When the door opened, the light shocked the little boy’s eyes like a bright white epiphany.
“What are you doing?” a girl’s voice asked him. Not yet distinct from the light, she could’ve been a fairy or a goddess or anything. However, as she unblurred into focus, she emerged into a crooked nosed 9-year-old. She smiled as if to say I come in peace and she was missing a few teeth. Her right eye, a thundercloud of bruises.
“Nothing,” he said, timidly.
“Who’s that?” she asked, pointing at the dead man with a knife in his hand, lying in a pool of his own blood.
“He’s none of your business,” the boy murmured.
“So, to be clear, you’re doing nothing in a closet with a dead guy. Do I have that right, then?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Well move over, Rover. I’m doing nothing, too, but only in that godforsaken time out chair for—well—for forever, basically.” She shut the door and it was dark again. After rearranging a few board games, a tennis racket, and one left shoe, she sat down next to him. Their shoulders touched and he liked that very much.
“I’ve been here forever, too,” he said.
“Of course you have,” she replied. “But why? What’s to do in a closet forever?”
“It’s very quiet in here,” he said, “and safe. I do a lot of thinking.” He paused, waiting for her to ask him another question but she didn’t. The dark felt different, he thought, with someone else in it. “What about you? Why are you in time out?”
“I get punished all the damn time. Did you see my eye?”
He nodded. She couldn’t see him.
“I basically can’t stand the forced homogeneity and the hypocrisy and the robotic thoughtlessness that fitting in requires. So, yeah,” she shrugged. “The time out chair.”
He wished she would say more. He wondered what happened to her nose and teeth.
“You don’t say much, do you?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“So you like it quiet then, here, in your safe dark closet where you like to think.”
“Well that’s cool. I’ll shut-up then. I can be quiet.”
He listened to her breathe and, as all the muscles in his body began to relax, he watched the dark explode into a riot of writhing colors that began to morph into lively forms that he imagined—
“For a little while,” she said. “I can be quiet, I mean, you know, for a little while. But then there’s that whole forced homogeneity thing.”
He smiled at her. She smiled back.