Andrews says:

    Five years old. A long time ago. How do we get through it? Well we do, don’t we.

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