Different From the One You Are in Now
By Maisie Wills
Well, it looks like we’re stuck in here now. By we I mean us—me and him—and by here I mean this room—the one I’m writing this from. A regular bedroom. White walls, wood floors, no windows, two doors. One leads to a closet and, until today, the other led out to the hall, which led to the kitchen, which led to another door, which opened to the outside. That one doesn’t open anymore.
This morning seemed normal enough when we woke up. We laid in bed—him sweaty and on top of the covers, me shivering underneath two blankets—and talked about our plans for the day. Grocery shopping, going to the post office, emailing professors, writing an essay. He got up to take a piss while I savored my last few moments snuggled in bed. But when he opened the door—well, he couldn’t. He yanked on the handle. Fussed with the lock. Nothing. He laid down on his stomach to look at the sliver of light between the door and the floor, see if one of his roommates was playing a prank on us, holding the door shut from the other side. But there was nothing. He stuck his fingers through the crack and said he was sticking them straight out into space. I rolled out of bed, laid down on the floor next to him, and stuck my hand through the gap. If I curled my fingers up, I could feel the outside of the door, but when I flipped my hand and curled my fingers the other way, I didn’t feel the cool, hardwood floor of the hallway, but a rough wooden edge and underside of the bedroom floorboards.
We laid peering underneath the door for hours and hours. Every now and then, one of us would reach up and pull on the handle, or slide our fingers through the gap to feel if the hallway had returned. Nothing changed. The light grew dimmer and dimmer until it was nighttime again.
It was weird to be trapped in the room at first. Both of us led busy lives before we got here. Suddenly we had no schoolwork, no work, and no one else to hang out with. For the first few days, we slept a lot — even though we began to realize we didn’t actually need to. Ever since the first morning when he got up to pee—perhaps out of habit over necessity—we’d realized that such urges had subsided. We could sleep, but we were never really tired.
Sleep became a way to pass the time, since we both thought the outside world might reappear just as suddenly as it had gone. I’d frequently wake up to him laying on the floor, staring at the gap under the door. I’d occasionally stick my fingers through the crack myself just to make sure. This went on for about a week.
Gradually, we began to accept our entrapment. The anxiety of missing classes, shifts, lunch dates, and parties began to drift away as we acquiesced to our situation. We spent our days as you might spend the first few lazy weeks of summer vacation—with a bonus. If I bummed around this much at home, my mom would be on my case in no time. We only had each other. No one else knew of our predicament, but eventually teachers, bosses, and friends alike stopped reaching out. We’d been able to get internet and receive texts and emails from inside the room, but none of our responses would send. We were truly alone.
We had a lot of sex. Watched a lot of Netflix. Chatted about our lives before the room, the room, nothing at all. We were lucky to be stuck here together. Somehow we never ran out of things to talk about and rarely got annoyed with each other, except for one argument on Day 11, when we fought about making the bed in the mornings. I said we shouldn’t—we don’t really have mornings, after all. Now we just make the bed when we’re watching movies. He doesn’t like to sit on the same sheets we sleep on—even though we can’t wash them either way.
The days have started to blend together in a hazy fog. Our only daily routine consists of crossing off the day’s date on his Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar, so that if we one day emerge from the room, we’ll at least know what year it is.
He’s always kept a running list of movies he’s wanted to watch. It’s hundreds of films long, and no one in their right mind would ever take the time to sit down and watch every single one. We’ve burned through them already. Some of them served as nostalgic reminders of the outside world—others reminded us how lucky we are to be stuck in solitude. The final movie on the list, The Hateful Eight, inspired a new search for media to allay our growing boredom: movies about people stuck in rooms. They’re more common—and much more relatable—than you might think.
The worst was Cube which, despite its 7.3 rating on IMDb, put both of us to sleep. Two people who have, quite literally, all the time in the world to sleep dozed off during a movie. That’s how you know it’s bad. Spoiler alert: a man gets sliced into a thousand tiny pieces by a web of microscopic wire in the very first scene, and then nothing happens for the next 90 minutes.
Like everyone else on Netflix—I’d imagine—we blew through the entire new season of Black Mirror the day it came out. In one episode, a couple is matched up Tinder-style on an app that has already forced each of their virtual selves into hundreds of relationships to test their compatibility. At the beginning of each relationship, the couple checks their “expiration date” on a little egg-like contraption they all call their “coach.” We talked about our expiration date. If we’d ever get out of the room. If we’d want to.
When I woke up this morning, he was gone.
I tore the room apart looking for him. I figured he’d decided to play a little game of hide-and-seek to spice things up. I checked the closet—nothing. I wriggled under the bed—nothing. I managed to guess the combination on his footlocker, 1992, but still—nothing. For the first time in months, I stuck my fingers through the gap under the door.
I grabbed a red marker and crossed out the date—September 7—under a picture of a bikini-clad, busty brunette rolling in the sand.
Before I was stuck in the room, I was designing and illustrating a book of poems my friend wrote. I deserted it when I realized that she would never get to see the finished product. Being completely alone has forced me back into productivity. I wake up at nine, stretch, and then work until the strip of light under the door fades to black and I crawl back into bed. I don’t watch Netflix anymore. I don’t make the bed.
Today, when I rolled over to turn off the alarm, my hand brushed his sweaty, sleeping back. Just as suddenly as he’d disappeared 68 days ago, he’d returned. He rolled over, startled by my touch. He pulled me into his chest, but I pushed him off. Immediately, I jumped out of bed and tried to tear open the door. Tried.
I spent the rest of the day on the floor, fingers under the door, crying.
He tried to comfort me. Tried to tell me that he didn’t know how he’d left the room. Just that he’d woken up one morning—suddenly—on the couch in the living room. With the dog. I asked him if he’d tried to open the door from the other side. Tried to unlock it, tried to let me out. He hadn’t.
He was happy to be back. He came back with a new list of movies—none of them about people trapped in rooms—he was just dying to watch with me. He said he missed us. Me and the room. He made the bed and locked the footlocker and moved my drawings off of the desk. Made the room look just how it had when he left it.
He tried to entertain me with stories of his 68 days on the outside. Pulled out his phone to show me pictures of the dog, pictures of our friends, pictures of parties I hadn’t been to and meals I hadn’t gotten to eat. I couldn’t bear it. I was fine being trapped in the room with him. I was fine being trapped in the room alone. But being trapped in the room with him again was torture. I wanted out.
I lay awake angry for hours after he’d passed out watching Johnny English. He was on a funny movie kick. Finally I drifted off to sleep. Suddenly, I was awoken by bright light streaming in through the windows. I groggily opened my eyes. The dog licked my face.