The generatiom game.
Without the scuff mark on the wall i wouldn't of recognised the hallway. I leaned into the slight incline towards the bare wooden door. Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash. I rappped lightly, my nuckles dumbed by the leather of my glove, half praying not to be heard, not to have to do what must be done tonight. Five seconds passed, eight, ten. Removing my gloves finger by finger i delayed the second sounding as long as i could, still wishing i was back in the bakery window scrutinising the world from my detached position.
Swallowing the bile back down my throat I pulled my spine straight and rose to my fullest height feigning the confidence i could never feel, my bare knuckles came back to their ultimate point and i was about to release full weight on the wooden panel when i heard the heavy deadlock being thrown. Another latch was disengaged and what sounded like a steel rod was dragged away from the door. It opened only as far as to catch loudly on a thick chain and a small tussled haired elderly gentleman stared at me, his cloudy eyes searching for some point of recognition in my wrinkled brow, while I was still frozen in my pe-door-knocking position and must have looked quite unsettling to the just awoken old man.
Quick to establish who i was and what i was doing knocking on his bare wooden door at such an unseemly hour as this, he saw the hat, uniform and badge and i convinced him to close the door and reopen it again without the heavy chain so he could let me in.
By the time i had stepped inside and closed the door he had already slumped in a small thread bare armchair. His head was facing half away from me so i could see his features only in profile. He took the news hard as anyone would expect and i could see the swelling of tears weighing down the lower lid of his eye. I could see his hands were trembling and the rope-like muscles in his forearms were rolling over each other in a vain attempt to still his hands.
I stood stock still, uncomfortably witnessing what should have be an old mans private grief, too close to stand back too distant to console. I began to say something but his body turned to follow his head facing away and he presented his back to me in shame. The skinny arms no longer subduing the hands and his whole frame shook with the flood of pain. To him i was no longer there, nothing else in the world existed for the weakened grey man except confusion, regret and a million other indefineable emotions battling for prominence in the wash.
Judging the time right, I turned on my heel noiselessly and headed to the small bedroom where he had come from when i awoke him, lifting the still warm matteress with my right arm and deftly searching with my left hand, I removed a large, tattered brown envelope. Not bothering to open it I put it in the satchel that hung across my shoulder and moved instinctively to the bedside drawers. Like most other gentlemen of his generation he was in the habit of taking off all his jewellery before retring and palceing it near to his bed, so i collected up his gold watch( catching a glimpse of an inscription on the back but knowing better than to read it and upset myself at this stage of the game) , two gold rings, one with a ruby, and a gold wrist chain with magnets included. Not bad. My trained eyes quickly glanced around the rest of the small room for anything else but found nothing. Breathing deep into my stomach i steadied my heart and turned back to the front room.
Stepping back in I was glad to see he was still facing towards the window and had not noticed my absence. I checked my watch for the first time since arriving at the apartment and realised it was time to go. Clearing my throat to offer my deepest sympathy for his loss, he started with a fright before remembering i was there. He managed to wave his hand in a gesture i took as dismissial and turned towards the heavily fortified door and smiled.
I knew that for all the deadlocks, steel rod barracades, heavy chains and personal precautions anyone takes, i could get by them easily, without force, without violence. No-one gets hurt. I get what i need. Best for everyone that way.