I fixed the door on one of my girlfriend’s kitchen cabinets a few weeks ago. It was a simple repair, just a matter of tightening the screw on one of the hinges. But my home repair skills consists of knowing how a hammer works and how to change a light bulb, so I was pretty proud of myself.
Then I thought about it some more, and realized that — in a weird way — fixing the door was a sort of penance for past sins. See, throughout my life, I’ve helped cover up the destruction of a few different doors. It’s a sad history of lies, short tempers and immaturity.
Like a lot of criminal careers, this one started when I was a teenager. My parents both had jobs, and my brother and I often had a few hours to ourselves after school. I liked to do things like reading, or watching TV, or playing video games. My brother, Patrick, three years younger than me, liked to ride his skateboard.
On this particular day, he wanted to ride it in the house.
He almost made it. After a few feet, the board went flying out from under him and sailed across the living room. If the weather had been cooler, nothing else would have happened — the skateboard would have bounced harmlessly off the thick front door.
But it was early in the school year, and still warm enough that the heavy front door was open and only the outer storm door was closed. The skateboard slammed into the storm door’s thin metal panel, which then popped out of its frame.
Looking back, I’m not sure if my dad believed our “really strong gust of wind” story when he got home. But there was no fixing the door, which went to the landfill.
My brother and I got into some pretty nasty brawls being home by ourselves. We rarely threw punches, just wrestled around and — when we were younger — attempted some half-assed karate moves (thanks, Ralph Machio!). But during one fight, my brother threw a broom at me.
Pat threw it like a javelin. I ducked, and it went through our kitchen door.
When you’re a kid, and you and your siblings get into a fight, and that fight destroys household property, that destruction is like NATO: It steps in and puts and end to all the hostilities. Now you have a common enemy — one who will want to come in and see a non-damaged kitchen door when they get home. (Or at the very least, hear a very good, non-fighting-related reason for the hole’s existence.)
We went with option two: “I was going to sweep the front porch, but Tom didn’t know I was there, and he closed the door as I was walking toward it, and I was holding the broom in front of me, and it just went through …”
My dad patched the hole and repainted the door. Again, I’m not sure my parents bought the story.
There was a third incident, where my brother put his fist through a closet door. I’m pretty sketchy on the details. My mother had hung a calendar on the door, so we only needed to move it down an inch or two to cover the hole.
I’d like to report that Pat and I spent the next few years always making sure that we were the only ones to hang the calendar on the door, in a Shawshank Redemption-ish attempt to keep the hole a secret, but that wasn’t to be. My brother was busted pretty soon after he made the hole.
Doors and I enjoyed a cordial relationship for the rest of my teens — until the final night of my junior year in college. That year, I lived in what were called the “Heights,” a collection of little, townhouse-style dorms with room for eight students. On the night before we needed to move out, one of my housemates got into a screaming argument with his girlfriend. She walked out and slammed the door to his room.
He followed right behind her — walking right through the door, like he was the Incredible Hulk.
Actually, the door was made of really cheap, thin wood, so it was more like a football team going through one of those paper banners at a pep rally. But at the time, it freaked everybody out.
Once we all calmed down, we realized we had a problem: There were four bedroom doors when we’d moved in back in August. There needed to be the same number of doors when we moved out.
It was late at night, and alcohol was involved, so of course the most sensible idea seemed to be to steal a door from the “Height” next to us. The guys there had left their outer door wide open, and everyone inside was either at a party, passed out, or already gone home. Armed with some screwdrivers, we took one of their bedroom doors off its hinges and returned it to our building.
Within a few minutes, we had taken the old, broken door off and installed the new, stolen one in its place. It seemed sooooo perfect, except for one thing: The purloined door wouldn’t close. It was too big. It fit in the frame, but as soon as we tried closing it, we heard the wood in the frame begin to crack.
“Ah, it’ll pass a cursory visual inspection,” we rationalized, and then went to bed. As far as I know, there was never any fallout from either the stolen door or the broken one, which someone tossed into a nearby cornfield.
There was, however, a postscript to the story: Months later, my roommate and another friend of ours went back to the school a few nights before we were scheduled to move in for senior year. They let themselves into our new “Height” and discovered a crawlspace above one of the bathrooms.
In a decision strongly influenced by alcohol, they decided the crawlspace would be a great place to hang out once we moved in.
“The chill room!” my roommate proclaimed on the phone to me the next day.
To furnish the chill room, they wandered into the cornfield, and found an old mattress … and a large section of the broken door.
A few weeks later, we visited the chill room. We had to climb onto the bathroom sink to open its door, and then boost ourselves in. It was hot. And dark. We could barely breathe. There was nowhere to sit, other than the old door and the mattress. And there was insulation everywhere. We lasted all of five minutes, and I came close to dislocating my knee when I jumped down.
For all I know, the broken door is still in the crawlspace — a pathetic monument to a doomed relationship. And as for my old house, the people who moved in after my dad sold it might still wonder about the weird bump in their kitchen door.
These days, I live on the top floor of an old house, with several doors that don’t close properly. Or maybe they just don’t close properly for me. Maybe when I moved in here, they said “Oh … it’s him,” and decided to hold out for someone with a less sordid history.