i am not a dangerous person
(cradled, crazed, and addled)
I had started washing the dishes and it was 7 p.m., roughly. There was a knock at the door, which is uncommon. I have had this problem in my life for as long as I have lived away from home. I do not receive mail, with the exception of bank statements and perhaps three or four cards from loved ones for one occasion or another. I do not receive junk mail or catalogues or periodicals or those envelopes stuffed with useless coupons. I don’t even receive spam. I’ve heard many a person bitch about how troublesome it is, how heavily it weighs upon their lives in its little way, and have never understood how or why those responsible want nothing to do with me.
I never get a knock at the door. Rightfully so, because if I’d anything to offer, I’d offer it elsewhere, but as much a disturbance as it is, it’s kind of a special occasion for me. Both sides of my brain are in instant opposition, with one side saying “Oh, God, what is it?” and the other saying “Ooh, I have a visitor.” I opened the door to see a young woman with a young man, late teens to early twenties, he rather handsome and taller, the both of them clean and decent, and the both of them white. I mention this because, thinking of it now, I have discovered that I am inexplicably more suspicious of the white strangers that show up at the door. I can’t quite explain it. Every stranger within handshake is immediately under suspicion at the door, all possibilities being examined and all dangers taken into consideration, but the white ones are the most deceptive.
I had at first assumed that they were new neighbors. They looked the part: newly married, the woman pregnant with child (early second trimester), the both of them young and primed for the reality that comes slowly creeping in. I always pity the sort, but am determined to be nice to them. It turned out that they were here to sell magazines, each subscription granting them a number of points resulting in a trip to Paris, Rome, or one other place, were they to hit 15,000. They told me that it was their last day, and that they were at 14,072. I knew that they were of full of shit, but I understood. They handed me a laminated pamphlet listing all that they had to offer. I had said long ago that if I were to have any three magazines on my coffee table, I’d determined which combination would be most relevant to my personal character.
Playgirl, Ebony, and Cat Fancy.
They had none of the three, unfortunately. In all honesty, Ebony is the only one I would get any use out of, considering that I detest soft-core pornography, have no pets, and have always wanted to know more about Mos Def. But, regardless, I’m too broke to buy 12 of anything, but wished them the best of luck. Like any door-to-door outfit, they lingered, the gentleman making off-hand remarks about how tired they were, how hard a beat they’d had, prerequisites to me inviting them in, granting them more time to convince me that a magazine subscription would make a great gift, hoping that I don’t realize that giving gifts in early January would make me look like an asshole. The gentleman asked if I smoked, and I told him that yes, I did. I gave him a cigarette, she pulled out her own, and the three of us just stood smoking together. We conversed, circumstantial type shit, where they’d come from, where they’d recently been, and unknown facts of the peddling industry. The gentleman suddenly put on a thirsty face, asking if I had some sort of bottled water. I imagined that he was making a last ditch effort to get into the house, a predator in its final throes. You see, if I didn’t happen to have a spare bottle of water, I’d have to give him a glass of water. It would be mighty awkward to give him a serving of water that he can’t carry away with him. The natural conclusion for an unsuspecting fellow is to let them in, to let them get comfortable. Thankfully, I had cans of Dr. Pepper. Otherwise, I’d have been screwed. The lady herself was not thirsty, and the both of them remained outside.
Four months ago, I received a knock at the door, which is very uncommon. I looked through the peephole and saw a single white male, late 20’s. I opened the door and he started with the whole “getting to know you” horseshit, hoping to win my heart before he went in for the kill. It turned out that he was selling newspaper subscriptions. He was fresh out of rehab, and the selling of newspaper subscriptions was part of some sponsorship or promotion or whatnot. He had just looked tired at first sight, but the whole “fresh out of rehab” bit not only saved me the trouble of deciding what to think of it, but also set forth a tale of retribution, of second chances. People don’t mind buying a candy bar to fund a Girl Scout uniform, but there is very little to make a person feel more smug than to feel that they’ve saved somebody, if only for a moment. It doesn’t matter if the story has holes, if the salesman wears his eyes like a Basset Hound and smiles like a fox, if they have a story of woe and soulful hopes of salvation, it’s hard to pass that opportunity to blow some cash in their right direction. Not to say that I doubted the guy. Who knows? But, the point of interest for me was what happened after I’d made it clear that he was shit out of luck. He’d had me for more than five minutes, outside the door, of course, so he was still optimistic and perhaps determined to not blow his five minutes for nothing. I imagine that the worst thing for any door-to-door salesman is to find the man that gets no junk mail, spam, or visitors, the old lady with fifteen cats that wants to chat as much as the salesman pretends to want to. He started in with this “Come on, come on, man.” type of jive, realizing that the sympathy hand had folded. I continued to reject him, and…
“Just buy some!”
He said it forcefully, and I doubt that it was part of his pitch. He had gotten impatient and desperate. It was like a knee-jerk reaction, and whether or not it was intentional, it worked. I was taken aback and could feel myself reaching around and trying to find a pocket or a drawer. It was strange, how subliminally effective such a yelp had been. I didn’t give the fucker a dime, of course, and he hadn’t noticed my reaction, I’m sure of it. But, ever since, I’ve thought of that unsaid salesman out there, the one that lures its prey into the clearing, vulnerable and cozy, and then shouts “Just buy it!”
