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The museum of false doors.

It's fitting that the main entrance of the Museum of False Doors opens not to the marbled hall of the thousand-year-old museum but rather to an office with harried, disgruntled men drinking coffee, clacking typewriters, and draping their seatbacks with wet trench coats. The men will tell you this is not the museum. A kinder, bearded gentleman will point the way.

The museum's entrance is located through the bathroom's towel closet, and it's not uncommon to find a line of men, women, pensioned seniors, and schoolchildren in the tiled room, entering through the closet to arrive at the grand hall. Here, one may buy tickets for general admission as well as entrance to its many special exhibits. On display through October are the sacred doors of Persia: a series of gold-leafed doors through which visitors never return. One of our guidebook writers has been missing since May.

What the intrepid visitor will quickly discover is that many of the museum's doors lead to other rooms of the gallery. Stepping through the blue-tiled door in the Gallery of East Asia, visitors find themselves emerging amid German Doors of the Bauhaus on the fifth floor. Other doors open to distant apartment buildings. One arrives at a poker game in a Chicago tenement where men sit in undershirts, motion to an empty chair, and offer to deal you in. There are doors which offer the promise to free us from responsibility; locked doors; a door which we know we mustn't open but plan to anyway; trap doors; closing elevator doors; doors slammed in our faces; doors our keys won't fit; doors behind which great sexual acts are unfolding; doors we can't lock behind us; and doors labeled Emergency Exit: Do Not Open.

The initial wonder of the museum quickly gives way to growing panic. For while discovering the entrance to the museum proves challenging, finding the exit becomes increasingly impossible. One walks through the great doors marked EXIT only to emerge in the Exhibit of Forgotten Doorways where doors open to reveal distant memories of apartments where we once lived; forbidden doors from our childhood; car doors behind which we once made love. Many visitors end up at the snack bar, ravenous and parched, surviving on coffee and cinnamon rolls for weeks. They draw maps of the labyrinth with their children, while others give up entirely and exit though coat closets to start new lives in the cities they find.

Only the lucky few find the bronze doorknob and open the heavy doors to the outside world. They return to the familiar streets of their lives and seek out their homes, where they lock doors behind them. And yet, for all of us who have escaped the museum, we find ourselves plagued by the same fear: that we've never left the building, and opening our door we will find ourselves in some further wing of the gallery, forever trapped among the exhibits which grow daily.

Open 9-5, Monday-Saturday. Closed Sundays and Holidays.

Alexander Weinstein is the director of The Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. His fiction and translations have appeared in Cream City Review, Notre Dame Review, Pleiades, PRISM International, Salamander, Sou'wester, and other journals. His fiction was awarded the Lamar York Prize and the Gail Crump Prize and appears in the anthology New Stories from the Midwest 2013. He leads fiction workshops in the United States and Europe, and lives with his son in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Author:Weinstein, Alexander
Publication:River Styx
Date:Jul 1, 2015
Words:576
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