We sat like eskimos, huddled together, our eyes wide. The door kept banging, and the voice continued. Mom started to cry. She got up and walked around the room, dialing a number.
“It’s okay”, she said, “They won’t do anything to us.”
But when her phone vibrated off, and even dad couldn’t hear our silent cry for help, she started to weep. It’s not comfortable hearing your mother weep while a man bangs on your door.
“Come on, come on!” she’d scream, sliding her finger back and forth along the big crack in the phone screen.
“You kno’wut? I’ll beeback!” He screamed, and he always told the truth when he said that. The cold, harsh truth.
He came the next day, and his fists made the doorknob vibrate. He asked my mother for her name.
“What’s your name?” he’d get impatient, “tell me your name, god-damn-it” he slurred parts of his speech like Stallone. But Stallone didn’t make my mother cry.
I thought he was a coward. He was a monkey; an imitator. We all have a place, and that was his; a low-level sham that banged on people’s doors and tried to shove them letters and scream about vulture funds. My parents had a contract. A contract that asked good money for a one-bedroom, cold-tap piece of shit. Good money that my parents didn’t have.
It was a new chapter of fear for my mother. The screaming thugs came when dad wasn’t around, and we didn’t have any other choice but to sit there, blank. And mom would call dad, and then she’d cry. She cried so much I didn’t think we’d have to pay the water bill.
I was scared, but I couldn’t show it. When I’d walk with dad on Pearse St., his beer hand holding a bagged-up pale ale, his left hand on my shoulder, he’d turn to me. He’d turn and say, “Well, you’re growing up, you’re almost 15. I hope all this doesn’t scare you?” And I’d nod, just to stop his warm beer breath from hitting my face. And because I’d be a coward not to.
But still, there was something so movie-like about all of it. It had become like a charade; a well-timed act of screaming and crying, screaming and crying. Like a scene from Woody Allen with some jazz in the back. And it was fascinating because the menacing voice and the menacing man had become such a feared part of our days, yet we didn’t know his face or his name. Could have walked by him every day, and even given him a fake smile. We didn’t know.
All we knew was that those cowards came when dad wasn’t around. Dad said he saw one of them when we were out of town. He said the guy ran off the second he pushed him off our lock. Cowards might have a strong voice, but if you look ‘em right in the eye they get scared. That’s what all this taught me.
And I’d stand with a voice recorder, holding it right next to the door, trying to catch a man that we’d never seen on his word. Show it to the cops; what an outrageous man! But no one gave a shit. And one time, in the midst of the loud jabber, he stopped. We didn’t know what it meant, we’d never listened to him. All we knew was that pounding was bad and silence was good.
And for half an hour, we sat still. It was unusual for us to sit in the evening with a calm door. We couldn’t just go on with everything like it never happened.
My mom stopped crying, and like she loved to do, repeated, “It’s okay… they won’t do anything to us.”
But it was hard to believe those words from a woman whose eyes were never dry. And like usual, she started to pace up and down the room, but this time without dialing on her phone; it had simply become muscle memory.
But then he knocked again, and my mother started to sob again. By now all of this felt natural.
He slurred something like “blue doormat” that we didn’t get, but when we opened the door he was gone. And so was our blue doormat.
That was when my mom became someone else, and the cold-tap and the small rooms and stupid things like dog crap on the street started to make her cry. It made her cry more than she had ever cried before. And all her anger she saved for my dad - like it was all because of him.
And even though my dad could bag up quite a few pale ales in his day, he said he worked hard for us. He said he worked like a 51-year-old jubilee painting at an art gallery. I didn’t know what that meant; I just knew he had a big, nice office where he could escape all of it.
But then my mom had become so weak from all the stress and anger that she had started to give in. She couldn’t yell back at the slurring man, and she couldn’t even stay silent, her mental state had become so jumbled and weak. Sometimes I thought that the man would come to my mom at night, and cut her nerves apart and jumble ‘em up, just so he could toy with her the next day.
Mom finally gave in. All she wanted was to give the man our contract and let out more tears… that was all that helped.
Dad didn’t mind, he was strong in hard times, but he’d try to help my mom out if he could. And even though he felt it shameful to surrender in his fight, give our guns to the enemy, he let my mom do what made her feel better. And so she came around to dad’s office, and started to search through all of the paperwork, to find our contract. She searched everywhere; in the drawers, on top of the shelves, under our blue doormat… boy did that blue doormat look familiar.