Anywho, after he’d left, I was left with my own thoughts, which goes well every other time. At the time, I had had no doubt that he was fresh out of rehab, probably due to something meth or coke based, perhaps heroin. He was only rather thin at the time, but as he’d said, he’d ‘just’ gotten out.
I’ve known dope fiends in my time, and remember them to be notoriously cunning and untrustworthy within their inner most recesses, and beyond. But, I wouldn’t wish door-to-door sales upon anyone. In fact, other than situations such as his (newspapers, candy bars, perhaps magazines), I couldn’t imagine that people were still putting themselves through the same hell to sell vacuum cleaners, lawn care, or God. Were I fresh out of rehab, I wouldn’t be able to do this and keep my cool.
‘What if he gets desperate tonight’, I thought to myself. ‘You never know what they’ll do, man. Remember that one time? Remember that one guy?’
I remembered him today, but not until much later.
I tend to be suspicious of anyone standing outside my door with a product that could easily be phony, as urgent as a criminal or perhaps salesman, and hoping to have a sit and chat with me, to push their product from within and maybe, just maybe, get a scope of the place. It would be different were it a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon. The devout have this twinkle in their eye. It simultaneously exudes a sense of happiness for someone who has found such balance within their life and exposes the creepiness of that balance. If they don’t have that twinkle in their eye, and if I’m not kind of put off the way that I usually am by it…they still don’t get in, but they had a better chance.
But, here they were, today, the gentleman trying to peer his way in, to sit and have a beverage before he and she toiled further into that good night. I went inside to get him a Dr. Pepper, not closing the door entirely, just a crack. Halfway to the kitchen, I realized that if they wanted to bust in and take the stage, they very well could. They looked clean and proper, but even novice methheads are frantic without their fix, and although a group of methheads is terrible, partners are far more dangerous. Their sense of solidarity is far more intrinsic, although every bit as fake. I walked to the kitchen to get him a Dr. Pepper, but on the way, I opened the silverware drawer to find a knife. The first I pulled out was a half-foot in length, and nothing close to what I’d been looking for. I couldn’t fit in the pocket of my pea coat, so I put it back, strangely embarrassed with myself. I was nervous, and knowing that I couldn’t hold such a knife, I looked furtively at the door, hoping that I had time. I reached in again and found another. The shortest of them all. At a mere three inches, it may not stop your more dangerous of villains, but it fit in my pocket, it was serrated, and I had to attend to my guests. I couldn’t grant them enough time to realize that the jig was up.
I came back with two Dr. Peppers. I handed him the one and asked if she wanted the other, but she was still not thirsty. I gave them their pamphlets back, empathetic, almost lovingly, and wished them the best of luck. They were a friendly couple, the both of them courteous and eventually gone, and I was relieved.
As the night went on, something came to bother me. It took awhile, but I slowly realized how dangerous I had been, that I had been a terrible threat to the two of them. I had a paring knife, hardly suitable to protect myself. If I were to incapacitate the gentleman, I would have had to have stabbed him multiple times or to have slashed at his neck, somewhere bloody and sensitive. When dealing with an imminent threat, your only choices are those most immediate and final. But, the immediacy for me was manifested on my own. I’m distancing myself, I should rephrase.
It is strange how the people that lay safe within their homes are continuously threatened by the others that knock on their doors or rape total strangers nearby. The unpredictability of an evening stroll or daily life is the end result of a thousand bad stories. I’ve heard personal stories told to me by actual people that have endured car jackings, kidnappings, and rapes. And I, like most others, have been on edge, not over the fact that these things occur, but because they happen so unexpectedly and to people that don’t deserve them. I am well aware that life is not fair, but it’s almost as if having a horror story of my own would be a rite of passage, that until I am raped or assaulted at random, I haven’t yet paid my keep or crossed over, asking “When does it come?”. The dramatizations of these situations are as vivid as a fantasy. It’s as if the potential of chaos is so awkwardly frustrating, that it bleeds into simplicity, turning us into different people. So, were you a simple man or woman, selling life insurance door to door, you may be wise to carry a weapon or to at least determine how a pamphlet or vacuum cleaner could be fashioned into one. For me, the desperation and deadliness of those of us threatened on the inside and the depravation and deadliness of those threatening from the outside have proven equal to me, cancelled out. Those of us are still in the right, but I wonder. How many times have I met a stranger with a knife in their sleeve or a gun in their bathrobe, smiling at me and making small talk as they handed me a cup of sugar or accepted my casserole? Who are these dangerous people, and how will we be rid of them?
Tina had noticed that the gentleman had been surveying knives from his silverware drawer through the crack in the door. She had said that they should get away as soon and as carefully as possible. The gentleman had emerged, a Dr. Pepper in each hand, making small talk and painfully friendly. He had been obviously kind, unassuming, considerate, the both of his hands in either pocket of his pea coat. Neither of them were sure which pocket the knife was in, but the both of them knew that the knife was real and intended for them. Jeffery Thomas Rhodes and Christina Hayley Martin edged away from the maniac, ready to run if the moment had demanded.
At 3:07 of that morning, he had sworn to never set foot in Rome upon realizing the cost. It had all become too dangerous for him. And he had hoped to never feel that way again.