400 words about Open Doors

By Katie Macdonald

My bedroom doesn’t have a door. It’s supposed to be a living room, actually.

My roommate has the bedroom (and a door). After lugging all our worldly possessions up two flights of stairs on the last day of December, I told her to pick her room first. It’s fair because she has a longer commute to work. I also have no shame and a fluid sense of “personal space.”

Over the past year and a half, New York City has continuously challenged my concept of space. I grew up in Louisiana, a place where swaths of swamps and sugarcane fields separate each city.

Now I have to dart through an obstacle course of sharp elbows and sweaty backs that this city calls 9th Avenue. A grey old man wearing the scent of overripe bananas squeezes into a seat next to me on the train. Strangers join my intimate dates in packed restaurants. I’ve hidden my eyes behind my phone screen as couples’ drunken bickering turns into disquieting screams.

Sometimes it’s hard to breathe alongside 28,053 people per square mile.

So my space is relative and flexible. Given enough time, you adjust to overhearing your neighbors’ nightly opera practices. You shrug off stares as you wander through Central Park, and look the other way as teenagers make out on the bench next to you. You appreciate the freedom of crying as nameless bodies move past you on the street.

Maybe it’s maturation. Maybe it’s exhaustion. Here, nothing is yours. Everything is yours.

When I retreat to my apartment, the chaos quiets down. Thick white walls dampen wailing sirens. My droning air conditioner erases the memories of steamy streets. Dark green ivy engulfs the abandoned building outside my window, and I pretend I’m in nature.

There’s so much I love about my room. The high ceilings that reflect soft afternoon light; the blonde parquet floor; the stone fireplace etched with vague floral designs. Photos of friends and family hang with postcards of home on my wall. Magazines and overdue library books line the shelves of my shitty IKEA constructions. My mirror doubles images of vanilla candles and drooping sunflowers. The comfy queen-sized bed tucked in the back corner provides a perfect, unobstructed view of my front door.

Life here requires openness. It challenges you to adapt, to embrace discomfort and own your actions. I can’t hide behind doors. There are none.

Editor’s note: This story is part of our September 2016 series ‘Hundreds of Words about Location: Where are you, and how does it affect how you see the world?’


Katie Macdonald is a New York-based writer who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese. For a little of both, follow her @kmac337.

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