By Alice Benson
The knock on my door was soft, and I almost missed it. At eighty-six, my hearing isn’t what it used to be, although, it still works pretty well, better than the doorbell, which hasn’t worked for years. I taped a note beside it on the doorjamb, instructing visitors to knock. I have to put a new sign up every few months, because the old one gets bleached by the sun, then disintegrates in the rain.
I don’t get much drop-in company. Usually someone tells me when they’re stopping by, and most of my visitors come during the day, because they know I get tired out early. I was surprised to hear the quiet tap at 5:58 on a Tuesday, but I thought the new woman from next door might need something. We’re a fairly close-knit neighborhood. Fortunately, I just finished watching the news and turned off the television to wash the dinner dishes, otherwise I might have missed the tentative knock.
I was on my way to the kitchen, so I stopped by the front entry. Leaning on my cane, I pulled open the wooden door, but left the glass storm door shut. For my protection, I always keep the storm door locked. A young man stood on the top step, with his hand in the air as if he were ready to knock again. When he saw me, he dropped his arm, moved sharply backwards and almost fell off the stairs. He had to grab the railing to steady himself.
He was probably in his mid to late twenties, very thin, almost painfully so, with wispy short hair and dark-framed thick glasses. He kept staring at me without a word, his mouth slightly open. Finally, I decided to bring some clarity to this encounter.
“Can I help you?” I raised my voice to be heard through the glass of the storm door and gave him the English teacher stare I used with my most recalcitrant students. He nodded, then shook his head, so I tried again. “Is there something I can help you with?”
“Um, is this number 2215?” He kept his eyes focused on me without blinking, opened so wide, I could see white all the way around the brown. Little prickles of concern tickled my scalp.
“Yes, it is. Are you looking for someone?”
This time, he shook his head, then nodded. I wanted to help this poor young man, but mostly, I wanted him off my front stoop. I watch enough television to know there are lots of strange and dangerous things happening in the world. He looked harmless, but so did Ted Bundy. Or maybe he wanted drugs. I just saw on the news that heroin was making a comeback.
As we stood there staring at each other, a realization slowly dawned; people had made this mistake before. “This is 2215 Tanner Street. There is also a number 2215 on Tanner Road. Maybe you’re looking for Tanner Road, not Street.”
He finally blinked and looked so relieved that I was happy I made the connection for him. I gave him directions to Tanner Road and sent him on his way. He was parked on the street in front of my house, and I watched him through the living room window. He went back to his car and sat for about five minutes, staring at, what I assumed, was his phone. I felt my breathing quicken a bit with anxiety, and I kept my own phone close until he finally drove away.
Two days later at 4:17 in the afternoon, there was another rap at my door when I was not expecting company. This knock was more authoritative, and I didn’t have any trouble hearing it over my afternoon viewing of Ellen. I pulled myself out of my chair, and using my cane, made my way to the front entrance.
Opening the door revealed another young man, about the same age as the last one, only shorter and rounder. His hair was shaggy and greasy, and the frown on his face sent waves of apprehension up my spine. This one definitely could be looking for drugs. He spoke immediately. “Is this 2215?”
“Yes, it is.” His frown turned to a glare, so I hurried to again explain the difference between Tanner Street and Tanner Road. My explanation appeared to relax him, which relaxed me, and he left with appropriate directions. Again, I watched out my window, and again, he spent some time looking at his phone. Maybe they didn’t believe me.
Three hours later, another knock with another young man. By now, it was dark, so I was slightly uneasy, but he looked more frightened than I was, so I just gave him directions and sent him on his way.
The next day, I re-routed two more men; both were a little older, and one turned so red when he saw me, I was worried he was going to pass out.
While this type of mix-up has happened before, it was occasional. Five times in three days was odd. And excessive. I mentioned it to my daughter when she called the next morning. She lives on the other side of the state, but we talk several times a week.
“Do you know what’s on that section of Tanner Road?” she asked.
“I haven’t been over there in months,” I said. She’s aware I quit driving a couple years ago, and I don’t get out as much as I used to. While we were chatting, my daughter googled the address 2215 Tanner Road, and came up with “Kathie’s Caring Massage,” a name that wasn’t familiar to me.
“It’s a new business,” my daughter said. “I’m reading their ad now, and it has a ten percent discount on the ‘specialty’ massage for all new customers before June 30. The picture in the ad shows several young, perky women in skimpy outfits. They don’t look anything like the massage therapists at the spa where I go.”
Of course. That explains the looks on the faces of the young men when they see me, chubby and gray-haired, wearing bifocals, sweatpants and tennis shoes, stooped over my cane at the front door. They were undoubtedly expecting someone much younger and a great deal more friendly.
My daughter and I had a good laugh as we discussed what was going through the men’s minds as they were confronted by their grandmother when they were planning on a massage (or whatever) from a pretty young woman. Hopefully, they weren’t too traumatized. After I hung up, I smiled and put another sign next to the doorbell doesn’t work, giving directions to 2215 Tanner Road.
My published works may be found in a Main Street Rag Anthology, Delta Woman ezine, Epiphany, Scrutiny Journal, Shooter Literary Magazine, and Diverse Voices Quarterly. My first novel, Her Life is Showing, is set in a domestic violence shelter and was published in January, 2014,by Black Rose Writing. Additional information may be found on my website, www.alicebensonauthor.com.
The life and death drama of domestic violence is the backdrop to the daily struggle of the workers in a shelter. You have got to check out Alice Benson book, Her Life is Showing, by clicking here now
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