Monthly Archives: February 2014

Someone Came Knocking

SOME ONE 

Some one came knocking

At my wee, small door;

Some one came knocking,

I’m sure – sure – sure;

I listened, I opened,

I looked to left and right,

But naught there was a-stirring

In the still dark night;

Only the busy beetle

Tap-tapping in the wall,

Only from the forest

The screech-owl’s call,

Only the cricket whistling

While the dewdrops fall,

So I know not who came knocking,

At all, at all, at all.

 (Walter de La Mare)

Ever since I’ve been a therapist, I think about people who are alone during holidays. When family surrounded me, I would think of clients who had no one to be with and nowhere to go.  This Thanksgiving I mentioned this to a few friends who felt I was spoiling the joy about being around people they loved.

Besides, you can always rent a Kurosawa movie, someone said.

Or curl up with a good book.

And why spend Thanksgiving with people you don’t want to be with, anyway?

That’s not what I meant, I wanted to say. I’m thinking about people who don’t have options.

On the evening before Thanksgiving I heard a faint knock on the door.  We live in a courtyard that’s so far back from the street kids miss us on Halloween.   The porch light wasn’t on.

Who is it? I called

No answer.

Who is it? I called again.

Again no answer

I opened the door to darkness.

Please, miss, said a wavery voice.   Please help me.

The voice could signal danger: A giant impersonating someone harmless.  An armed robber who worked in tandem with a nearly-inaudible voice.  Take the risk, part of me said.  Don’t,said another.  Close the door.  

If I hadn’t talked to my friends earlier, I would have closed the door. Instead, I turned on the porch light and saw an old man with a childlike face.   He had no teeth and was so thin his pants fell around him in folds.

How did you find this place?

I don’t know.  I just came here.  I thought you could help me.

He began to cry.

For a moment, I switched to a former therapist-mode.

You seem really lonely. You need people to talk to.

I know, I know. Highland Hospital. They kept me there like a jail.  They wouldn’t let me out.

Maybe you could talk to someone at a clinic, I said.

 

But it wasn’t advice he wanted.  It wasn’t even money.  Even so, I rooted around in my wallet and gave him what I had.  He cried again.

Just one thing, then, I said.

I know, he said.  Be careful.

Yes, I said.  Please be careful.

He walked down the steps holding on to the railing. His body was as wavery as his voice.

I told Keith when he came home.  I told him about my earlier conversations, about the feeling that I had to respond to whomever was at the door.

He was guided to you, he said. He was guided to test you.

You’re a software architect, I said. You never think like that.

I do now.

I never told anyone else about the man.   I was afraid they’d tell me I should never have opened the door.  He was casing your place.  He’ll be back.   Watch out.

The man never came back.  Now and then I think I hear a small knocking.  I open the door and no one is there.   The man was real.  And what he wanted was real.  Someone to cry with.  A handshake from a stranger.