Letters Under My Door


 A diamond is just a chunk of coal that did well under pressure. But what if I crumbled under that pressure? All I’d be is a lump of trash, in too sorry a state to be salvaged as fuel. I’d be better off decomposing alone in my room.

“Fire incoming.” my party member warned, her white text popping up on the lower left side of my screen. Within minutes, pixelated explosions flashed across the battleground, signalling the defeat of the Dark Dragon. We celebrated our victory, having spent hours to get that far.

“Gotta go! My shift starts early.” she said, swiftly exiting the chat channel. The others followed suit, until only Tomas remained.  “Hey Cam, staying up again?” His cobalt blue message read.

“Like always.” I replied. 

“Don’t sleep too late.”

“Ha, like it’s not already 1 AM.”

“Touche. Well, see ya. Dad’s dragging me out to see a therapist in a few hours.” Tomas typed. 

I pondered his words. A therapist. I thought. Months ago, Mum had tried to persuade me to go see a therapist.

“Cammy please, come out! This will help you I promise!” She had cried, pounding on my door.

“No! NO!” 

“Please! It’s been eight months, you can’t keep going like this. You have no idea how worried I am!” 

“I don’t want to!”  I had yelled.

“Just let me do this for you Cammy!” 

“Cammy? You there?” I finally noticed Tomas’ message, after the remnants of Mum’s wails had faded from my mind. 

 My fingers rattled across my keyboard, “I’m here! Sorry, was spacing out.” 

“Haha, see ya.” Tomas exited the chat channel. 

I decided against my initial plan to stay up and quit the game instead. In the midst of standing, my elbow bumped the pile of papers on the corner of the table, sending a stapled worksheet fluttering to the floor. 

I retrieved it, it was an exam paper with “Nanyang Primary School 2017 PSLE Math” emblazoned on its surface. I replaced it under a few sheets of paper. Out of sight, out of mind. Right? 

A sigh escaped my lips as I collapsed onto my bed. Unwanted memories kept me tossing and turning in the night. I wanted to go back to school, I truly did. But… If I were to receive a second chance, what if I just flunked everything the moment I returned? For the next few hours, I replayed these imaginary scenarios until I became too tired to think. 

I awoke to gentle knocks on my door. Was it breakfast already? I got up and rubbed the sleep from my eyes, rays of afternoon light pouring in from the gaps in my curtains.  

“Cammy?” Mum called shakily. “Are you awake? Remember what we said about the alternative therapist? Sh-she’s coming over in thirty minutes. Your breakfast is outside so eat now before she arrives o-okay?” Once I was sure she left, I opened my door just enough to grab my food and closed it immediately after.

Thirty minutes later. I finished my sandwich, leaving the plate outside for mum to collect. I thought about my new “alternative” therapist. She would be the same as the others, blabber on about helping me then give up. Although, I felt a little excited. Perhaps she’d be the one to finally get me out of this mess.  

Three firm knocks alerted me of her arrival. “Hello Cammy, I’m June, your therapist but you can think of me as a friend. Is that okay?” This is new. I thought. Her voice was warm and sweet like honey. “Do you mind if I come i-” 

I hurtled forwards, slamming my body into the door with a thud and locking said door. No way was she entering.

Minutes passed. Maybe she’s gone. Just then, a note slid out from under the door. I picked it up and scanned the note.

‘Hi Cammy! I’m June, your therapist. You don’t seem like one for talking so I wrote you a note instead. It was nice to meet you today. I’ll be coming by twice a week. See you on Thursday! P.S: What’s your favourite colour? Mine’s yellow.   

  Tuesday 7/4/18

My favourite colour huh… I thought. Nothing much came to mind. I placed the note under a book on my desk and switched on my computer. A good round of dungeon battles would jog my memory.

For the next few weeks, June would make some small talk with me before delivering her letter. It was entertaining to read but I didn’t feel like any therapy was going on. I just listened to her talk most of the time. I began to doubt if June could really help me. 

