The Back Door and the Front Door

I remember my granddad saying he could never live in a place with only one door to go out—he meant an apartment. I used to quote that a lot, and then one day we moved from a house in the suburbs of Paris to an apartment in the city. I was thinking about this last night.

We have a front door and a back door, and at one time, before we lived here, there was also a side door on the wall to the right of the front door, for the maid, I suppose. It’s a little strange, because the back door, which gives on a ‘porch’ outside the kitchen, has yet another door into a service stairwell that no one uses any more. The porch, I guess, was where you left your mops and brooms and wet rags and bucket, but now it is half filled with plants and half of the other half has a chair from Ikea to sit on, while you wait for something to boil, if the weather is warm, and spy on the people down in the street.

The side door was eliminated—when?—there’s no trace it ever existed at our level, though one of the other apartments still has it. The front door is routinely locked, but the back door is often open and the last thing I do before bed is peek out—someone with a wheely bag on their way to the Metro or the hotel, there’s a guy sleeping in the door to a shop—traffic noise one block over—then I close and lock my back door and go to bed. My neighbours must be out of town this week—school holidays—all their lights are already off.

Same thing on the other side—no one home this weekend, though the parents were there during the week—were the children in the country with their grandparents? This is what upper middle class parents who both work tend to do over school holidays. But the young family on the back have all apparently left town.