01 March, 2010

The Man at the Door

The knock was firm.


When I opened the door, the gentleman had leapt back off the top stair, and stood on the landing two stairs below the stoop. He is probably my age, maybe a little older, and between his two hands he is grasping a piece of paper very tightly, and holding it almost at chin level.

"Hello ma'am. I paint the numbers on the street, because it is very important if there is an emergency that the fire or the police know exactly where you live. I can paint the numbers. This is my business license. If you have any questions you can phone the city, but this is my license."

His intonation and affect on the wrong words throughout his pitch immediately quell that annoyed feeling I had, the one I always get when someone peddles at my door. I smile earnestly towards him, then he jumps up one stair and hands me the license. The edges of the paper are grubby, and wrinkled, but the center, where the information is, is perfectly, perfectly, clean.

"How much?"

"Thirty dollars ma'am."

"That sounds like a great idea. We really need to have that done. Do you take a check or just cash."

"I can take a check."

I tried to hand him back the business license but he was bounding down the steps with his grey tool box, and without turning around he said, "No, you should keep it. It has my name on it because it's my business license, and you can get my information for your check."


I read his first name "Hendry" and sort of half-yelled down the stairs at him, "Is this correct? Hendry?"

"Yes ma'am Hendry H E N D R Y. My name is spelled correctly on my business license."

bet that hasn't made life any easier, huh, Hendry?

I closed the door to head upstairs to get my checkbook. I couldn't hold it in any more and I started to cry, sob really.

I went up the stairs and Lucy rushed over, "Momma, why are you crying?

uhm. deep breath. I never know quite how I am going to respond to her questions that have *really big* answers, answers that might shape her whole opinion about her brother or his classmates, or the entire world. I must somewhere be practicing speeches, in my restless sleep perhaps...

"You know how Jake is a special kind of kid? Well, the man at the door came to paint the numbers on our curb so the police and firemen can find our house in an emergency. The man at the door is a grown up who was probably a little bit like Jake when he was little. He was a special kid, and when mom sees a grown up who was probably a special kid like Jake, all grown up with a job, it makes Momma so happy that I cry." (She understands the happy crying thing.)

"You know how it's tough for Jake to do chores at our house, to do jobs at our house? Well, when Jake grows up he will want to have a job, and so it makes Momma really happy to see that kids like Jake can grow up and have jobs."

I write the check. Lucy stands next to me.

"Mom, Jake has jobs at school, right now. He has jobs Momma."

"That's right baby, I guess he does."

I finished the check for Hendry and walked it down the three flights of stairs to him. He was sitting in the street, painstakingly painting numbers on my curb.

"Here's your check. Thank you very much. Do you have a business card, I could recommend you or do you go door to door?"

"No ma'am I go door to door. I have my business license."

"Yeah, that's a great idea to have that. It makes it very official."

"It IS very official. I got it from the city."

"Thanks again."

and I made it back into the house before I started to cry again. This time I went to my room, where Descartes and I had been resting (since we were both sick). I crawled up on to the bed and sobbed. Descartes put his arm around me and pet my hair a little.

"Do you know why, [heave], I'm [deep breath] crying?"

"Yes dear."

"I'm sorry, I can't seem to stop."

"I know. This is why I don't Twitter."

"Why, because you would have to say something like "Grown man with autism comes to door, steroid-induced hysterics by wife ensue?"

"Something like that."

"I hope he doesn't get run over while he's painting the numbers. That's all I need is to explain to Lucy all about the grown up guy who was like Jake as a kid, who had a job, but is now dead in the street. That would really make me cry."

"Yeah, probably."

"Hey, you know? I would be crying even if I weren't on steroids."

"I know. I know. Take a deep breath. It's all good. We're all good."
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