I had to try—even though pins, needles, and persistent pulses engulfed my entire hand—I had to try. Three times a day. Every day. My hand hovered over the thousand distorted images produced by our fake diamond door knob. When Jason and I were looking for a knob, I realized that each edge met up at a perfect angle on this specific one. If the sun crept past the shades, the knob shined. But that stopped five days ago. Two months ago, I realized how many scratches marred the knob's exterior.

If I left this bathroom, I was going to die. I would spontaneously combust, or have a stroke, a heart attack—an earthquake would strike as I walked into the hallway and then I'd be crushed under our fallen display cases, or I could trip over my own two feet and be flung head first through the closest bed post. These scenarios consumed me faster than a fire burnt down a house.

My desire to replace the knob was supposed to be the final straw — the one that let me leave. Just as my hand settled around the cool surface, I'd push at the door and like clockwork I was recalling when I had graduated from the fifth grade, my prom, my high school graduation, my first year of college, my wedding, and then I'd let go. It was as if opening the door triggered a cinematic response and suddenly I'd give up entirely because how else was I supposed to interpret watching these memories? I valued my life more than I valued replacing a door knob.

The soap dish accumulated enough scum to draw me towards it, pulling me from the door. I knew the moment I attended to it that the incessant demand inside me would quiet. I would move on to rearrange the figurines on the shelves above the toilet or scrub at the sink until the fumes from the bleach tickled my nostrils. For the past 360 days, I cleaned until the chemicals seeped through my gloves, or until I heard Jason's snoring through the door in between us and I'd collapse and fall asleep on the pillow he brought me.

No one understood why I checked if the door was locked before visiting my parents or why I married a man whose personality aligned with mine better than the constellations in the sky. I was told that my behavior was irrational, but I found tranquility in my actions, success after my obsessions subsided— especially now. My friends and family failed to see that I had to stay here. The consequence of leaving was death; there was no way around it because of Oliver.

My eyes were closed in order to capture the sound of leaves crunching under Oliver's sneakers. It was my thirty-third birthday and I promised to spend it with my neighbor's four-year-old son. I convinced myself that my actions were neighborly, but actually I just wanted to spend the day with anyone other than myself. Jason's mandatory business conference in L.A. prevented our usual dinner date, so spending time with my son, Jaime, and Oliver would have to do. It frustrated me how the conference dates switched up on us this year. I spent every night until this morning wondering what would fill the time it left; after all, it was an annual event, and I had adjusted my entire bodily schedule to going out to an Italian restaurant with Jason Petropoulous on November 17th. Uprooting our plans made me question where I would go, what I would do, or which group of friends I would choose to spend the evening with. I hadn't solidified any plans until Mr. Bailey knocked on the front door and asked me to watch Oliver while he and Sophia went to Vermont for the weekend.

I turned my head to watch him run across the yard with his toy scarecrow. His blond hair bobbed up and down—something expected of that awful bowl cut his parents let him have. I'd never let Jamie walk out of a barber's shop with hair styled like that. I would rather my son's head be shaved bald. I brought a hand up to my own hair and felt the weight of the curls as the fall breeze tousled them. I knew it was futile to keep the curls' shape for an extended period of time, but I always felt better knowing that I styled them in the first place. Mom bought me a curling iron for Christmas and—the curling iron. It was on my vanity. My wooden vanity.

I glanced at the window, picturing every item in my bedroom on fire—a fire that was my fault. I could have sworn that I turned it off before Mrs. Bailey arrived with Oliver in her arms on the front stoop. The click of the button still rang in my ear, conflicting with the thoughts of flames and burnt furniture and ruined stability. My father's frequent advice flowed through my mind, marking my decision: "Assuming makes an ass out of you and me."

"Oliver!" I called out. He skidded to a halt which caused him to fall face first into a pile of leaves. "Stay there, I'll be right back. Don't do anything."

I raced to the front door, practically tearing the hinges off, and dashed up the stairs. On top of my cherry-wood vanity laid my curling iron and I sighed in relief when I noticed the plug twisted on the carpet. Maybe this January I would make my resolution involve putting my paranoia to bed. The idea was laughable considering it had been my New Year's resolution every year since I was thirteen years old. I shook my head and began heading towards the foyer. I couldn't wait to see what shenanigans Oliver would get himself into; I was beginning to lose track of how many times he had fallen into a stack of leaves.

I turned the door knob open, shaking away my new year's resolutions. I had to get through today first, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas.

