The doorbell rings.
Given the cautious person that I have become after the first ring I don’t just stand up and get it. I sit and wait. If the person rings a couple of times it might be urgent enough for me to give it some consideration. I check the watch: after 8pm. I’m thinking this could be challenger number ten. I didn’t think I was going to make it this far because the competition is very stiff. My lips part and bend upwards happily. Nice work. I tell myself to focus, I need to check, I can pop the prosecco later if I’m still around to do any popping.
At the second ring I get up. Beyond the balcony the night beckons, many blinking eyes of white and red making me unsure if skyscrapers are animate beings or not. Nevertheless, I am not distracted by this annunciation of nocturnal revels since the only thing that concerns me is my most precious possession. I amble over to the door, considering all options of what might happen next.
When I say cautious, I mean getting on the bus then surveying every passenger, regularly turning around in the direction I’m coming from, being vividly aware of all possible exits of a building or appartment at all times, forever standing with legs slightly parted and knees partially bent, yet not making an oaf of myself. This is what has got me to this level.
I look through the peephole with its nightmarish representation of visitors: a young lady in dark blue official get-up, long black hair, dark sun glasses [it is after 20:00] and the compulsory huge bulge of a head the peephole provides.
– Who is this?
– U.P.Ex, got a delivery for a Mr. B. Huizinga?
– Haven’t ordered zip in months. You must have the wrong address lady.
– No sir. Sez here: Dispatcher anonymous. Addressee: Benedict Huizinga. Is that your name sir?
– Yes it is. But I’m not having an anonymous package delieverd directly to my home address. Ok?
– Sir, Mr. Huizinga, sir. If you don’t accept and sign off on this, I will deliver this to the local post office. Picking it up there sir, it will cost you an extra 20 bucks.
Maybe the reason I am delaying the proceedings is that I am quite aware that this indeed must be number ten and that I could be pushing my luck, that the streak might not last. Like everybody else, I’m vain and self-serving enough to believe that the laws of probability magically do not apply to me, but the odds don’t care about individuals, they act brutally at the macro scale.
I open the door. She does look exceedingly professional, donning the tight type of clothes that only differentiate in the most general manner: female/male. She is chewing gum obnoxiously and has or mimicks perfectly the air of a long strenuous day, as in “please just let’s get this done and go home and crash”. With her cap pulled down just to the hairline, she’s staring at the floor and I wonder if she’s operating at the level where she can read my stance and not only know that I am totally ready but also have seven different options of neutralizing me.
For the position I am in now, this comes with the territory: trying to know what the other person knows that you know, like samurai staring at each other for hours, slightly readjusting postures, finally running at each other screaming at the top of their samuraian lungs. Myself, as I stand there, I have five guns and seven knifes planted on my body. I sign the forms. There is a little ideogram on the form. The logo is a figure sitting atop a winged, taloned box, flying above a section of the earth’s rim. I like the idea of the parcels magically locomoting of their own accord and Universal Postal Express staff only just imparting them a specific direction. I believe the crystal is an object that also only follows its own logic, affording its keeper a brief interval of grace.
– It’s a bit late for a delivery, don’t you think?
– Late shift.
– What about workers’ rights?
– You are kidding, certainly. I’m not into union politics, i’m into making a living.
– This you call life?
– You have to sign here, here and here, sir. And the date over here. Thank you.
I’m growing nervous now, waiting for her to finally make her move. I feel at home in physical conflict but the build-up, to me, is nerve-wrecking. Then, with a flourish of my left, I’m done with the formalities and give her the benefit of my least chauvinistic twinkle, which she returns with an ironic beam. If there were cameras rolling we couldn’t be doing any better but there is only the shutter of my anxious iris.
The box is in my hands now and suddenly I am unsure what to do next. The parcel [a stick of dynamite or smoke bomb or narcotic device, etc.] seems like a smart vector of attack so this is the time to just drop it to let her know I know she knows.
But in case she is, after all, just am U.P. Ex lady and not challenger numero ten this will make me look like an utter buffoon. Which, let me face this, is not what I want to look like. While I still hesitate uncharacteristically, she already says:
– Ok, sir. Have a nice evening [And turns away half-a-step]
– Hold on, I just wanted to […]
At this moment, for .7 seconds or less, I foolishly commit my efforts to not making the outwards impression of a socially incompetent idiot. The moment I do, I know, at least my spine does, that I am off-guard but by then it’s already considerably too late. In that instant, I also achieve a clear appreciation of my capacities and limitations that made my long stint as a guardian well worth the while.
The parcel is still sitting in my useless arms as she swivels her particle gun at me. Gun, piece, pistol, thing, the business end of violence.
– What is this?
– But you know what this is. We’re going inside. No tomfoolery, I have no problem using the thing and then turning your appartment ass-side up.
– You do know I’ve been challenged nine times, right? The keeper extraordinaire. I would like to tell you a little secret.
– No, you can’t. Just be still before I reduce you to submolecular dust. Since you’re the keeper, were the keeper, you already know what the trick is: not to get distracted. To stay focussed. Not to look into the crystal too much. I’ve done my homework. This here is as far as you go.
– I always decide myself, yes, where I will go.
– Naturally. Let’s go inside then.