Routine

It’s a simple mechanism, the garage door lock. A spring-loaded bolt pushed through a slot in a metal rail—the rail the garage door rolls along as it’s opened or closed. It’s like a deadbolt on the front door. Binary, locked/unlocked, no gray area. A lever releases the lock. The bolt springs back, unlocking the door. I do this; I unlock the door.

It’s freezing in the garage. Well, almost. Freezing outside, barely above freezing inside. Barefoot, wearing thread-bare cotton pajamas, I hope to finish up quickly. I push the bolt, locking the door again. I push it another time, making sure it sticks. I wait, watching the lock, and then looking for patterns in the puddles on the floor. I count to ten, slowly. Lots of opening and closing the garage today, taking out shovels and sleds, tracking in snow. I wait to see if the lock will slip. I tap the lever gently. Will it snap open? It doesn’t, but I’ve touched it. I release the lock and start again.

Leaving the garage, I turn off the light—the switch on the wall next to the door. I flip the switch; the light goes out. I press down on the switch again, firmly this time, making sure it’s all the way down. The black plastic switch sits in the center of a yellowing wall-plate—the color of band-aids—on smudged white drywall. In the dark, I can barely see it. When I let go of the switch, I feel a hint of movement. I push it down again. Is this right? I can’t be sure. I turn on the light and turn it off again, this time paying more attention to each step.

On to the stove, the toaster, the electric can opener. My family upstairs in bed; my older brothers, their lights already out; my parents, reading, waiting for me to settle down. I still need to check my closet and under the bed.

~ ~ ~ ~

Originally written in 2018. Recently edited and submitted for consideration in an anthology on mental illness.

Photo by Jarrod Reed on Unsplash

7 thoughts on “Routine

    • When I started drinking and smoking (high school) those routine-type obsessions went away, which I’m sure became positive reinforcement for a substance abuse problem. My adult obsessions (which are now mostly medicated away) were far more messy and unpredictable. I’ve tried to write about those. It’s much harder.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I kept editing after I submitted it, and this, the final product, I think is a bit better. Part of me says I should resubmit and they should understand because OCD and all, but I don’t think that’s fair to the reviewers. Thanks for reading Emma, happy new year.

      Like

  1. Powerful stuff, Jeff. Thank you for the glimpse into how OCD (I think?) works, how it feels from the inside. Good luck with the anthology. You would get my vote for sure.

    Like

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