Screen Doors Don't Slam Anymore

She’s wrestling with the screen door. Really yanking, but it won’t close. It has this defiant resistance, this pulling back that won’t let up. Probably to prevent slamming. People are so inconsiderate that some schlub invented this spring or whatever, to compensate for people’s rudeness.

She strains in vain. It feels like it’ll break if she forces it. She hates the thought of walking away without insuring the door is closed, especially at a client’s house, and really at such a huge, fancy house as this, but her boyfriend has strolled off, turning a corner into the corridor.

Her ex-boyfriend, she corrects herself.

She broke up with him, but he doesn’t leave. He’s still fixing her house – albeit in his quarter-assed way - and he sleeps on her couch and he needs her help on this job. That’s what he’d said this morning, undoubtedly knowing that she wouldn’t say no.

This is his damn client anyway, and he doesn’t seem to care about the fact that the screen door is swinging in the wind, so fuck it. She could lose him in a place like this. She wipes her feet on the mat and hustles to find him.

He’s halfway through the long dining room already. He glances back at her like, What took you? But before she can even shrug he turns away again. He hasn’t broken his stride, he never does.

He’s putting the finishing touches on the projection system in what is apparently one of three living rooms these people possess. They’re Indian. She didn’t think Indians cared about things like projection televisions and three living rooms for one family, but here was evidence that some must.

Keeping up with the neighbors, she supposes.

He climbs up the ladder and fiddles with some wires. Peels back the plastic covering, separates the colored strands, snips at them with cutters. She watches from below. Her assistance isn’t all that needed, in her opinion. The scene reminds her of one of those ‘how many somethings does it take to change a light bulb’ jokes. He asks for a connector. It’s this tiny clear clip thing. Looks like the world’s smallest mousetrap. She reaches up, sticks it in his extended palm. His hand is chapped, his fingers are cracked open, he has dirt ground into every crevice. She wants to take care of him, still, and later she probably will. Even though she broke up with him, she’ll rub Aquaphor all over his hands and try yet again to fix him, as if she could. But at least she’d managed to send him from the bed. That wasn’t easy.

She hands him a total of three things the whole time. Is this what he pays people for when they work for him, so he doesn’t have to climb down the ladder? He likes the idea of being a boss, of being in charge. Also, he doesn’t like to be alone.

She remembers one of his phone calls. She remembers his making plans with someone – to help her fix a lock on her car door. He said, “You can come with me the rest of the day. You can be my helper.”

Right in front of her, he’d said that. Like she wouldn’t know that he was sleeping with the woman he was talking to. Like she couldn’t tell from the soft, coy tone in his voice – the same he used on her. Like she was some kind of frigging idiot.

The client comes in the room. She wants him to hurry. She’s having people over for the Super Bowl, and they want to be able to watch the projection screen as well as the 52 inch TV in one of the other living rooms. Who knew Indians cared about the Super Bowl? She imagined them all to be more like the ones described in EAT, PRAY, LOVE.

The Indians were in the ‘pray’ section.

There was no mention of the Super Bowl in that book. Maybe this is what happened when people came to America. Maybe this was ethnic blending.

Nonplussed by the client’s frenzied admonishing, her boyfriend – her ex-boyfriend – finishes.

Turns out the surround sound on the 52 incher needs a speaker before they can leave. He turns on the TV. On screen, it’s all about the impending big game. She watches the conjecture from commentators, fans chanting, the arrival of a quarterback at the stadium. She feels like an observer from another planet.

A commercial comes on, with Donald Trump. Somehow he seems like a perfect complement for football. Donald Trump looks like a rockhopper penguin and he’s got the ‘in your face’ attitude to match. His hair is all poufy, his eyes are beady, his nose is beaky…But why is she even thinking about this?

Possibly to avoid thinking about other things. Isn’t that what people do? Isn’t that what the Super Bowl is all about – diversion?

She needs to divert.

No crying on the job.

She’d cried three straight hours yesterday, and the skin under her eyes had been as poufy as Donald Trump’s hair.

And here she is today, helping her ex work on TVs in a majestic house owned by Indians, whose screen door has a fail-safe against slamming. That delay will not serve well in severe weather.

He tinkers, she stands near the new speaker, awaiting his cue to listen and see if it works.

She’s always awaiting something with him, even now, when they’ve broken up.

On screen, the teams have both arrived at the stadium. But there are still hours before the game.

The commentators have run out of odds and strategies to debate. They talk to rabid fans.

She wonders why anyone cares who wins a football game. What does that have to do with anything?

“Okay,” he says. She listens, nods. The sound is working.

He stands, packs up, motions for her to follow.

The client pays him, then hands him a shopping bag with corn soup her housekeeper made. On second thought, she adds some ice cream and apple pie from Costco into the bag. Definitely ethnic blending.

They leave. She wants to tussle with the door some more, she hates leaving it in mid-swing, but she knows better than to linger at the client’s house when he’s ready to go.

That would be unprofessional.

In the car she says¸ “I wish that door would just close.”

His eyes meet hers for a split-second, then he diverts back to the road.

“Whatever,” he says.

Selene Castrovilla is the award-winning author of two young adult novels (print, WestSide Books; digital, ASD Publishing) and three picture books about the American Revolution (Calkins Creek Books, an imprint of Highlights.) Her latest book, Revolutionary Friends, received a starred Booklist review, and it is a Booklist Top Ten Biography for Youth, 2013. Ms. Castrovilla holds an MFA in Creative Writing from New School University and a BA in English from New York University. She lives on Long Island with her two sons. Read more about her and her work at SeleneCastrovilla.com. Visit her Facebook author page for literary inspirations, and follow her on Twitter: @SCastrovilla.

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