I used to get this nice old lady at the door. She’d have her hanky out dabbing sweat from her forehead when I answered it. In summer, our town can reach temps of forty degrees celsius (that’s about a hundred and four in Yankee). Before we ever got to God, I’d ask her if she needed some water. She must have been at least eighty years old. I’d recently learned that Jehovah’s Witnesses are required to go door-to-door or they can face excommunication and shunning. From that day forward, I could see in my nice old lady’s eyes, she didn’t wanna be at my door any more than I wanted a visitor at 8 am Saturday morning. I felt for her.
I can’t ever invite them in, because my senior dog has baggage. He’s a rescue and barks at strangers, and he’s a pretty big guy. He’s scares people. I used to just put him outside, but he’s nearing sixteen now, and it’s not so easy to usher him out the back door and get back to answer the front door before my visitor leaves. So, I just hop out onto the stoop and explain, “my old guy likes to bark and I’m afraid he’ll hurt himself.”
She’d ask my name every time, for the life of her she couldn’t get it straight. She’d ask me if I ever wonder why the world seems bleaker than ever, and I’d think to myself, does it, though? Looking around at the breathtaking hills I stare dreamily at every day out my front window, the sun beating down on the lake below us with the sound of my son’s infectious giggling adrift in the relieving breeze. I couldn’t really feel this bleakness she was talking about, but I smiled and said, “Sure.” Of course, she always explained, it was because more people were distancing themselves from God. She’d always end with an invitation to come to their Kingdom Hall, and leave me with the Watchtower. I’d thank her each time. I’d smile, too. I’d make sure to ask again if she needed some water before she left. Out would come her little purple hanky again, and she’d dab the sweat off her forehead the entire way back up my steep driveway, turning to wave at me when she got to the top.
Almost every Saturday, like clockwork, she was here. Until she wasn’t.
I don’t know what happened to her. I’d like to think the organization had enough compassion to see she was far too old to be doing this and relieved her of her duty to sweat profusely on my stoop. I’d like to think that, because the alternative is that they worked her like this until she either got too sick to do so, or she died. As much as I loathe religion, I always hope, perhaps naively, that people are still compassionate for the most part.
Several months went by with no visits from the Witnesses. Snow fell and the ground froze and then one day, this perfect couple knocked on my door. They greeted me with blindingly white veneers, extended their hands, which were wrapped in luxuriously fitted gloves. He was in a tailored suit with tapered pants and a matching North Face coat and she had a Michael Kors scarf swirling around her for days. They were the sort of couple that you might picture oozing from the pages of a Tommy Hilfiger catalogue. Eerily flawless.
“Hi, I’m Billy and this is my wife Megan,” The sandy-haired man looked me right in the eyes, his soft blues glittering with eagerness. Of course, his name was Billy and she was Megan. How… perfect. He explained that the couple were in town to oversee the building of the new Kingdom Hall. I was surprised they were building one, with just 90 Witnesses in town, but I didn’t ask about it. Instead, I asked about her.
“An elderly woman used to come to my door. Do you know what happened to her?”
I got a very obviously rehearsed, white-washed answer about coming to their next open house to see if I could spot her. They didn’t know who I was talking about. These people were plastic opportunists with nothing below the surface. I told them I was busy and closed the door.
They came back a week later and went to open their Bible. I took it from Megan’s delicately manicured hands, closed it and set it back in her hands.
“The elderly lady. What happened to her?”
“Courtney, we would love it if you joined us on-”
“No, thank you.” As I closed my door, they said they were headed back to Alberta. I was being assigned a brand new Witness to do all the accosting at my house.
Months went by and the ground defrosted. Flowers bloomed and bears came down from the hills to terrorize us as we braved the walks to our mailboxes. She came knocking on a dismal day, though. Our normally crispy, dry landscape was soggy and mucky and thunder beat down on us from above. She stood on my stoop, squinting in the rain, no smile, just a very small hello. She’s about my age, plump around the center and miserably unhappy. At least she was that day. It was very clear she was only standing there in front of me because if she didn’t, her whole world would come crashing down around her. She held her sopping hand out. I shook it.
She pointed, trembling, to passages in the Bible as her God soaked the pages with rain. I told her she looked freezing, would she like some tea.
“No.” She said. She didn’t even thank me. She just looked at me, squinting, big drops of water caught in her eyelashes and eyebrows and the corners of her mouth turned down. “You know what? I’ll come back Friday. Do you have five minutes on Friday to talk about God?”
I told her I certainly did. She left me with a soggy Watchtower and trudged through the river of water running down my driveway.
So, maybe tomorrow I’ll finally find out what happened to my elderly Witness and her lilac hanky and her warm smile. Maybe tomorrow.