The International Writers Magazine: Let the Light In
One day I’m out because I needed a job.
I called a taxi. It stopped and I got in.
The driver asked, —Are you a violin?
—No, I replied, a friend of mine was a cello but no one wanted to play her.
—Isn’t that just the way, he said and dropped me where I wanted to go. I paid the driver, got out of the taxi and walked down the street. I was going for an interview. I wanted to be a window. I hoped I’d get the job. There’s nothing as important as letting people see through you and bringing light into their lives. Unless it’s night of course, then I would let the light out of their lives, except if there’s a thick curtain, or I'm placed close to a lamppost so the light shining out equals the light shining in.
There were lots of applicants waiting. I wondered if they all wanted to be windows, or if some of them were here to be doors or drain covers. Who would want to be a drain cover? Obviously some did. Maybe it was well paid.
In the interview I was asked, —Why should Acme Construction employ you as a window?
I replied, —My mother always said the light shone straight through me.
I didn’t get the job, but I didn’t let it get me down. I knew that most windows had struggled to find their position, and sooner or later I would find a house or an office block that I would fit into precisely.
After weeks of interviews and rejections I discovered that finding work was more difficult than I had thought. I went to see a careers adviser.
—I think you should widen your scope, she said. —Have you considered being a drain cover?
I noticeably recoiled from the idea.
—I’m hopeless at covering up smells, I answered. —My only virtue is my transparency.
—Yes, I can see that, she said with a smile, a warm smile, perhaps too warm for a careers adviser. She looked at me over her glasses, and continued, —The problem is there is limited work available for windows. It seems that everybody wants to be a window, but with so many buildings using the new daylight lighting, their use is becoming rather passé. What are you like at opening and closing?
—Well, I can do it. I wouldn’t say I’m good at it.
—Can you squeak?
—I can learn.
—Excellent. I'll send you to Copic Builders. They’re new, but I have had good reports of their work. They need doors. I think such a position would suit you.
I have to admit I was disappointed. It seemed like second best after wanting for so long to be a window. Nevertheless I went to the interview. They said, —We could offer you a position as a bathroom door.
—Would I be able to have a pane of glass?
The interviewers looked at each other. —It isn’t something we normally do, and we don’t see why we should make exception in this case.
But they hadn’t even discussed it. All they did was look each other, and two of the three shrugged. Does that give the interviewer the right to use we?
—Can I think about it? I asked.
—Certainly, certainly. Let us know early tomorrow morning.
—I never saw you as a door, said my mother, you were always a window to me.
—Windows aren’t much in demand to now, I explained, it’s all this daylight lighting.
—It will come to no good, said my mother, seriously. —People will lack their vitamin D and get rickets.
I wanted to explain rickets was a caused by a lack of vitamin C, but my mother always thought of me as a know-all so I kept quiet. I didn’t want to come across as arrogant.
Nightmares of bathrooms disturbed my sleep. A giant toilet bowl rushed at me and flushed in my face. Taps turned on and off as if in ridicule. Children, blinded by soap, crashed into me. Steam, so thick it seemed like fog, clung to me and kept me wet and slippery. I woke in a sweat, sheets clinging to me. At that moment I realised I would never become a window. My ambition was dashed. My life would come to nothing. I would end up as a door. I thought back to the fateful interview with the careers adviser, when she asked, What are you like at opening and closing?
I should have said, I’ve never been able to open properly, I get half way open and I freeze.
But it was too late now. I’d been offered a job. If I didn’t accept, our precious welfare payments would be cut. And even if I’d said I couldn’t open and close she’d only have sent me on a training scheme. I wondered if anyone ever got the career they wanted?
In the morning I went to tell Copic Builders I would accept the position as a bathroom door.
—Ah, he said, —it seemed to us that you were unsure about being a door. I mean, you have to be sure. A door has lots of responsibility. It has to open, squeak, close, squeak, and be friendly with the handle. I mean if a door and its handle don’t get on, everything goes wrong. People get stuck in the bathroom and can’t get out. And who gets the blame? We do. So we’ve thought about this and come to the conclusion that you’d be better suited as a toilet seat.
What are is he saying? A toilet seat! This can’t be true.
—No, I’m sure I’ll be okay as a door.
—But you weren’t sure last night.
—I had to talk it over with my mother.
—Well, we can’t have you running home to mummy every time you have to make a decision. There’s nothing shameful about being a toilet seat. Every home has at least one.
—But I told my mother I’d be a bathroom door.
—Well, if you were sure about it, you should have told us yesterday. You seemed indecisive. Indecision isn’t a good thing for a bathroom door; what if you can’t decide whether to close properly and a man walks in when a lady is sitting on the toilet. You see the problems? I can't tell you how many applicants I’ve interviewed - for doors and windows, handles and toilet roll covers, and you're as good a toilet seat as ever I've seen.
My mother was so upset she wouldn’t listen to me. She covered her ears with her hands rather than hear my explanation.
—Too shameful, she said. —Refuse the job, we’ll manage.
We managed for a time with our savings and welfare coupons for food. But the country fell into recession. New buildings were few and far between. No one needed doors, windows, handles, bricks, mortar or anything else. A few reckless unemployed went round destroying gates and fences hoping to find work in their place. A friend of mine with a post graduate degree applied for a job as a bus-stop and got turned down. The country was falling apart. We were in a precarious position.
Our meagre savings soon ran out. My mother died, and I was forced to struggle on alone.
Constant rejection took its toll. Despair removed any ambition I had once had. In the end I had to accept any job I was offered.
Now I’m a doormat in a one star hotel. Trodden on by tradesman, ladies of the night and drunks. I suppose if I was lesbian I'd enjoy looking up young ladies’ skirts, but I’m not and I don’t. Some of what I've seen up ladies skirts will haunt me for the rest of my days.
Very soon a younger fresher doormat will replace me. What will become of me then? An unemployed doormat has no chance in life. And all because I hesitated over being a bathroom door. What a fool I’ve been. I hope the reader of this will take note of my plight and not make the same mistake I made.
Samantha Memi lives in London. Her stories have been published, or are forthcoming, in Fiction International, Gemini Magazine, Cortland Review, Thrice Fiction and Birkensnake. She is the author of Kate Moss & Other Heroines (Black Scat Books, 2012). Her stories can be found at http://samanthamemi.weebly.com
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