By Paul Singleton
"We've been waiting for you Mr. Singleton," the seated receptionist said as I entered the doctor's office.
"How did you know my…"
"We know everyone's name," she interrupted as she handed me a clipboard through her window. "There are two forms. The first is the new patient form. The second form tells you about our policy. We never release any information about our patients without asking them first. I'm sure as a law student, you already knew that. The top copy is yours, the pink is ours. And we already have a copy of your driver's license on file."
How does she know me? And how does she already have my license on file? It's not like I've ever been here before. How bare this place is for a doctor's office! Only two chairs are available. The room smells like a hospital, yet does not feel as cold. I am wearing a short-sleeved, buttoned shirt but would have been equally comfortable in a sweater. The white tiled-walls and equally chalky-white ceiling surround me. To the right of the receptionist's window sit two identical doors. Between the doors, a perfectly green, waist-sized tree stands. Its branches stretch out and its leaves tickle the floor. There are no dead leaves in its pot. How does it grow so perfectly without any windows? A circular clock towers above the tree. It says it is 11:59, and its second hand moves painfully slow. Yet, each time it manages to make a cycle, it still reads 11:59. Maybe it is broken.
When I sit to fill out the paperwork, I notice that all of my information has already been filled out. My address, birthday, telephone number, and social security number are all correct. I scribble my name. Below my signature is a gray box that reads: "Office use only: 0 Left Door 0 Right Door." I do not even read the second form. I merely hold it just so that I can see the signature line at the bottom. I give a perfect autograph. "My Contracts teacher would kill me," I think. I tear off my copy, neatly fold the paper, and put it in my front shirt pocket. "I guess I'll read it later to find out if it was unconscionable." Just as I am standing up to return the clipboard, the receptionist sits by me. "Mr. Singleton, this isn't exactly a doctor's office."
Pause. She holds out her hand to reveal a sparkling gold key. She places the warm piece of metal in my palm. "That key opens one of those doors. Behind it is your future. Your law school future. The key never lies."
"But how do I know which door to choose?"
"Both doors have a reversed peep-hole. In it, you will see your future after you graduate from law school. After you look at both doors, it will be time for you to make your decision. You knew that this day would come soon."
Slowly, I approach the door on the right. I stand on my tip-toes. I peer in. I see ashen faces. They are sad, tired, and hopeless. Wait. I know those faces. They are the people I grew up with. The poor, underprivileged people I have known my entire life. Who are those happy people behind them? Yes, I know them too. I see my little brother and younger cousins. Their faces are polar opposites of the previous faces. They are happy, smiling, and adorned with the finest clothing. They hold college diplomas. Yes, I knew it! They would graduate from college.
Then, the hole goes black. "Mr. Singleton, time for the next door." Again, I peer inside. This time-all the people I grew up with-they are different. Some of them have college degrees. Nearly all of them had smiling faces-their ashen look-gone. Behind them, stands my brother. I cannot tell if he is happy or sad. Is he okay? One of my cousins stole the pathetic look from the other faces in the previous door. She creeps along as she grabs her hunched back with her right hand. Then, the hole goes black.
I turn and look at the receptionist. For a moment, I contemplate racing through the door from which I originally came. "You can't go back, Mr. Singleton. It's locked. Now, explain to me what you've seen."
I hesitate. "In the first door, I see what happens if I take the private, corporate route. I will be able to have a lot of money…enough to at least help my family. Finally, we can be out of poverty. In choosing this door, I can provide all of those things we've always wanted; however, I will be leaving my community behind. I'll be helping my family at the expense of my community."
"And the second door?"
"The second door is just the opposite. Finally, I'll be able to assist my community. However, the tradeoff is my family. We'll still be poor."
Another pause. "Why does it have to be either or, why can't I have both? I feel like this is a moral dilemma-a test of integrity-and I don't want to fail."
She chuckled. "It's not an integrity test. For the test of integrity lies not in which door you choose, but how you act once you past through the door. And as far as having both outcomes-the future isn't set in stone. It is possible to go through one door and find that there is really no wall between the doors. Your futures can merge together. On the other hand, it is possible that the two hallways behind the doors go in opposite directions, never to cross paths."
Pause. "Mr. Singleton, it's time to make your decision." I take the paper from my pocket to read it. I was stalling. At the top in dark print simply reads "integrity," my name signed at the bottom. I open my other hand to reveal the glimmering key. I take a deep breath. I pause in front of the door. I put the key in. Slowly, I turn the knob. "I knew you'd choose that one," she says.
"Yeah, me too." Smiling, I cross the threshold, knowing I made the right decision.