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Walking the walk 2: "Green Glass Door", short story excerpt

Saturday 6/27/20

First section of one of the new ones--an aforementioned major one. It is not yet 7 on this Saturday morning. Much has been done.


***

If games possess a secret, I think that it is they play us as much as we play them. Among those games for us are word games. The possibility of a pun never tempted Dr. Seuss so much as my husband, Matt. I’m the watcher and comment-maker, feet tucked under me on the couch, mint tea in my New York City Ballet mug, craquelure pattern at the bottom. I see it anew with each cup I drain, as our twenty-year-old daughter Courtney shakes her head, calls me a tea-aholic, which may be true. It’s my favorite kind of head shake in the world, as I once told Matt, who laughed my favorite kind of laugh, saying he agreed.


They play a game called Green Glass Door, which Courtney figured out when she was six. The entire point of Green Glass Door is to discover how the game works. Once you do, the game is over, you can’t really play it anymore, at least not properly. But they continue the familiar refrain, even though Courtney does not want to be here with us, and Matt and I have what we have right now because of her presence in our space.


“Behind the Green Glass Door,” Courtney will begin, “there is zooplankton but no copepods.”

Matt takes up his part, the game most commonly enacted in our living room, though the kitchen will do as well.


“Behind the Green Glass Door, there are paramecia, but no amoebas.”


“Wrong,” Courtney will say.


“Okay, there are velociraptors but no allosauruses.”


“No, there are allosauruses but no velociraptors,” Courtney corrects, and with another example or two, the game fizzles. The dampening of the match. Our kid gets the granola bar she came in for and departs from the kitchen once more, or Matt presses play again on the Lauren Bacall film paused in the living room, and I move my feet to his lap, my head to a pillow.


“Bogart wore platform shoes because he was shorter,” Courtney says, sweeping through, which causes Matt to laugh.


“It’s not my fault your mom is six foot. Doesn’t make me short. Nor non-strapping, young lady.”

Were you playing Green Glass Door, what you could now say is, “Behind the Green Glass Door, there are taller women, but no shorter men,” which could throw your opponent. I tuck the thought away for later.


After her school closed the dorms and Courtney came home in March, she asked us not to collect her at the train station. Said she didn’t want to put us at risk, exposed to an unflattened curve, which the news reports made sound like hot, parabolic death. I have asthma and Matt hasn’t breathed right after puncturing a lung in a sledding accident as a kid. When we first started having sex in college, he sounded like some kind of human concertina on top of me, with maybe a dollop of Darth Vader, but he could still talk as we did what we did those first few, nervous times, and he’d put words in the spaces after the thrusts—on the backstroke, as it were—like a scat singer seizing his chance between beats.


“You get used to it,” he said, but I think he was talking more about himself than me, wanted us to feel close and in our moment, nothing between us, not a second thought about a new sound. “I’m sorry,” he added, but I didn’t want him to feel sorry.


Just like I knew Courtney wanted the calming nonchalance of setting down her bags in the hall, saying, “Mom, dad, I’m home,” having made her way on the train, same absence of fanfare as when she was in high school, the daily reinstallation of a unit. Family unit. And everything else a unit might keep in place. The muscle up against the bone.


Behind the Green Glass Door, there is sufficiency, even if there is not that which once was.

I’d like it if games play us as much as we play them, have their have their own interests and needs, only one of which you will find behind the Green Glass Door. Call it symmetry.