Felicity Leaves the Door Ajar by Jacqueline Doyle
Felicity leaves the door to her dim bedroom open just a crack, as she browses through her well-worn copy of Emily Dickinson’s Selected Poetry. Dickinson believed the “Soul should always stand ajar,” ready for the incursion of the divine. Felicity likes to think she’s open to an epiphany. She switches off the light, plumps the pillows, pulls up her new blue comforter, turns this way and that, rearranges the pillows, watches the numbers on the digital alarm clock advance, waiting for sleep.
What’s out there in the living room outside the partly opened bedroom door, in the hallway outside the locked apartment door, on the sidewalk outside the locked entrance to the building? Has another tenant left the front door ajar? It’s happened before.
Felicity’s been living in New York for almost a year - her first real apartment after years of dysfunctional roommates - but she’s still not used to all the activity on the street below. Yelling, laughter, voices, bursts of music from passing cars. One time she was sure she heard men whispering in Spanish on the fire escape: a language she doesn’t know. When she got out of bed to look, legs trembling, there was no one there.
The bright streetlights illuminate the living room, and she likes the sliver of light in the bedroom when she doesn’t quite close the door. Despite the lights, the street’s not safe. She doesn’t go outside after dark, not even to the corner bodega for a quart of milk. A man was stabbed in front of the bar around the corner in March. The building super said, “The guys knew each other. You worry too much.”
There’s still a dark spot on the sidewalk, which she’s sure is blood, and she takes a different route to the subway now. “One need not be a Chamber - to be Haunted.” Dickinson was talking about corridors of the brain, not city streets, and her therapist says this is all in her head.
As she descends into half sleep, Felicity glimpses a dark Boschian underworld peopled by grinning creatures, black eyes narrowed, mouths agape. They peer through the cracks in her reason, ready to flood her psyche with their chatter. In her dream she’s at work and can’t find her keys. She rummages through her bag, tossing the contents onto her desk. Did she leave the keys in her apartment door when she was locking up? Her heart beats faster and she’s short of breath.
Felicity drags herself out of half slumber, unsettled, swings her legs over the side of the bed and slides her feet into her slippers. A car honks in the street below. Someone shrieks, and she can’t tell if they’re terrified or just laughing. She stands and shuffles across the bedroom, groggy with sleep. She shuts the door.
Jacqueline Doyle is the author of the flash chapbook The Missing Girl (Black Lawrence Press). She has recent flash in Ellipsis, New Flash Fiction Review, Juked, and elsewhere.