SHORT STORY | Two Sides of a Door

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Everything looked like a nightmare amid reality. The pandemic disease—COVID-19, the unseen enemy who could attack ruthlessly on anyone, was frightening. Death was waving like a friendly evil that would hit anyone in no time. It was frustrating because no matter how hard I tried to be brave, the fear still wanted to eat at me.

I tilted my head skyward, trying to hold back my tears from falling. As long as I could, I didn’t want to look weak in front of my son. I removed my face mask, forced myself to smile as I waved my hands, greeting my four-year-old son beside my wife who was smiling while standing behind the security screen door of our home. He was cheerfully waving his little hands back at me.

I couldn’t give him a hug anymore, pat his head or pinch his chubby cheeks. I couldn’t move any closer to him. I was scared because as a doctor, it’s my responsibility to protect his health. But I couldn’t deny the fact that I could only protect him by keeping a distance from him, for I was afraid that I might be the reason he would catch the virus. It broke my heart that I could still see him only behind that door. I loved him so much, and that love forced me to keep myself at a distance and away from him.

“How’s my prince?” I asked, still trying to wear a more genuine smile. I bent a little over the door and looked at him.

“I’m good, daddy. How about you? Why don’t you come inside the house and hug me? Didn’t you miss me, daddy?”

I clutched my chest as it became heavier. 

Son, I told you before the moment you were born that if I could hold this world in one hand and you in the other, I’d take you. I already knew that not everything I do would make it look that way, but life could get pretty complicated quickly. I was sorry because even though you were my child and I loved you with every fiber of my being, people needed doctors like me the most. But it didn’t mean that this world would mean more than you. If you only know how much I wanted to carry you in my arms, my son. I wanted to hug you so badly, but I couldn’t.

“I miss you, of course!” I replied. “But daddy can’t come inside. I’m dirty and I really stink,” I joked and showed my disgusted face.

He lost his smile, and I saw him frown before he looked down.

“Oh,” he mumbled as he scratched his forehead. “Just wash up, dad. I’ll be waiting here inside,” he added.

I heaved a sigh of relief when he flashed a smile again. I nodded, giving it to him as an answer and assurance. Waving his hands for the last time, he left towards the living room, leaving her mom alone standing near the door. When I finally looked at my wife, tears came out from her eyes.

“Don’t. Please…,” I whispered as I gently shook my head. “Don’t cry. Please…”

She walked towards the door as she wiped her tears away. Placing both her hands on the screen, she uttered the words, “How a-are… you? Are you o-okay?”

I smiled and inched closer to the door. “I’m okay, honey. Please don’t cry. It really makes me weak. Please stop, okay?” I mumbled, “I know it’s hard, but please trust me. I can do this. I’ll be okay.”

I’d been away from my family for three weeks, and I knew how worried my wife was for me. My family was the most precious to me, but I couldn’t neglect the profession I chose and the responsibility that came with it.

“It upsets me to think you’re not safe. I’m worried about you,” she said, pressing her hand against her lips, trying not to burst into tears again. “What if… what if you catch—”

“Sssh, honey… I’m fine. You see? I’m here,” I said as I cut off her words. “Don’t bother yourself too much about me, okay? Just… just be brave… for Coco, our son, at least,” I added as I wheezed.

“We… miss you… so much, Chan.”

“I know that. I miss the both of you more. Just be patient.”

“All right,” she said, rubbing her cheeks as she nodded. “I’ll be patient. Just promise me that… you’ll take care of yourself… always.”

Her face changed with happiness when I smiled at her as an answer. Her smile widened as I placed my hand on the screen with her hand on the opposite side of the door.

“Come in—oh! I mean… just wait here. I’ll prepare some food for lunch… f-for all of us. Wait… okay?” she stuttered.

She disappeared, hurriedly walking towards the kitchen. While waiting outside the door, I sat on the wooden bench and waited for her patiently.

I looked at my wristwatch, and noticed that I had only an hour left to stay here before I had to get back to work again.

“It’s killing me. I need to be away again from my family. I’m like half dead without them,” I whispered to myself as I closed my eyes.

I was so lost in my thoughts I didn’t hear my wife calling my name. It was time to eat with my wife and Coco, but I remained outside the house looking at them while they’re inside.

“Daddy? Are you just going to stay outside?” my son asked, chewing his food as he waited for my response.

I drank the water first in my glass before I could utter the words. “Yes, son. It’s refreshing here outside.”

“All right, Dad. Eat well,” he mumbled, flashing a bright smile, the most genuine smile I’d ever seen.

He continued eating his food with his mom. I wasn’t sure what exactly he was thinking, but I knew it confused him why I always stayed outside. Upon seeing my son’s smile, I knew it gave me hope. It gave me the urge to stay positive as possible, to fight until the end. As I finished my food, one thing was for sure.

I will be more brave. I will not let fear eat me. I will conquer against the enemy at all costs. As long as there’s the love and support from my family, I will not let this virus win over me. They were my forever trophy that I will treasure the most.

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