There are three kinds of people in the world. The ones who immediately answer the door when someone knocks, the person who asks “who is it?” before answering the the door, and then there is me. I am the person who hears a knock at the door and crawls around on the floor looking out every available window, like a ninja, to find out who it is.
I am not sure where this irrational fear comes from. Perhaps it stems from my extreme dislike of small talk. I really hate plastering myself with pretend smiles and fake friendliness in the face complete strangers, while they spill out the contents of their boring mundane life. It may seem harsh but I never found any personal benefit from these small meaningless interactions. Hence my fear of answering the unexpected banging on my chamber door.
At the time I was living in a studio apartment with my boyfriend, whom for all intents and purposes we shall dub Sam. Sam and I were both in college and had little time for anything other than books and bars, you know the important things. It was a normal quite evening, we were so deep in our respective homework that when it happened, I thought the plaster walls would crumble. A knock at the door. My heart jumped, Sam shuttered with discontent. Millions of unspoken anxieties passed though us, as the knocks became increasingly louder and ominous. KNOCK! KNOCK! Praying it wasn’t some solicitor, or the land lord dropping by for some mind numbing small talk. The banging continued as if the stranger on the other side of the door could see us, as if he knew with each intimidating knock our hearts were welling up with annoyance.
“You should answer the door” I whispered. In my head I figured the best course of action would be to let Sam take the brunt of the offending solicitor, while I try to contort myself in the worlds smallest bathroom to hide from the attack.
“You get it.” Sam slowly answered as if not fully committed to his statement. KNOCK KNOCK!! the deafening sounds of offensive knocks filling our tiny sanctuary with a profound foreboding, escalating to an anxiety ridden crescendo.
“Wait, maybe they will just go away, they will think we are not home or something.” I postulated, hoping I could put up with the excessive knocking until they gave up. “No no no that’s stupid! the T.V. is clearly on, they know we are here.” KNOCK KNOCK… and apparently they are not going to go away. Great.
Sam gently eased me off the futon, and by ease I mean prodded with force .”Just get the door Shelly.” Sam flippantly said as he returned to his books. All the muscles in my body were working against me as I scrapped myself off the futon and nervously headed for the door. KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. Honestly, one would think a person would be like; maybe they are not home and give up at this point? My arm reached out to grasp the cold brass knob and with a quick turn the door was open.
There he was, the person who had intruded my deep thoughts on organic chemistry, with his thunderous knocking. Standing in the hallway, an old black man. He was slightly taller than myself, which is not saying much seeing as how most pre-pubescent boys are taller than me. His frail frame was adorned in a burgundy polyester suit, the jacket hanging long on his slim figure. The flashy suit was probably the picnicale of high fashion back in it’s hay day, but now it just looked like something found at the local thrift shop for a buck fifty. I smiled at the man, the sweet kind of acknowledgement smile that you would give an older lady at church. He lifted his head full of wiry grey hairs and said the most absurd and shocking words I ever expected to hear out of this slight mans mouth “Do you want some Meat?” There was No hello, No introduction. He just blurted out the phrase as if it was a perfectly normal thing to ask a complete stranger.
I wish I could re-capture my exact inner dialogue at this moment, I am pretty sure it went something like the following: “No.” Instead of listening to the voice of reason, instead of closing the door on this apparent lunatic, I shrugged my shoulders and replied ” Sure I guess.” I know what your thinking, why would someone who is nervous to answer an innocent knock at the door accept meat form a complete stranger? I have spent countless sleepless nights pondering my actions of that day, but to no avail my thoughts elude me and no answer was ever forthcoming.
I gave a quick glance at Sam both of us appalled with my apparent inability to assert myself and say No to the freakish mans request. I twisted back toward the man, and gave him a sheepish smile. He rewarded it with an eerie thin lipped grin, the kind a villain in the movies gives when his underhanded plans to trick the unsuspecting victim are realized. He said nothing, turned on his heal and began to walk across the dimly lit hall, beckoning me to follow with a curled finger pointing to what was sure to be my final moments. I shot Sam a look that could have won me an Oscar if I was cast in a horror movie, and continued down the hall after the man in the blood red polyester suit.
We reached his door and slowly it opened at the softest touch. I gingerly placed each foot on the soft white carpet of this strangers dwelling. His living room was adorned with copious amount of trinkets, brass statues, old records, and porcelain nick-knacks. These must be trophies from his previous victims I thought. Smoke from burning incense wafted about carelessly in the air, filling my lungs with the sweet false stench, surely created to cover up more devious smells. I heard the door gently closing the soft sounds of the locks whispering their song of finality. I followed him into the kitchen area, with a polite nervous smile plastered on my face, secretly glancing around for a window or door that would lead to my freedom, but alas none was to be found. His dark black eyes lifted to my face, as he gestured to the open freezer door. My body shifted to face the horrific mess that was this mans kitchen. The dirt stained door was wide open, and packed full of Meat and ice. The ice was half melted and mixed with bloody juices, dripping onto the dingy linoleum at the rate of a human heart beat. Drip..drip….Drip..drip….Drip..drip. The flesh was lean and cut into deep crimson strips, approximately the length of a human thigh, raw butchered steaks were laying listlessly in their icy coffin. Clearly this was not store brought meat. I inhaled sharply, and held my breath, as if a lack of oxygen would help me. Have you ever wondered what you would do in a life threatening situation? I always imagined I would be all heroic and bad ass, but then you find yourself in one of those situations only to discover you are just a wuss covered in a coating of distorted fortitude. The old mans eyes danced with delight as they grazed my frightened face ” Just take some meat!”
