The Nocturnal Visitor (Jennifer Semple Siegel) (Non-fiction)

So it’s 3:00 a.m.
We returned from Baltimore two hours ago, and I’m finishing up some chores that need to be done before morning.
Big storm in Baltimore delayed the baseball game – why we arrived home so late.
Suddenly, the doorbell rings, pounding on the front door.
My heart sinks; it’s never a good sign when someone knocks on your door in the middle of the night.
I peek through the peephole.
It’s a young man, medium build with muscular arms, dark haired, possibly Latino.
He wears a dull green tank top.
He yells, “I've been robbed, and I need to call my wife!”
He sounds panicky.
I want to help, but…
It’s 3:00 a.m., and no way, no how, am I opening my door to this stranger.
Still, I don’t want to blow someone off who may be hurt and needs help.
“I’ll call 911!”
A muffled voice: “No, no, don’t do that.”
Well, hell, I’ll just throw open my door to a stranger and hope that he’s not here to rob me or worse.
Uh, no.
I call 911.
Apparently, the man flees; I don’t see him through the peephole, but he could be hiding off to the side.
I’ll wait for the officer.
When the officer arrives, he says someone else in the neighborhood has reported the same guy at their door and assures me I have done the right thing by calling 911.
The officer checks out the periphery of our property and leaves.
By now, the guy has disappeared in the wind.
My reaction raises issues for me, a self-avowed liberal, who believes that the minority, immigrant, and the poor have worth.
My reaction tonight has called my liberalism into question.
Do I just talk the talk and not walk the walk?
I grew up in a culture where one gives aid to strangers, others who are hurting, but I would not feel safe opening my door to this stranger.
Did my Spidey sense go off because he is young, male, and dark skinned?
If so, then shame on me.
Would I have opened my door to a white man in a suit?
A well-dressed woman?
A child?
Or would I be afraid of the child being used as bait?
If someone is hurt, I don’t want to ignore him or her, but, on the other hand, we live in a world where one can no longer trust strangers who pound on one’s door at 3:00 a.m.
When I settle down and think rationally about it, the man likely had a mobile phone.
Even if it had been stolen from him, there is a convenience store just around the corner.
He did not need to come to my door.
The fact he disappeared at the mention of 911 reveals his motive was likely nefarious – had I opened the door the situation might not have turned out well.
I’m not going to sleep well tonight.

(489 words)


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