Today’s letter was different from the rest. June’s normally huge handwriting was squashed together, struggling to stay on the page. I squinted. My dim room certainly wasn’t helping me read her letter. I didn’t feel like turning the lights on though. June wrote:

‘Dear Cammy, We’ve known each other for a few weeks now. I’m sure you know lots about me by now. Do you look forward to my visits? I hope you do. I’m curious, what do you do all day in your room? Are you bored? I have an idea, why not try something different for a change. Maybe try tidying up and put some music on while you’re doing it. That should make it fun! See you soon!

  Wednesday, 22/5/2018

Cleaning up sounded easy enough. I had nothing better to do other than rot in front of a screen all day anyway. I stood up, scanning my room. The whole place was a mess. My rubbish bin was overflowing and bits of paper and plastic were everywhere on the floor. My books and stationery were scattered across my desk. I decided to start small. The desk seemed like a good place to start. 

The first thing I wanted to get rid of was that unsightly pile of junk paper on my desk. I grabbed it, grimacing a little as my hands came into contact with the thick layer of dust coating the stack. I then sat cross legged on the floor to begin sorting out what I wanted to keep or throw out. Bits of paper, junk mail and old forms were discarded. I kept blank sheets of paper, those could be written on. And… there were my old worksheets. 

I leafed through them, the solutions to each problem half forming as I read. Before long, I was engrossed. I even used the blank paper to work out my answers. Only once I was complete with the pile had I realised what I’d done. Now, my room was messier than before. In my mindless fervour, I’d scattered the pile of paper across my entire floor. There was eraser dust everywhere. I groaned. How did it get to this? It would be fun, June said. It would be easy, I thought. Every time I tried to fix things I just ended up making them worse. 

No. I slapped myself, hard. Snap out of it. By accepting June’s note, I had promised her to clean my room. I had to at least do something!

Purging my room of its filth was a gruelling task but at last, many weeks later, I had accomplished what I set out to do. Rereading June’s letters had encouraged me to “Push forward!” and to “Keep at it!” but I also had the support of my dear and only friend Tomas.

We met online through a Reddit forum for shut ins. We just hit it off one day and kept going ever since. He was always there for me and I for him. 

It was two in the afternoon and June was arriving soon. I texted a while with Tomas while waiting. 

“Guess what? I cleaned my whole room!” I fired off a message.

“No way.” Tomas said. I sent him pictures as proof.

“See? Told you. And it’s all thanks to June.”

“Woah… maybe I should start too.” 

Three knocks; she had arrived. 

“June’s here. Talk to ya later Tom!” Without waiting for a reply, I shut down my computer, then took my position in front of my door, ready to catch the new letter.

“Hello again Cammy,” June said cheerily. “Today I’m going to try out something a little different. I’m going to ask some questions today and you’re gonna respond by flipping yes or no on this card I’m giving you. Sounds good?” I began feeling a little nervous. Just what kind of questions was she gonna ask me?

She pushed a card through with ‘Yes’ on one side and ‘No’ on the other. I played with it in my hands, awaiting her first question.

“Are you bored?” The internet is a vast place but I lacked the energy to explore it all. Visiting the same websites daily got boring, no matter how much content was produced. It was a yes for me. I returned the card.

“Is your room dark?” That was a yes.

“Are you in touch with your old friends?” Not anymore. I flipped the card over, the big red ‘No’ facing June.

“Do you like school?” 

I was stuck. On one hand, I hated school and all its exams, studying and homework. On the other hand, I wanted to go. Not because I liked it but because it was necessary. I had to go get good grades, a good school, university and job just to survive in Singapore. It gave me a future. A future which I destroyed. I was aware of my state, a pathetic teen bundled up in her room because she was too scared to go to school. What were the chances that fate would repeat itself and I’d be stuck in an endless loop of failure until the world deemed me too old to go to Secondary School? 

