Monday, October 27, 2014

Safe House

It was Sunday morning, early, still night by the lack of light in this northern mid-autumn. I awoke and migrated to my home office, to go online and see what the world was going through that day. Later I would be leaving for the Divine Liturgy, so breakfast or a snack or even a cup of morning coffee was not in my itinerary. I sleep very lightly most of the time and heard my son come in very, very late from socializing with friends. That thought was somewhere in the back of my mind.

My office windows look north right beside my front door, and the light above the door was on as it always is when I know someone may be coming home after dark. This means that if I am at my desk at the windows after dark, I can see anyone who comes to the front door. Usually no one comes, at least not after dark, and the light stays on all night, unless I am the last one come home, and then I turn it off.

I was sitting there at my desk, about seven in the morning, killing some time. Sunday mornings it’s always like this. Wake up, go to check on my internet life briefly, then back to my bed room to rest a little more and read the Bible, then up again to bathe and get dressed for church. Not this morning, however.

Someone suddenly appeared at my front door. The light let me see that it was a young man, wearing a jacket, who was looking at me and signaling something. I nodded ‘wait a minute’ and went around to the door and opened it. On my way to the door, I was thinking to myself that the young man looked like one of my son’s friends, someone he was probably out with that night. But why would he be stopping by at this hour?

I opened the door, and though the young man looked a lot like my son’s friend, I could tell immediately by what he was saying to me, that it was a stranger. ‘I wonder if I could use your phone. I was at a party in the neighborhood, and I was trying to walk to where I could catch a bus and get home, but it’s raining and I’m soaked. I want to try to call my aunt and see if she can give me a ride.’

I was a little annoyed, but I said, ‘Come inside, and I’ll grab my phone.’ When I came back with it, I handed it to him and he wanted to sit down, but not on the sofa, because he said he didn’t want to get it wet. He chose a chair at my dining table, not noticing that it had an upholstered seat and back.

I handed him the phone and watched helplessly as he exhausted his supply of numbers, getting no responses from anyone. I joked with him, ‘Why don’t you have a cell phone? You’re a young fellow and should have a cell phone. I thought all of you were born with them.’

‘Well, I have a cell phone, but I am a weekend warrior, and when I go partying I don’t bring either my cell phone or my wallet, in case I might lose them.’ The boy (for here I must admit I was realizing he was really just a kid) squeamishly and in a low voice ‘kind of’ asked if I could give him a ride to his aunt’s place, and he’d give me a couple of dollars for gas.

I didn’t reply but just went to my office, got my wallet and jacket, put my phone in my pocket, and went off to search for my crocks (a kind of plastic slip-on sandal that I like to wear). The boy saw what I was doing as he stood up and looked around the room. It was beginning to get light outside.

‘Are you a Catholic?’ he asked, noticing the ikons around the living room. ‘No, I’m Greek Orthodox,’ I responded. Then he started telling me in a low voice (I could hardly make out what he was saying, and he kept talking like this, non-stop, until I finally dropped him off at his aunt’s house) that he was a believer, and something about church, which I didn’t quite understand. I didn’t talk, I just listened.

I found my crocks right where they should be next to the front door, and the two of us hopped into my car. ‘Where are we going?’ I asked. ‘Over to 177th and Glisan,’ he replied. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I know the city pretty well. I know exactly where that is,’ as we turned onto the street and headed east.

The boy had told me his name and asked me mine when we were sitting together at the table, but I have forgotten his name. As we were driving, he pulled out a soft-cover New Testament, and started reading it in a low voice. I asked him his age. He was twenty-one years old. Here and there I joked with him in a dadly way, and told him, as I dropped him off, to be good. I don’t know why, but I always tell young people that, as I drop them off. (This scenario has happened more than once.)

I wondered, as I drove home, now being deprived of my ‘free time’ so that I’d have to boogie to get ready for church, if my place (which I call ‘Sky House’ because the mountains and the sky are all you see when you look out the north facing windows) were some kind of ‘safe house.’ It is nothing new for a young person to come to my door asking for legitimate help, and it wasn’t the first time I found myself carrying him to his destination.

‘I stand at the door and knock,’ came at once to my mind. And then I remembered, and just thanked the Lord, for visiting me again that morning.

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