I was curled under a blanket on the couch watching Friends and marking essays. My boyfriend Ant had long gone to bed, but I had at least another hours’ worth of work before I could join him.
“I’ll be there for you..” played on my television as the next episode began.
Then there was a knock at the door.
Now, dating Ant, I’ve learned a lot about families that are a little more “Canadian” than mine. His parents were both born on this continent, and his ancestors had been here for several generations. I’m first-generation Canadian, so sometimes I have unique reactions and expectations.
A knock, for example, to Ant’s family, usually brings a pleasant surprise. I’ve seen it happen. The knock signals that neighbour, or a friend, is dropping by. Sometimes they even bring dessert. Other times they just want to say hi and chat. Bizarre, I know.
In my experience growing up, a knock brought danger. Like a fire drill, in the event of a knock, we had to be react quickly. Mute the TV. Turn the lights off. Crouch low so you can’t be seen through the windows. Stay as quiet as possible until they give up and go away. That’s how my grandmother handled knocks when we were young, and my brother and I imitated it in perfect form in our teen years and well into our 20s. For a long time, I firmly believed this was standard knock reaction.
But a knock at midnight was unusual under any circumstances. Who would knock on my door at midnight?! What could they possibly want?
With Friends silenced, I crept as quietly as possible to the bedroom. Ant was sound asleep, snoring lightly, and I felt bad waking him up.
A second trio of knocks made me jump nearly out of my skin. They were a little more forceful this time, a little louder. Whoever it was, they weren’t going away.
At my front door, I had to stand on my tip toes to look out my peephole, careful not to lean against it and cause movement. I still hadn’t fully committed to opening the door. To my surprise, as I peered out into the hallway there was no one there! From my vantage point, all I could see was a fishbowl view from the hole to the elevator. What the..?
Very slowly, I opened the door, and a flash of black violently pushed past me, into the apartment. My blood ran cold. I couldn’t believe it.
“…is-is that your cat?” The pink-haired girl from down the hall asked as she stood up. She must have been crouching down to pet him, though I can’t imagine he would have appreciated it in his panic. He’d been out in the hall all alone without us. He was probably terrified when he couldn’t get back in. My heart shattered for him.
“Yes!!!” I exclaimed. “We’re not bad cat pa— owners! I swear! He must have snuck out. We always know where he is! We don’t just leave him alone in the hallway!”
“Okay..” the girl said awkwardly. I hoped she thought I was more lunatic than neglectful parent. She turned to leave, “Have a good night!”
“Thank you so much!” I gushed, before shutting the door and locking it firmly behind me.
Knocks are mysterious things. You never know who or what a knock may bring. It could be anyone. Even your cat.