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The Thud at the Door

“I was living on the edge, my marriage was failing, I could feel it.  I didn’t know what to do.  This book was going to give me something, something to hold on to, you know at least something to read over the weekend.”  

     Margaret’s blue/green eyes, her shoulder length blond hair, clear light olive skin, long fingers and manicured nails attract attention.  She was a man magnet.  Bret is the latest.  He isn’t a big man but he has a big man’s attitude and walk. He’s from Texas.  You notice his black mustache right away.  When he speaks, the southern down home drawl is what you hear.  “Yao! tough times”, Bret’s blue eyes light up when he’s excited.  

     Riding on the streetcar at 10th and Couch riding past the bookstore shipping room, Margaret remembers the Friday afternoon mailroom union picket in March of 2000.  How could she forget, it always comes back to her when she sees the store.

     Speaking to Bret, she said, “I don’t remember much about that Saturday.  I do remember that every sound that Saturday afternoon was a delivery truck stopping at the end of the driveway.  But nothing ever came. The book was supposed to be delivered the next day.  I waited and no one came to the door, and then the old dark feelings came back, they ran through me like electricity.  The demons took over and I felt like a puppet on a string, out of control and being pulled down.  Someone else had the remote control and I was helpless.  That book was my salvation but it never came!”

     A car turns in front of the streetcar, it’s horn blares.  The streetcar jerks, lurches forward, and stops.  Passengers bump into one another.  

      Margaret’s monologue continued, “later when I read about the disruption at the Bookstore mailroom I began to understand what happened.  The unions were blocking the doors of the warehouse that Friday evening.   So no mail went out.  My book never left the store.  Such bad timing, I wondered why were the longshoremen there at a bookstore?  It seemed so odd to me.  Any other day the next day’s mail gets out as scheduled and delivered.  Just not on that Friday night in March.”

     “It was a long long weekend .  .  .”

     Remembering it now, Margaret felt that helpless lost feeling again.  At the time she felt she was being pulled away from Frank, her husband.  She didn’t know him anymore. That Friday night it came out of the haze, she recognized it, and it was frightening to her, divorce, unthinkable to her until just that moment.  “I was frightened but I did my research and picked out the best book I could find.  I was drawn to the idea of healing, like healing a wound, you know, healing the marriage.  Keep it clean, follow the rules, make it better.  It all seemed the right thing to do.”

     “In the first few counseling sessions with Frank I was anxious to heal but over time things changed. He was so rigid and unforgiving.  With time, the counseling made things worse.  He wasn’t changing, he treated me and talked to me like I was a child.  Rather than healing the wound the counseling opened up the old hurts.  I didn’t deserve his belittling, so what if I’m not like him.  I know I have gifts to give our children.  He is so set and rigid.  I could never be like him, besides . .”  

     After a breath, Margaret went on, “there was the time I thought I was locked out of the house.  I had the key but I didn’t know it. That was when Frank pretended that he didn’t hear me knocking on the door.  I was locked out of the house!  He said he wanted to teach me a lesson, I was locked out pounding on the door”. 

“Bret”, she sighed, “Frank’s a long story, he loved to make fun of me, belittle me, it got unbearable.”  She paused for ten seconds, then spoke quietly “You know, I’m not the most organized person, and I’m not always on time.  That doesn’t make me a bad person or mother does it?”  Bret was shaking his head, Margaret silent for a moment, took in his face and torso, searching for assurance.

     Then, her eyes fell on a man in shorts, tennis shoes, a ball cap, and tattoos on his arms and calves staring at her.  She felt like his eyes were drinking her, licking her.  Margaret turned away, but then she looked back at him.  His eyes were glued on her.  She felt trapped, dirty, disgusting, she felt tightness in her chest. 

      Margaret turned away again and looked at Bret, her eyes tearing, she reached out her hand to Bret.  She spoke in a hushed voice, “I do remember the ride to the emergency room that Saturday and the face of the man when we were bouncing around in the ambulance, but I don’t remember much else.  I didn’t want to hurt myself but there was no controlling it.  The world was out of control, I needed it to stop, every sound made me anxious, the book, where was the book?  I wanted it all to stop! My stomach was sore for days afterwards, the shot in the emergency room made me want to sleep.”

     Silent for a moment, Margaret continued, “Monday afternoon I heard a small thud at the front door.  I remember the THUD at the door and the brown package, the book “Healing a Marriage” was on the front steps. It was also the day I knew, in some part of me, somewhere inside, that my marriage was over and divorce from Frank was inevitable.”

     Margaret for a moment silently wondered how she could have marked that time so precisely, when she knew her marriage was over.  Had her divorce from Frank really begun with that THUD at the door?  She thought, how strange, yet, she knew it was true.  For a moment she wondered to herself, what if she had gotten the book on Saturday?  Would it have been different?  

     Her two girls were seven and five years old when she moved out with them.  Her parents knew of a place they could stay, not far from the family farm.  It was a new start, a new home for her and the girls.

     “My Dad showed me the editorial in the newspaper about the strike.  And that’s when I read about it, the longshoremen, the teamsters, and no shipment that evening”.  For a moment she imagined a photo image of the union demonstration.

     Margaret talking to Bret, “That day the book didn’t arrive was the day I knew that the marriage with Frank was over”.  “The thud at the door was the beginning of the end.”  Bret looked at Margaret, he scanned her face and torso, touched her hand but said nothing.

     Out the streetcar windows Margaret saw the people waiting at the next stop at Everett Street as the streetcar slowed, slug-like, and crawled to a stop.