The Many Colors of Doors                                                                                                 

Santa Barbara had changed since my last visit. The main drag, State Street, had grown weary and sinister, far from its former existence as a beach side Spanish-Mediterranean escape from reality. All of the previously peppy storefronts and tourists were muddled, jaded, beige. The cloudy mist that covered the town did not help this new vision of the city that some had once called paradise. I walked down the familiar sidewalk in the direction of the ocean. Stores I expected to see were no longer in business. They had been replaced by a surplus of cheap bakeries, ice cream shops, and trinket pushers. A few of the bigger department stores like Saks 5th Ave and Nordstrom's still lurked on their respective corners. Aside from those fancifully boring places, the surrounding businesses gave me the feeling that this was a real dump of a beach town.

I walked into one of the seemingly unsavory bakeries to peruse the rack: cream puffs, chocolate muffins, cookies, Napoleons. They all looked surprisingly great. Fluorescent lights above glared onto the faux wood contact paper that covered the walls. This reflection of light caused a dull shine to ricochet onto the customers' eyes creating strange facial distortions of dementia, paranoia, and extreme hunger. Due to the ever-growing line, I realized that I must have entered the best damned bakery in town. However, I was soon amidst a mob of people flashing their hideously deranged countenances while waving their line numbers and cash around in the air. I then realized that I had simultaneously entered the bakery of the damned.

Overweight women and barefoot ragamuffin children drooled as they stared at the espresso machine. Elderly men waited patiently for their daily coffee and donut routine, but I could tell that if this routine were ever to be broken, it would be the end of all. Although I had my eyes on a cream puff, I decided to leave the best damned bakery in town to conquer new things, to see the new sights of a deteriorated paradise. And to avoid the inevitable onset of psychosis which seemed to be omnipresent in the bakery of the damned.

On a whim, I decided to visit an old high school acquaintance, Kristen, a girl who I never knew personally. She also, as far as I had known, had never lived in Santa Barbara, but there she was. After trudging up littered sidewalks, I approached her house. She opened the front door and greeted me wearing a banana yellow rain slicker with a matching fishing hat and rain boots. It was not raining. Before I could ask, she invited me inside and explained that she and her friends were about to go deep sea fishing. After the brief explanation, she asked me if I would like to join. I was less than ecstatic, but I decided to go, to spend some quality time with people who I did not know and with the fishes.

The waves of the ocean were meek and the periwinkle-gray skin of the sky stretched out above us like a slab of grape taffy. We were standing up on the wooden row boats that we had somehow rowed to the middle of the ocean. These boats were of a murky brown tone, similar to a canvas coated in a mix of every imaginable tint. The melange of colors had led to a depletion of their brightness. Much like us: our brilliant yellow rain gear had drained all color from our conversation. Interactions were few and far between, and they consisted of the repetitive small talk. I started wishing that I could speak to the fish because I was almost certain that they would be more interesting. As my rain boots squeaked over the damp wood panels, I felt a panoramic sense of dizziness. Looking over the gray waters, I noticed a drab raft floating toward our rowboat.

Not one of my shipmates nor I had caught a single fish. This was not to my surprise due to our lack of motivation and my befriending of the fish, but I noticed the fishermen on the raft were reeling them in by the dozens. I saw whales and dolphins dipping in and out of the water, following the direction of the raft. Suddenly, our rowboats had transformed into wooden platforms floating on the waves. We walked around in circles on the planks until Kristen's father called us back to the pier. That was the end of our fishing tour de force.

I headed back into the downtown area. I was no longer wet nor was I wearing any rain gear, thankfully. Feeling at ease, I walked past the unbelievable multitude of bakeries. Out of a morbid curiosity, I entered a different one to find that its stale ambiance and large, yet less frightening, crowd matched that of the previous bakery I had visited. For the life of me, I could not figure why all of these people were rushing the bakeries at all hours. I had to use the rest room which was behind an olive green door. I found that this door led to no bathroom, but an empty box-like room with absolutely nothing within it. A peachy orange door lay ahead and upon opening it, I stepped into a duplicate room. However, this room seemed to be a place of business. A short elderly man loomed behind a Formica counter on which sat an old-fashioned cash register. It was probably older than Mr. Bones himself. To his right, bolted to the wall were some shelves on which glass jars were displayed. Some were empty while others had dingy, dish soap-like liquids in them. I started wondering what these bizarre relics could be. Perhaps they held the key to eternal youth or maybe this liquid was a deadly serum sold to jealous lovers and sadistic whackos; perhaps it was an addictive substance that the bakers used in their pastries. I cringed when I thought that it may have been old urine samples, so I bowed good-bye and went through the third door which was purple.

Behind this door was a little girl's closet, filled with stuffed animals and little girl clothes. I saw the young girl hiding behind an antique trunk. She could not have been more than eight years old. She wore a dress of powder blue and white eyelet over which her golden tresses spilled. Looking at her crystalline eyes, I felt as though I were in the presence of true, untouched innocence. Before I could say anything to the girl, a middle-aged dark-haired man entered the boxy closet. His stern, cold presence immediately frightened the girl; she stood up shaking and straight as if she were about to be inspected. Although this man was the girl's antithesis, I assumed that he was her father. He began to instruct her on a closet cleaning procedure, which she commenced immediately. As she stacked stuffed animals and hung lace dresses on padded hangers, I noticed that everything around this little girl was soft and protective, everything but this man. Her father lifted some articles of clothing to reveal a can of hair spray and a blow torch. He handed these items to the girl while he said, "Just as we did the other day, honey, okay?".

After he gave her the go-ahead, the girl doused her belonging with Aqua Net. Holding the can behind the flaming blow torch, she aimed and then sprayed. All of the dolls, dresses, stuffed animals, the trunk - they all quickly caught fire. The man lifted his little girl over the flames and ran out of a red door, clutching his daughter to his chest. I followed suit to find myself outside in an industrial parking lot. A middle-aged couple wearing 1940's vintage clothing rushed toward me to see if I was okay. I let them know that I was fine and I also told them to call the fire department. I then scurried to my car, got in, and took off, away from Santa Barbara for good. While driving away, I noticed that the outside of the last door was a murky brown, similar to a canvas coated in a mix of every imaginable tint.

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