I pushed the card back under the door. “Thank you,” said June. It took longer than usual for June to write her note but when I read it, it was one of the shortest she’d written. It said:

‘Dear Cammy, thanks for cooperating with me today. It was lovely to know what you’re thinking. I want to understand you so I can help you. If you have anything you need to get off your chest, write it all out. I’m always here to help. Take care. 

Thursday, 7/6/2018

My pen glided across my notebook paper, conveying my jumbled thoughts with ease. I found that it was easier expressing myself with words than speech. It was with this discovery that I began writing back. 

I signed off the letter and tore it cleanly off my notebook. I read it twice over, shaking the soreness out of my right hand. Seems okay. I thought. 

“Bleep, bleep!” My alarm rang. June was coming in five minutes! I reread my letter once more which did nothing to calm the butterflies swirling in my stomach. Four more minutes, three, two… one… now!

“Hello Cammy, are you well? Oh! You’ve written a whole letter for me this time. Thank you!” I smiled, June always made me feel better. With her, all my problems seemed to dissolve. With her, I felt like I could really move forward. 

But what about Tomas? Guilt nagged me from a corner of my heart.. If I left, would I be leaving him behind? I can’t rely on June forever. I knew that. She’d stop visiting someday and I would be left… alone. I can’t survive by myself. I had already made it this far—And I will fail again. It always ends like this.

“Before I give you my letter. There is something I need you to know.” My heart began to race. My intrusive thoughts flooded right back. This is it, June’s quitting. My chest tightened, it was getting hard to breathe. I curled up into a ball, clutching my knees with clammy palms and forced myself to take deep, slow breaths. This was silly. June hadn’t said anything yet. However, the gnats in my gut just wouldn’t die.

The sound of June’s inhale brought me back to my senses. “Cammy dear, next Friday, you’re going to go for group therapy. This means you’ll have to leave your room. But don’t worry, you’ll be sitting with three other kids just like you. I’ll give you some time to process this.” A pause. “I’ll see you next week. Take care.” With that, she ever so tenderly slipped her letter under my door. 

I just sat and stared into space, disregarding the letter entirely. My mind was sure that this group therapy was my way out of being a shut-in but my heart drowned it out with terrified cries of possible failure. My emotions swirled within me, tearing my chest apart and threatening to explode. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I broke into tears, my sobs sending tremors throughout my body. I cried until I couldn’t. 

Sprawled out on the floor, I took one shaky breath after another. That felt better. I rolled over and pushed myself off the floor, then stumbled to my chair. I turned my computer on, Tomas should be online now. 


“Yeah?” He replied in a matter of seconds.

“I just cried.” I confessed.

“What happened!?” 

The more I typed, the calmer I felt. Tomas only replied once I had recounted the events of the day. 

“I’m glad you feel better. You know, it’s funny,”

“What is?” I typed.

“I’m going for group therapy too.”

I was surprised. “Don’t you already go for therapy?” I questioned.

“Individual therapy. Group therapy’s way different. Honestly, I’m pretty scared too.” 

“And you don’t know if you’re going to mess up again?” I was reassured by our similar situations. 

“Yes, but my therapist told me the only thing that matters is that you’re making progress. A step a day will lead you to your goal. That gets me through the day.”

Something clicked within me. It was all coming together. 

“So, as long as we keep going, we’ll get better no matter what?”, I replied.

“That’s it!” 

On Friday, December 13th, 2018, I stood grasping my doorknob. 

June called out, “Are you ready to go? I’ll be opening your door in three, two-”

One. I wrenched my door open, letting the light stream in. June stared in surprise. She was just a head taller than me and looked to be in her early thirties. Soon, her shocked expression morphed into a warm, pretty smile. 

“I am so, so proud of you.” 

That day, I had taken my first step out of the shadows of my past. I may stumble along the way but eventually, I’ll be exactly where I need to be. 

Eunice Lau (Class of 2023) is often found lurking in a dark corner. She likes reading and writing stories with layers like onions. Dreams don’t always come true. But if they did, she’d like to write a video game someday.