THE HALLWAY
Jack Doehring

The hallway today was dim. There was a faint glow emanating from the room that was at the end of the hall. I walked down the hallway guided by this faint glow. I looked down but couldn’t see where the white carpet transitioned to the bass board trim of the white walls. All was a dark grey. I passed two closed doors on my right spaced about ten feet from each other and made it to the yellow light that came from the open doorway of the room situated on the right. The light formed a rectangle shaped block perpendicular to me that splashed down onto the carpet and crept halfway up the wall. I stepped into the room from whence the light came and looked at myself, my face in the mirror. 

The hallway today was bright. Probably because I flipped on the light switch at the beginning of the hall where I was currently standing. Two spotlights one a third of the way down the hall and another two thirds of the way down the hall illuminated the space. I walked slowly. I stopped at the first door, it was open. I looked inside and surveyed my daughter’s bedroom. Everything was in its place despite her absence from the room for several years. Her school textbooks from high school and college were still on their shelves, the funny old bean bag chair was still in the corner, photos of her and her friends still adorned the wall opposite me above her desk. Most of the photos were of her and her friends at the amusement park she liked to go to. Her bed jutted out in the middle of the room. I imagined her lying there her elbows supporting her upper body as she looked down at some magazine, her phone or even sometimes her homework as her legs stretched back to where her feet rested on the pillows where her head was supposed to lie. I was struck by the joy of remembering her like that as well as the pain of knowing I would never see her like that again. I grasped the doorknob and pulled the door shut. I turned back to the hall and marched down it with the memories of her buzzing in my mind. I looked at myself in the mirror noticing the wrinkles expanding out from the corners of my eyes.

The hallway today was chilly. My bare feet were cold even on the carpet. I couldn’t find my damned slippers in the closet. I sauntered halfway down the hall and stopped at the wood bordered window cut into the middle of the left wall. The blinds had been pulled up. I looked out at the pines and glanced down to see the dusting of snow covering the grass and pinecones. Two squirrels were chasing each other around the trunks of the trees. The longer I looked the more I had to squint as the bright light reflected of the snow and the powerful sunlight came through the window. I continued down the hall. I always saw the same face at the end but I walked there anyway hoping it might look different. Hoping two different colored eyes would be looking back at me, a face with a different nose not the bulbous one I had or different lips not stretched out and cracked like mine. But, my face was as it was every day.

The hallway today was dark except for the soft light streaming through the wood window halfway down the hall. Four squares of moonlight with a shadowed cross between them fell on the wall on the other side of the hall illuminating a poster we had purchased years prior. The poster had prominent lettering on the top that said Peggy Guggenheim Collection and underneath it said Venice in small lettering. The poster was of a painting by Rene Magritte in which the top half was a bright blue sky with wispy clouds scattered throughout as if it was high noon and the bottom was a silhouette of some trees and a single building cast in darkness as if it was the witching hour. An awkwardly painted streetlamp and a couple windows from the building gave off a muted glow that quickly subsided as it was absorbed by the gloom of the trees above and empty street below. Underneath the painting the title was given as “Empire of light” or in French as “L’Empire des Luminieres.” I didn’t know why it was called that. I walked down the hall to see if I looked any different.

The hallway today felt longer that I remembered. I stood at its beginning. I looked down at my cold naked feet. I followed the vein that ran from my ankle to my big toe and then saw the pink stain in the carpet next to my right foot. I bent down and traced the stains outline with my finger. It was a large oval with a few jagged lines flayed out towards the wall. In my mind I could see the red wine spilling from my wife’s wine glass in slow motion falling to the white carpet. Of course she would say it was wine from my glass. She had rushed down the stairs to retrieve the vinegar, baking soda and paper towels but by the time she had returned the stain was there to stay even as she wiped at it vigorously. It took me a while to make it down the hall that day. I noticed each splotch on the carpet. Some stains seemed to be as small as a single discolored hair of the stuff, others were little lines and streaks. Most were grayish in color but some were slightly yellow or a pale green. It certainly did not seem like a white carpet anymore. I looked at my face in the mirror. Each pore and skin cell reminded me of each strand of the carpet. I saw small circular scars on my forehead healed slightly lighter than the surrounding skin. The discolored dark spots on the side of my face stood out and I inspected the strange blue mounds of cells under my eyes. It was always the same face. 

The hallway today looked beautiful. It had a gentleness to it like it was saying no matter what happens I will always be here. I walked past my daughters room and noticed dust and hair floating in the illuminated space provided by the open window. I marveled at the levitating specks and elongated follicles. The randomness of their movements didn’t compute with my feeling that they had some strange purpose to their journey as if the hair and dust knew exactly where it was supposed to travel. I passed through the light and saw some dust on one of the black frames of our family's photographs. I wiped some of the dust off leaving half of the frame with a clean black sheen while the rest of the frame was still sprinkled with the little gray particles. I looked at the photograph. My daughter, my wife and myself were standing there looking back at me. My daughter was eight or nine and we were at the pumpkin patch. My daughter was cheerfully clutching our selected pumpkin to her jean overalls with both her arms, the weight of the pumpkin not affecting her inner happiness. My wife and I stood behind her grinning. I reached up to touch the photo and my fingertips gathered more dust as I streaked them down our faces and bodies clarifying the image. With each passing second it became harder to look and yet I almost wished I could look upon the photo forever. I had to tear my eyes away and finish the trek down the hall. I splashed water on my face and looked in the mirror. How did the hair on my head become so thin I wondered.

The hallway today was hard to bear. Stacks of boxes lined the wall outside of my daughter’s room. I hesitatingly took a few steps forward. My daughter exited her room and dropped another box on the pile. 

“Are you sure you have to do this?” My gruff voice asked. She straightened up and turned towards me. She took after her mother in appearance with her straight nose, almond eyes and longish face. She glared at me, her eyes alight with a fireI had never seen in them before.

“Don’t you get it Dad? I can’t have anything to do with this house anymore. I don’t belong here, nothing that is mine belongs here and you don’t belong here either.” She said with a sharp edge in her voice, her words piercing me.

“This is my home.” 

“And you’re rotting away in here, can’t you see it? Its starring you straight in the your face and you are looking right past it.”

“You’re too young.”

“Young really? Thats all you can say to me is that I’m young? I have no time for your stubbornness, I’ll be gone in the morning with my things.” She brushed past me and left the hall. I turned.

“Abby wait!” But she was gone. I walked to the end of the hall but couldn’t bring myself to look in the mirror that day. 

The hallway today felt empty. The boxes were gone. Abigail’s door was open, I glanced in and all there was was naked furniture. I turned back to look at the hall. I saw our cat or rather my cat at the end of the hall starting to walk towards me. Thank god she wasn’t black or that would’ve been too symbolic. I walked towards her and watched as she didn’t even look up at me as if I didn’t exist. After she passed me on the right I kept looking down at the floor and saw a spider with long spindly legs moving in the same direction as me, hugging the crease where the wall and carpet meet. The spider eventually made it to the second door on my right and disappeared underneath the door into the darkness beyond. I put my hand on the doorknob and felt an incredible surge of fear as I tried to twist it. I let go and fell back against the wall behind me unable to bring myself to open the door. After some time I stood myself up and was drawn down to the opening at the end of the hall. The mirror was waiting for me.

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JACK DOEHRING is a writer and visual artist who graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor's degree of Fine Art in 2010. He currently works at the Beverly Hills Public Library and plans to continue writing, painting and drawing in his free time.