It was a Tuesday night and I had just begun my nightly ritual of merging my sentience with the couch while turning my brain to mush with television. Winter was not due for another few weeks but it had decided to put up an early show, whipping up a wind in the late afternoon which caused a dramatic temperature drop after the sun had set. As such I had put on my best (i.e. warmest and daggiest) tracksuit pants, big baggy black hoodie, and a pair of warm thick woolly socks.
I was just getting extremely comfortable on the couch when suddenly there was a knocking at my chamber door- no wait, this is not a classical literary work and I think I’ve already shown my lack of poetry skills. Let’s try that again.
There was a knocking at my front door. Strange, I thought, as a I disentangled myself from the jaws of the cushiony couch and padded up the hall. We don’t normally have many nighttime visitors.
‘Are you expecting anyone?’ I called out to the woman I shared the house with. She was a reclusive type, Most nights she would retire to her bedroom early, wine in hand, and spend hours reading books and enjoying the life of a hermit.
‘No.’ She yelled back, as I expected. She was not one to have guests. Actually that applied to both of us. We were not really the hosting types. Our house was our personal space, a place of solitude and relaxing, and guests had a nasty tendency of disturbing both of those factors.
The knock came again. Not an unfriendly knock but an ominous sign nonetheless. Not only was the guest unexpected but they were showing they were not to be easily perturbed by an unanswered first knock.
I waited again. I figured the general rule of societal proprietary was to leave after a second unanswered knock. The first may have been accidentally missed – perhaps we were on the toilet, or in the shower – but a second unanswered knock was a strong indicator no one was coming to the door. That’s how I would handle it anyway but apparently this person had decided to forgo any sense of decency when they lobbed up on our darkened doorstep, for they did indeed knock a third time.
As I opened the door I flicked the outside light on to douse my mysterious knocker in bright yellowing light so that I could identify them an assess the situation. The sudden switch from darkness to lightness had seemingly no impact on the middle-aged man who lounged lazily against the outside wall.
He was 50ish. Ish being my pseudo-measurement tactic when it comes to estimating age that equates to plus or minus 20%. I’m bad at estimating age at the best of times, let alone at night when confronted by a man with a paunch and reddened cheeks that I guessed was not from the cold but from regular excessive alcohol consumption. His hair was that straw-like mixture of sandy blonde and early grey, curling around his head in an untidy nest. He wore brown pants with a starched pleat at the front and a short-sleeved button up shirt that had thin stripes in all the colours one would expect from a baby vomit – white, yellow, and brown.
At the sight of me he pushed himself upright and attempted to puff himself up to look bigger but the effect was let down by a sideways stumble he failed to hide. His smile widened but I caught a flicker of uncertainty in his eyes before he spoke.
‘Evening lad.’ He spoke with what was either a broad Scottish accent or the slurring mash of a drunkard. Quite possibly both; the pungent waft of alcohol had punctuated his words like a slap to my face. He had obviously spent the last few hours at the pub at the end of our street whose main clientele were permanently unemployed alcoholics and soon-to-be-unemployed-because-they-drink-too-much alcoholics.
Alarm bells were ringing inside my head.
‘I’d like to see the lady of the house.’ He slurred suggestively.
My left hand remained firmly on the door handle and I raised my right arm overhead, leaning against the upper part of the door frame, instinctively blocking the opened doorway.
‘Who are you?’ I asked curtly.
He stalled. Even in his drunken state he could tell this was not going well so far. He had come for a specific reason – to seduce, or at least have his way with, my house mate – but he had not countered on the doorway resistance of another man.
‘I’m Peter.’ He smiled a smile that did not reach his glassy eyes. His tone was firmer. ‘Is she home?’
The implication of his tone and intention sparked a flash of anger inside me. This poor excuse for a shit-stain of a man thought he could just appear on the doorstep one night, blind drunk, and invite himself for his own entertainment? I knew I had to defuse this situation.
Drunk men are notorious at exercising bad judgment in confrontational situations. Add horniness to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for an outburst, potentially violent, and I was not going to let it come to that.
Peter, if that was his real name, squinted hard at me perhaps believing that he had super powers of deduction that would allow him to read the truth off my face. Or perhaps struggling to decide which of the three blurry versions of my face he should try to punch.
‘So you’re home alone?’ He asked, this time grinning more mischievously. If I did not put this guy in his place soon he was going to do something we’d both regret and I didn’t feel like spending the night in a police holding cell explaining the ins and outs of why I had beaten the living shit out of this obnoxious man.
‘Just me here.’ I said casually. ‘Which means no one is here to save you if you do anything stupid.’ Shock flashed across his face and his mouth flapped open. I continued before he had time to dig himself further in to his hole.
‘It’s time for you to go. You are not going to find what you are looking for here tonight, or any night for that fact. Do not ever come back here ever again. Am I Clear?’ I raised my eyebrows and waited for his assent. He nodded, eventually.
‘You’re a good lad-‘ he started again, maybe hoping to weasel his way in by flattering me but I cut him off.
‘Good bye Peter. I hope for your sake that I never see you again.’ I closed and locked the door and then listened to his drunken footsteps fade as he shuffled down the path and back into the street.
‘It’s ok, he’s gone now.’ I called out. ‘It’s safe now mum.’
I sidled back to the living room and turned the television off. The confrontation had hit a nerve and I knew television would not be a big enough distraction for my buzzing mind. Besides, I still had homework to do.