Knocking at the Door
The more Lorraine saw Albert the more the friction built between her and her father Bruno. Human nature can be odd. By telling his daughter not to see her boyfriend he was only driving her towards him, in fact, she was falling in love.
Albert was very attracted to Lorraine, but being a western boy, most recently California, he wasn’t sure how long he’d be staying in the northeast. His non-committal attitude made her want him all the more. Finally came the big blow out with her dad.
“You will not see him again!” said Bruno.
“I will. You have no right.”
“I have every right. You live under my roof!”
“Then I will leave from under your roof!” she said.
This is the last thing he wanted, to lose her to this aimless young man. He tried to reason with her.
“Can’t you see him for what he is? Lorraine, he’s a drifter. From the west he comes all this way without a plan, just to live day to day. He will never amount to anything.”
“You don’t know him. He’s working, he’s not a drifter,” she said.
It was no use he thought she’s blind to his ways. “Just working isn’t enough,” he said.
Bruno was a very bright ambitious man who’d risen the corporate ladder to the highest level. He would manage a firm for a few years, then jump to another company that offered more money. He was responsible for many important decisions and his income mirrored this status. Material things were important to him, so was power and position. These things were of little importance to Albert. Bruno wanted this drifter’s influence out of Lorraine’s life. He gave her the ultimatum.
“I forbid you to see him anymore!”
That night she ran away, ran away as far as Albert’s that is. They sat on the couch in his little studio apartment.
“He’ll probably coming looking for me,” she said.
“This is the first place he’s going to look,” said Albert.
“He doesn’t know where you live.”
“I’m in the phone book he’ll figure it out.”
“I’m not going back.”
“What about at a friend? You could stay there. It would be neutral.”
She thought for a moment, “Beryl! She’s my best friend.
Her mom and dad like me.”
“Where does she live?”
“A few blocks from my house, same neighborhood.”
Albert laughed, “That’s cutting it pretty close, but maybe it’d be okay.”
She phoned, explaining the situation to Beryl’s mother and father who agreed to put her up until the trouble blew over. She thanked them and hung up.
Her eyes widened, “What if my dad’s already figured out where you live?”
“Then not a moment to lose. Don’t leave by the front entrance.” He walked over to a back window and opened it all the way. The icy winter air came rushing in. “We’ll take the fire escape and sneak out to your car.”
From a side alley Albert checked the front, no signs of anyone around, so they went across the street to the parking lot. After a goodnight kiss away she drove. Later, she called from Beryl’s to say she’d arrived safely. It was getting late, a work night, so Albert made ready for bed. Brushing his teeth he thought about how they’d met in a roadhouse.
Before moving to Danbury, he was living in New York City. On weekends he’d go visit his buddy, Bick, in Newtown, Connecticut. He and his chums took him to hear a rock group.
Park, a friend of Bick’s was sitting next to Albert drinking beer. He looked over at two girls sitting in a booth at the back. Albert noticed this and said “I’ll flip you for the blond.” He brought out a coin and tossed.
Covering the result with his hand, he said: “Heads you get the blond, tails I get the brown.”
Albert wasn’t wearing his glasses so he couldn’t see at a distance very well, but the brown was the cuter one. Park knew this and on the first toss pulled a face when he got the blond.
Albert noticed he wasn’t happy with the toss, so he said: “Okay, well toss again, this time heads I get the blond and tails you get the brown.”
Same result: Albert got the brown.
Park shrugged his shoulders and said “It’s okay. Let’s go ask them to dance.”
Albert didn’t realize how beautiful the brown haired girl was until they hit the dance floor. The brown hair was really dishwater blond. Their fated energy clicked, both had a great time dancing the evening away. This chemistry led to more dates and eventually going steady.
Albert made ready for the next day. He arranged his work clothes, packed a lunch, finished a letter to his folks and went to bed. At one in the morning, he was fast asleep when there came a loud knocking at his door. The kind of knocking that’s more like pounding, the kind with a lot of anger behind it, the kind that made you mess your pants. Awake within seconds Albert put two and two together—
Lorraine’s father had arrived. Then he heard more than one voice outside the door: one older, one younger. First, they were talking to each other. Then the younger one spoke up.
“We know you’re in there. We’ve come for Lorraine.”
Albert got up, put on pants and a shirt. He knew if he opened the door it wasn’t going to be a friendly visit. The younger voice must have been Matthew her older brother up visiting on mid-term break from Princeton. The heavy pounding started again. Albert tried to remain calm. There was only one thing he felt he could do: call the police. He did.
“We’ll break this door down if you don’t open it,” said the older voice.
