As the clock sped towards 8:00 AM and I sat on the stairs leading to our third level chomping on a bagel that was determined to stick to my teeth, the doorbell rang. K and I both froze. Who could it be at this unearthly morning hour? While I hesitated with my half full mouth, K dropped the vessel he was holding and wiped his hand before being the gracious host. Opening the door, he found the guy from the servicing company we had engaged to paint our outdoor shutters and doors, smiling outside. “Are you going to be home today?” the guy asked. K replied in the negative and paused. “You can leave the front door open then. We will need to paint around the corners…”
The rest of the conversation was around what needed to be done and why the front door needed to be unlocked. K reassured him it would be and asked him to lock it behind him when he was done. Sitting at the back of my home, I was feeling strangely uneasy. My mind scattered in a thousand different ways imagining worst case scenarios. As I took stock of the ‘valuables’ in the home, I realized no matter what I did apart from staying home and keeping an ‘eye’ on the workmen, I would not find peace.
Even as I struggled with trusting the service folks, I realized a lot of it was from deeply embedded childhood memories. Memories of suspicion imbibed from parents, from people around me. Of locking every bureau, room and window before we left home. Of sometimes turning back to tug on the lock to ensure it was well and firmly locked. My mind went back to the initial days in our one bedroom apartment with wide sliding glass doors opening out to the balcony. The first few days, I couldn’t sleep as I imagined thieves with diamond tipped glass cutters at work on our balcony door. Over the next few years, I relaxed enough to sleep and at times keep the door open in summer as we let the breeze waft us into sleep.
The first time I left my garage door open as I left to work I returned home and turned the place upside down in my panic to make sure everything was in place. The next few times I shrugged and made a note to remember. It is amazing how we are lulled into a sense of peace till the next time we hear of something untoward.
As I rounded the bend in my car that morning, I told myself this was truly a test of my belief in the basic goodness of people. And I think I passed with flying colors.