"Fear of Doorways" meeting every Tuesday at seven, sharp.

Words by & photo by Matthijs Rouw

The Tuesday evening (seven sharp, please) meetings of the “Fear of Doorways” support group are always sparsely attended.  Few show up. Empty chairs scattered around the room, the coffee urn always full, the untouched ashtrays, the many words of worry never uttered. By anyone.

To be frank, no one ever comes. Except myself. In the beginning, I was smart (selfish?) enough to start the group, aware that many others shared my phobia, sure that very few if any would actually appear in my small apartment. Another, subsidiary fear has always been that many would show up, too many, maybe a hundred fellow fearers. If it happened, where would I put them? How would I manage to smile and greet them? Would some, the truly unfortunate, be trampled by the panicked hordes? Would I die too?

Because of the primary fear of doorways, no one has ever come. Some have sent emails. Others have phoned. Some, I feel sure, wrote letters but were, unfortunately, unable to leave their homes to mail the letters at the post office. These communications, received and not, were a comfort, but only to a point. It is never the real thing – the gathering together, the bodies huddled shoulder to twitchy shoulder in irrational dread. The sweat, the cramped body language, the overused toilet room – none of it has happened.

I watch the door, which is open. No one crosses the threshold. No one will. And I will remain inside, unable to venture forth.

At nine (sharp, please respect the rules), I adjourn. I close down the meeting. I do not move. I would turn off the light but electrical switches are a third-tier fear. I close my eyes, hope to rest. But the terror I associate with my brutal, even vicious dreams keeps me awake, unwilling to risk much needed sleep. So I remain vigilant, consider the meeting now done, begin to think about next week’s meeting (seven sharp, please).

Christopher Woods is a writer, teacher and photographer who lives in Chappell Hill, Texas. He has published a novel, THE DREAM PATCH, a prose collection, UNDER A RIVERBED SKY, and a book of stage monologues for actors, HEART SPEAK.