To afraid to deny his request at this time I reached my shaking hand into the cold dark and bloody abyss. My fingers caressed the first piece of un packaged meat, I felt the ice flakes crush beneath my sweaty palms. With a quick jerk I aimed to swipe a few pieces and high tale it out of this nightmare, but that was not to be. The “human steaks” were frozen together and then frozen to the bottom of the freezer. I gave the bloody iced over muscle a gentle tug and giggled nervously at my would be killer. With his hunched back turned to me he reached his spindly fingers into a rickety narrow drawer next to the food crusted stove. This is it Shelly, hit him over the head with a frying pan and get the hell outta there! In one swift motion he pulled out a long shiny object and pointed it to the ceiling looking at it with admiration. incense filled my eyes, trying to focus it dawned on me, this murderous man had a butcher knife in his hands! My skin instantly broke into a cold sweat. RUN, RUN!! my mind was yelling at my now lifeless legs. I tightly closed my eyes and waited for the smooth blade to cut my exposed neck. Like I said, I am apparently a giant cuckold. His wrinkled hands grabbed my clutched fingers as he placed the wooden handle in them. ” Here use this to break the meat free from the ice.” He proposed with a voice as smooth as custard. Relief washed over me. This man is not going to kill me, He honestly just wants to give me meat. I shifted my focus back to the bloody steak freezer and proceeded to chip away blocks of ice and meat.
“That’s good enough for now, you can come back and get the rest once it has thawed out more.” Holding chunks of frozen meat in both hands, I shrugged my shoulders hopping he would pick up on the obvious dilemma of running down the hallway with raw meat in my hands. He passed me some tin foil to wrap the grizzled meat in. (side note: why wouldn’t you wrap it in foil before freezing it?) I took my dubious packages and proceeded to walk to the door thanking the man for the meat. I must of had the strangest look on my face, because honestly that was probably one of the most peculiar encounters of my life.
Sam, breathed a sigh of relief when I walked in the door. “So he just gave you Meat?” He asked expectantly. I regaled the terrifying story, to Sam who was staring with a look of amusement and disbelief on his face. (It still bothers me to this day that he didn’t come with me on this meaty adventure.) After all was said and done one fact still remained: There is no way I am going to eat this meat! I shoved the raw frozen meat at Sam and told him to get rid of it NOW! Awkwardly the meat passed between us and there ensued the dilemma of disposing the meat.
“Where should I put it?”
” I don’t know just get rid of it! “
” Cant we just put it in our garbage?”
” No F-ing way, do I want that in here! “
“We’ll then You find a place to put it!”
” Hell No! I was the one who had to pick axe it out of some weird guys freezer, who could have killed me by the way! “
Sam shuffled walked out the door, with the miscellaneous meat, and disposed of it. Apparently he threw it in the dumpster outside the apartment. I was told that he thoroughly covered it with boxes and other garbage so that it would not be discovered, by the meat man, in hopes to avoid some awkward conversation in the future.
“Why don’t you want my meat, it’s good meat..?” The meat man would say. I would probably stand there starring into space, allowing the blood in my body to boil over with potential explanations, none of which would suffice, before I would just run away, spending the rest of my lease avoiding the man.
Over the course of the next few months this crazy dance played out. The meat man would knock on our door. ” Would you like some more meat?” I would grudgingly follow him to his apartment and proceed to chip away the bloody ice, freeing the meat. I would then return to my abode and Sam would sneakily hide the meat In the dumpster, in order not to offend the man and his meat gift.
Needless to say the whole experience was torturous for me. Strange man, innocuous small talk, bloody meat, and so on. I am sure you can imagine my relief when his freezer was finally empty and all that was left were meat blood ice chips. Except, instead of relief I felt empty, like I would miss the charade. I found myself missing the small talk, the meaningless recounts of our day to day activities.
It was Christmas Eve and it had been a few months since I last saw the meat man. Sam and I were preparing to leave the apartment I order to attend our families Christmas celebrations. When a familiar knock yet again graced our door. Instead my usual crawl around on the floor trying to hide from the visitor I excitedly swung the door open. On the other side stood my new acquaintance, the meat man. In a small voice he asked Sam and I if we would join him for a Christmas cocktail. I smiled brightly and replied “Of course!” We followed down the hallway after the man, and I entered his crowded apartment one more time.
In the middle of his living room a small gold table was delicately placed surrounded by three plush chairs. Upon the opulent table was a bottle of cognac, some melted brie cheese and crackers, and a few Cuban cigars. We sat as he poured us a generous glass of the aged brandy, and lit a cigar.
Throughout the night he regaled us with the most marvelous stories from his past. He told us tales from a time when he used to play jazz with the Thelonious Monk. He shared the story of the love of his life and her passing. He painted verbal pictures of his adventures in New Orleans. My meat man, whom I have shared numerous amounts of small talk with suddenly became the most interesting man in the world. The aged Brandy went down smoothly as we conversed all night, playing old jazz records, losing myself in another persons story. That would be the last I saw of him. I can’t say for certain where he went. I would like to think he is living peacefully, sharing his stories with anyone brave enough to accept them, and his meat.
It is easy to always think about ourselves and the happenings in our life. It is easy to judge someone based on our preconceived ideals of societal norms. It takes time and patience to listen to someone’s stories especially when they don’t pertain to you. It takes compassion and understanding to set aside your judgements and accept someone for who they are. But, If you are lucky enough, to step outside of yourself, if for only a few moments, and give your time and full attention to someone else, you might be surprised how truly freeing and rewarding it can be. I have been blessed to “meat” this amazing man even if it was in an unconventional way, and never again will I be fearful of opening the door, to someone strange.