“You can’t get away with kidnapping,” said the younger voice.
Kidnapping?! That’s total bull and they know it thought Albert. He sat down and looked around his room, knowing it was about to be occupied by more than himself. Not much to see: a table and two chairs Lorraine loaned him, an old couch his Newtown friends brought over, on the floor a foam mattress with a corner missing, his sleeping bag, pillow, and a cardboard box that doubled as a table for the telephone. He sat and waited quietly, not having said a word to them the whole time.
Then there was a change: noise in the hallway, steps on the stairs, shuffling of feet, now a new set of steps coming to his door and a different knock. This one was authoritative, but not angry. Albert sensed it was someone else, so he answered, who is it?
A new voice replied, “The police.”
Albert slowly opened the door, leaving the chain on. He saw two stocky police officers leaning in close to the opening. As tough as they looked, and that was mighty tough, their facial expressions were loaded with fear. They were ready to jump back in an instant, since they didn’t know what was on the other side of the door. Albert nodded acknowledgment, took the chain off and let them in.
“Here’s the situation: my girlfriend, Lorraine, is over 18, she was here earlier, but is now staying with some friends just a couple of blocks from where her parents live in North Salem. I just want her father to come in, inspect my apartment so he can see she’s not here and leave so I can get back to sleep. I have to go to work in the morning.” said Albert.
Both officers nodded, now having the low-down and were ready to proceed. Exchanging a glance with each other, the one closest to the door went and opened it. Stepping out, with a stage whisper, he said to someone on the stairs, “You can come in now.”
The father did not enter. No longer on the third floor, he was waiting on the floor below. Bruno sensed things were a little out of hand and being an important business executive he should adopt low profile.
Instead, it was Matthew who came in to search the premises. He was tall with a thin muscular frame, long dark hair, he wore aviator frame glasses. The first thing he did was raise his fist and thrust his finger at Albert threateningly, “You got a problem buddy!”
One of the police officers replied assuredly, “He doesn’t have any problems.”
Matthew paced rapidly back and forth. He began looking around the apartment: its small kitchen, its smaller bathroom, its smallest closet and then when he saw the cardboard box used as a telephone table he turned to Albert and said with an incredulously sneer “You live here?”
Albert thought of a smart come back, but chose not to say it.
Lorraine was not to be found, at least not at Albert’s, so Matthew walked out and down the stairs. Soon the police officers, who Albert thanked for saving the day, exited as well.
Albert and Lorraine continued to see each other. In time she patched it up to a certain degree with her dad and moved back home. In the Spring Loraine’s family threw her a birthday party, she wanted Albert to attend. Her brother found out and begged her not to invite him.
“Please don’t, please.” he was on the brink of tears.
Lorraine acquiesced and said, “Okay, I’ll see him later for dinner.”
She was baffled by Matthew’s desperate plea. It was like he was afraid to cross paths with Albert.
At the end of the summer, she left home again to join Albert who’d moved to Seattle. The next Christmas Lorraine was visiting her folks back east when Albert had an accident with her car. He called to tell her and the father hung up the phone. Strangely enough, it was Matthew who intervened.
“Let her speak to him. It could be important,” he said.
“Your on his side?!” Bruno was surprised.
“I’m not on his side. I just think this is Lorraine’s business and not ours to interfere.”
Thanks to Matthew they were allowed to communicate.
Lorraine said her big brother’s attitude toward his little sister had changed. No longer did he make fun of or look down on her. He was really fascinated by her gumption to move out and go with Albert.
Every time they visited, he always smiled at her in an esteemed way. He admired her.
After graduating University in mechanical engineering, his father recommended Matthew join the U. S. Air Force, since, without experience, it would be hard for him to get work in his field. In the service, he could get experience working on engineering projects and then when he was discharged it would be easier to find employment. He joined, but he never left the service. He liked it well enough. It was a secure position. He’d become an officer. Thirty years later he was still serving in the Air Force stationed in Europe.
The news of his death was a shock to the family. Lorraine grieved for a long time. She loved her brother and knew him so well: that hard headed bravado exterior was just a cover for how vulnerable he really was. The Italian newspaper clipping said he’d been killed in a traffic accident riding a motorcycle in Rome.
Albert heard the news from his mother, who still received letters from Lorraine even though they’d broken up many years ago. He certainly hadn’t know Matthew very well, only meeting him physically the one time in the apartment. Still, he was struck by his death. It seems, after that night, Matthew became a person to remember. He reflected on her brother, on his change of heart: how he’d joined Lorraine’s side against the father and in a way became her champion. That meeting in his apartment was so long ago and far away and yet here it was again, knocking at his door.