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Lockdown Read 6


Excerpt From SOMETHING HAPPENED By Joseph Heller (1974)

I get the willies when I see closed doors. Even at work, where I am doing so well now, the sight of a closed door is sometimes enough to make me dread that something horrible is happening behind it, something that is going to affect me adversely; if I am tired and dejected from the night of lies or booze or sex or just plain nerves and insomnia, I can almost smell the disaster mounting invisibly and flooding out towards me through the frosted glass panes. My hands may perspire, and my voice may come out strange. I wonder why.

Something must have happened to me sometime.


Maybe it was the day I came home unexpectadly with a fever and a sore throat and caught my father in bed with my mother that left me with my fear of doors, my fear of opening doors and my suspicion of closed ones. Or maybe it was the knowledge that we were poor, which vcame to me late in childhood, that made me the way I am. Or the day my father died and left me feeling guilty and ashamed-because I thought I was the only boy in the whole world then who had no father. Or maybe it was the realization, which came to me early, that I would never have broad shoulders and huge biceps, or be good enough, tall enough, strong enough, or brave enough to become an All-American football player or champion prizefighter, the sad, discouraging realization that no matter what it was in life I ever tried to do, there would always be somebody close by who would be able to do it much better. Or maybe it was the day I did open another door and saw my big sister standing naked, drying herself on the white-tile floor of the bathroom. She yelled at me, even though she knew she had left the door unlocked and that I had stumbled in on her by accident. I was scared…

Today, there are so many things I don’t want to find out. I’d really rather not know, for example (even though my wife and I feel obliged to probe), exactly what kind of games are played at the parties my teen-age daughter goes to, or what kind of cigarettes are smoked, or what color pills or capsules are sniffed or swallowed. When police cars collect, I don’t want to know why, although I’m glad they’ve arrived and hope they’ve come in time to do what they’ve been called to do. When an ambulance comes, I’d rather not know for whom. And when children drown, choke, or are killed by automobiles or trains, I don’t want to know which children they are, because I’m always afraid they might turn out to be mine.


I have a similar aversion to hospitals and the same misgivings and distaste for people I know who fall ill, I never make hospital visits if I can avoid them, because there’s always the risk I might open the door of the private or semi-private room and come upon some awful sight for which I could not have prepared myself. II’ll never forget my shock in a hospital room the first time I saw a rubber tube running down inside somebody through a nostril still stained with blood. It was tan, that tube, and semi-transparent) When friends, relatives, and business aquaintances are stricken with heart attacks now, I never call the hospital or hospital room to find out how they are, because theree’s always the danger I might find out they are dead. I try not to talk to their wives and children until I’ve first checked with somebody else who has talked to them and can give assurances I want that everything is no worse than before.





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