"Oh my God!" I screamed, my thoughts crumbling at my feet. "Oh my God!" I repeated, sprinting down the front lawn, vainly trying to capture the driver's attention. I couldn't see them through the tinted windows, but I was able to see Oliver. "Oliver!" I decided to shout. The car was still going so fast. "Oliver get out of the way!" His green eyes stared at me attentively before being physically thrust out of my vision. An audible crunch penetrated my internal chants of his name. It made me sick to my stomach.

The car's tires screeched on the asphalt, but I disregarded the driver. The world shrank as my vision zeroed in on the gravel below me. I cried so loudly, running into the street. Everything faded to the color gray with the exception of Oliver's tiny hand. My eyes traced the poignant red which contrasted with his pale skin.

I gathered Oliver into my arms and cried into his T-shirt. I left a four-year-old outside. I killed my neighbor's son.

The water flooded the sink and I scrubbed harder at the scum in the soap dish. I didn't want the countertop to be tarnished by the bar of soap when I displaced it from the dish, so I threw it into the sink. Maybe it would be a waste. Actually, it was a huge waste, but I didn't care. I had to clean it. I wanted to forget about Oliver.

"Jenny?" There was a light tap on the door and as I watched the knob turn clockwise I felt the blood rush to my feet. With almost a practiced ease, I slammed the faucet down, flung off my cleaning gloves, and hopped into the shower. "I'm coming in," Jason announced and I heard the door open.

Jason didn't close it. He never had.

Three months ago, I finally counted all the outlet holes on the shower head: there were seventy-six of them. Whenever my husband barged into the bathroom, I just got so nervous—it felt like bugs were crawling over my body—but I found out that counting the shower head's holes numbed that sensation.

"How long do you plan to stay in here?" Jason asked.

Twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, "I'll stay in here for as long as I want to," I responded. Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two.

I caught his irritated sigh. Forty-four, forty-five, forty-six, forty-seven, forty-eight. "If camping out in the bathroom solved all my problems, I'd do it too. It doesn't, though," he said. I leaned back into the tub. Fifty-nine, sixty. "You can leave any time you want."

"I can't." Sixty-four, sixty-five, sixty-six.

"Why the hell not?" he pestered. I envisioned Jason wearing one of his work shirts. He always left the first three buttons undone when he was at home. He tapped his foot whenever he was impatient and there was an extra click in the rhythm of his foot tapping which meant that dirt clung to the bottom of his shoe. After he left, I'd tackle the area with a Clorox wipe. "Jenny?" Seventy. "Because I'll die."

"No you won't." Seventy-one.

Seventy-two. "How do you know?"

"I don't." Seventy-three.

Seventy-four. "Then don't say you do."

"I believe you won't." Seventy-five.

Seventy-six. "I can't leave. I'm going to die, and I don't want to die."

I remained silent and waited until Jason heaved another sigh and walked out, practically slamming the door behind him. I guaranteed that his hands polluted the usual luster of the knob. I was positive that he put the scratches there, too.

I counted how many stripes were on the shower curtain. There were twenty.

I thought about what he had said, breathing in and out as if I were actually capable of meditation. Jason didn't understand that I wasn't here by choice; he demonstrated an utter lack of empathy towards my own demise. I stared at my hands which were draped across my knee caps. He believed that if I left, a roof-tile shingle would not break through the ceiling and slice my head in half, or that I wouldn't die by seizure, or be mistaken for a government criminal and shot through the chest by a government spy hiding out in the house across the street.

Maybe I could leave.

I stood up and closed my eyes, imagining my body as a hollow cavity. I stepped out of the tub, pushing back the curtains, and I pictured a slow stream of molasses filling me up, starting at my toes. By the time I felt my way to the door knob, the sticky sugar reached my shins. I didn't even open my eyes. I knew that I'd notice all its flaws which would force me to back away from it and retreat to the shower.

I stood for what felt like an eternity, but in reality it was probably only twenty minutes. Molasses dripped past my temples. It oozed out of my pores; there was no longer room for my life story to flash behind my eyelids. There wasn't even room for Oliver anymore. I had to open the door. I couldn't allow myself to be consumed by this room - I was obsessed wiith leaving. I started to turn the knob. It shattered beneath my grip and those beautiful edges punctured my palms. I turned it aggressively and pulled the door back. There was a quick whoosh and then I pinched open one eye, followed by the other. Our blue comforter and maritime-themed pillow set looked just like I left it a year ago.

Megan E. Smith is a sophomore English major. Her dependency on coffee and Rumiko Takahashi's manga increases daily.