What terrifies you?
May 1, 2018

Forty years later, I can still hear the knock. Loud and crisp. Knock, knock, knock. Someone was at the door, and I was terrified. I was in college, working a summer job in construction, staying at a motel that had seemed a bargain.

“Who is it?” I said, starting to cry.

Another knock like the first one.

“Who is it?” I asked again, sobbing now.

“Open the door!” the man said.

“Will you tell me who you are?” I asked again, trying to buy time. I worried I was only making the guy mad by delaying the inevitable. He could’ve easily kicked the door in, that’s how flimsy it was.

“The motel manager,” the man said. I knew that wasn’t true because the manager was in his sixties. This person sounded decades younger. He sounded big, and mean. “Open the door!” he snapped. “Just let me in!”

I kept crying. I started pleading with the man to talk with the guy next door. I didn’t know if anyone was even renting the room next to mine, but it couldn’t hurt to put that idea in this man’s head. Maybe he’d reconsider if he thought someone could hear us.

“What’s his name?” the guy said, growing more impatient. “He owns the motel,” I said. “I’m sure he could help you with whatever you need. Will you please go talk with him?” This was a lie. The owner wasn’t in the room next to mine. He was in the next building -- which may as well have been on the other side of the world at the moment.

Why did this guy keep asking me to open the door? Why didn’t he just force it open himself? It wouldn’t have taken much. I worried about the wisdom of making him work to get inside when that was a given, but again I decided to keep pleading with him. As long as there was a locked door between us I had a chance.

“Um,” I said, still sobbing. “I’m really scared. Will you please just go away?”

We went back and forth for what seemed like forever but was probably only a minute, maybe two. And it wasn’t just this guy’s voice I heard, either. It was my dad’s, before I’d started this summer job -- none too thrilled I was putting myself in what he was sure was harm’s way.

To be continued.