He left work at 5 pm sharp preoccupied with the faulty
lock on the laundry room door entering the garage. Last
week his wife assigned him an urgent maintenance job.
“The door locked by itself and I had to use my key to get into
the house, make sure to fix it,” she said.
“I’ll have to get a new lock for it,” he replied.
And just to be on the safe side, he hung an extra key on a
hook in the garage. Every minor repair in house could lead
to an argument and potentially a huge headache.
“I was busy this week; I’ll get it done this weekend. In the
meantime, if you get locked out, just use the key on the hook
high on the wall on the left of the door.”
He arrived home around 6:30. As he pulled into the
alley and just before he turned into his own driveway, he
waved at his neighbor in the house behind theirs. The
neighbor waved back with a friendly smile.
This man was the neighbor who was always working on
classic cars and his latest project was rebuilding a red 1965
Ford Mustang in his driveway. Although seeing a dismantled
engine, a fallen muffler or loose components of a cylinder
scattered around on the floor was not a pretty sight,
witnessing a gradual reincarnation of extinct species was
truly exhilarating. He’d never developed an interest in
working on his car, yet his neighbor’s perseverance and
endless patience and expertise in breathing life into a corpse
had earned his utmost respect.
As soon as he parked in the garage entered the house,
he snatched a cold beer from refrigerator and checked his
emails. Then he changed his clothes and put his cell phone
in his tee-shirt pocket and walked to the kitchen to prepare
dinner. His wife once again had taken refuge in her parent’s
house for the weekend to stay away from him after an
intense argument. Judging based on the quarrel history and
severity of their latest clash; he was certain she wouldn’t be
back until Monday and if he was lucky enough maybe even
Tuesday. He was looking forward to a relaxing weekend all
for himself and determined to make the best of it.
He placed his laptop on the kitchen counter where he could
watch the UN general assembly meeting on nuclear
proliferation on YouTube while cooking. He was craving for
chicken curry tonight. All he needed was chicken breasts,
curry paste, garlic, fresh cilantro, onions and coconut milk.
His stomach growled just by fantasizing about the aroma of
curry stew and lifted his spirit even before he started cooking.
He grabbed the ingredients from the pantry and
refrigerator and darted out into the garage to get the chicken
breasts from the freezer. As usual instead of walking inside
the garage, he stretched half of his body inside and kept his
right foot in the door to keep it open and skillfully managed to
reach the freezer and grab two pieces of chicken breasts.
As he pivoted to get inside, startled by the ring of his cell
phone; he swiftly changed hands and held frozen poultry by
the left and fished the phone out of his pocket with the other.
The split second before he got a chance to flip it open and
as he was still keeping the door ajar with his torso, both birds
slipped and flew out of his hand. In an effort to catch them
before they hit the dirty garage floor and not losing his
phone at the same time, he lost his balance and fell.
Instinctively he grabbed the door frame to regain his balance
and reached the hinged side of the doorjamb; but lost his
balance completely and fell down and the heavy spring
loaded door slammed shut on his right hand locked inside.
For a moment he felt like he’d been electrocuted. An
excruciating pain zapped his entire nervous system and
knocked him out.
When he gained consciousness in throbbing pain, the
garage was darker and his memory of what’d happened to
him was lost; he could not at first fathom his situation. Four
fingers were crushed inside the jammed shut door and his
dark blue thumb was swollen beyond recognition. His body
had given out and his brain was not functioning. The
incoherent images of the horror flashed through his head
and once again he passed out.
Next time he woke, his eyes were filled with tears and his
mouth dry. His right hand was swollen all the way up to his
arm and the excruciating pain was ravaging his entire being.
His hand was morphed into the door as if it’d been sculpted
by a surrealist artist with a bizarre imagination. Witnessing
the ominous artwork he had become himself made him
realize he would never be able to hold a brush to paint
anymore; the mere notion was intolerable, he sobbed silently
into another coma.
“Cut the chicken breasts in cubes. Add extra virgin olive
oil in a wok and sprinkle a pinch of mustard seeds and cumin
and turn up the heat. In a few minutes seeds start popping in
hot oil unleashing the heavenly aroma…,” the recipe
ricocheted in his aching head before the ring of his cell
phone jolted his consciousness.
His only hand reached his shirt pocket with a glimpse of hope
to grab the phone but the phone was not in his reach; it was
tossed underneath the car far from his grasp; the fluorescent
light of its panel sparkled in the darkness for a few seconds.
He stretched his neck and scanned the garage from his
vantage point and spotted dozens of tools and gadgets
hanging on the walls and resting on the shelves among them
a medical emergency kit and a stylish oversized red panic
button that would call 911 and communicate his exact
location by one touch. He saw so many tools and devices
mounted on the walls or resting on the bench, available to be
used in an emergency all of which were too far to reach and
too close to compound his agony.
The very first time he passed by his neighbor’s garage in
the alley and as he stretched his hand to push the button on
his garage door remote opener, his neighbor thought he was
waving at him, so he waved back. This unintentional friendly
gesture was repeated several times until he realized he’d
inadvertently demonstrated a courteous behavior. Since
then, every time he returned home, they waived at one
another. Although they never met one another in person
and introduced themselves, they managed to establish a
remote acquaintance based on a simple misunderstanding.
Blood was crusted on the door frame. As he
desperately reached for the doorknob, his wife’s warning
pierced his brain and his gaze was drawn to the extra key on
the wall. The small red dot on his cell phone was blinking.
The caller must’ve left a message. But he knew the message
was not from his wife; he knew her too well to expect the call.
In a way, he was glad if it wasn’t her call otherwise by not
answering her call promptly on a Friday night; he would’ve
created a whole new issue in their marriage. His swollen hand
was still bleeding.
“Timing is crucial to cooking. Sauté onions and crushed
garlic together but separately from the chicken…”
He stretched his neck to see the glowing numbers of the
digital clock on the opposite wall. The time now was 1:30 am.
Even if he screamed in midnight silence, he could not be
heard. His corner lot house was only neighbored by a vacant
house for sale. His anemic body was in the throes of
collapse. He extended his entire body in every direction yet
he reached nowhere but to a higher threshold of pain.
He cried for help, but his muffled squeal tainted with
unnerving pain faded in his solitude.
“Add chopped cilantro to the sauce and sprinkle some on the
plate to garnish…”