By Stephen Mander
I get a phone call from this guy. He asks if he could make an appointment. I say, “What kind of appointment?” and he goes: “Seriously? You want me to spell it out?” So I think about it a bit and say, “Actually, no, I don’t,” and put the phone down.
Five minutes later the phone rings again. This time it’s a different guy, and he doesn’t bother asking a question. He says: “I’d like to make an appointment for ten o’clock this evening,” his voice sounding like he’s done this before.
So I think about it. I could ask him what kind of appointment again, or something like, I’m busy then, but I could pencil you in at, say, eleven o’clock next Tuesday, but I don’t. I say, “Fine, see you then,” and go through to the kitchen and tell Jess, my flatmate, two guys have called asking for appointments.
She says, “And what did you say?” I tell her yes to one, no to the other, and she says, “Do they know where we live?” They don’t. At least I didn’t tell them.
“They probably won’t come.”
Jess says, “I suppose not, but if they were talking about appointments, they maybe know our address – have you given it out to anyone, we only moved in last week?”
I shake my head – no.
She says, “Well let’s just get on with dinner then,” and we do, and we eat.
When we’ve finished and cleared up, the doorbell rings. I go answer it, and open the door to find a man wearing a suit, jumper and coat. He says, “Hi, I rang earlier, and I say, “Yes?” He stumbles on: “About the appointment.” I ask him, “And what did I say,” realising this must be the first caller – it isn’t anywhere near ten o’clock. He says, “Nothing, but-” I interrupt him, “But you came anyway. How did you know where to come?” He says a friend gave him the address.
I cross my arms and say, “And do you usually just call people’s homes asking to make appointments, then when they say no, you can’t make an appointment, ignore their wishes and come anyway?”
He shrugs. I look him up and down. Jess calls “Who is it?” from the kitchen. I hear the dishwasher slam shut and shout back, “One of those guys wanting to make an appointment.”
The guy fidgets and looks down the corridor and back to the stairs. Jess says, ”Which one,” coming from the kitchen through to the front door, “the one you said no to or the one you said yes to?”
I tell her. The guy looks down the corridor again. Jess says, “Well, are you going to let him in?” I look at the guy and say, “Sorry I don’t think I can. I don’t know who you are, and my mum always told me never to talk to strangers.”
The guy fidgets some more and says, “But I’ve got money. I can pay you.”
Jess laughs; I do too. I say: “For what?”
He says: “Please,” and digs a hand into his inside jacket pocket and pulls out his wallet. He flips it open and begins taking notes out, asking, “How much? Really, how much? I’ll give you anything.”
I keep my arms crossed and repeat, “What for?”
He says, “Please, you know what for.”
I look at Jess and she says, “We do?”
He winces and says, “Please let me in. My friend said if I just call and make an appointment, then everything will be fine.”
I say, “But you didn’t make an appointment, did you?” and his shoulders slump. Then his face suddenly brightens, and he says, “Okay, can I make one now?”
I look at Jess, then him. I think about it. I could let him in, ask him to come back another time, pencil him in for next week, demand to know what kind of appointment he’s talking about. But I don’t. I look at him and say, “No,” and gently close the door.
At ten, the second caller comes round and I ask him how he got my address and phone number. He says a friend gave him a card and he hands it to me. I look at it and, pulling the door open, show him in.