strange men knocking loudly late at night

You just know when someone is handing you a subpoena.

OK, you don’t know at first, when you hear the loud pounding on your door late at night, and you peer through the peephole and see a scary guy in a knit cap scowling in your general direction. And you open the door, ever so slightly, hoping that you aren’t making a horrible mistake. Hoping the scary looking guy isn’t actually scary and doesn’t force his way into your apartment, because then, you’d be relegated to hearing the police talking over your corpse: “Why did she open the door? It was late. And dark. And he was so scary looking. And she was alone. Did she really not know better than to open the door to a stranger like that?”

But you open the door, because that’s what you do when someone knocks, even a scary someone who knocks very loudly. Your first thought is that it’s an angry neighbor, but you weren’t being loud, you were just doing dishes. Surely no one would be angry that you have the kitchen faucet on. And you don’t recall doing anything that might make a neighbor annoyed. You parked in your own space; you don’t have loud music playing; you resisted the urge to vacuum since it was so late. These are the things that go through your head as you’re unlocking the door, all the while against your better judgement.

And as soon as he asks if your name is in fact your name, you know. Somehow, you know. You’ve never been served a subpoena before, but what else could it be? He says “I have a delivery for you.” And then you really know. Because he’s not handing you flowers, and UPS doesn’t deliver after 9pm. And even if they did, most things from UPS come in an envelope, and he’s just handing you a folded stack of papers. And then as soon as your fingers touch the stack, he’s gone.

And as you take the subpoena in your hand, before you’ve seen that it’s a supoena, before you’ve read what it says, you wonder who it could be from. And crazy ideas flash through your mind. You don’t owe anyone any money. You haven’t hit anyone’s car. Or made anyone mad. As far as you know. You haven’t broken the law. And that court date for the traffic ticket is weeks away. Although you really do need to send in that letter to the court, so you don’t actually have to go down there, because that would be annoying, to have to go to court over a traffic ticket. But this can’t be for that. And you haven’t even downloaded any music lately! All of this goes through your mind as you step back inside and lock the door.

And then you unfold the thick stack of papers and read, and finally you realize that it’s a case that doesn’t really concern you directly. You’re just an innocent bystander, swept in. And just as you breathe in relief that it’s nothing bad, you realize how much work this will be, to produce all of the paperwork they want. And in two days. And you see that the subpoena was dated a couple of weeks ago, and for a moment you feel bad for the server, who must have been by your apartment a lot. How was he to know you are almost never home? But that feeling only lasts for a moment and then you’re back to thinking about how you only have a couple of days to produce things that will not be easy to find. And you wonder how it came to be that your privacy is so easily taken away for something that doesn’t even really concern you. And you wonder if you aren’t able to fully comply, if you miss something or can’t find it, or don’t dig everything out in time, can bad things happen to you? All because you’re an innocent bystander?

And hours later, you realize that you never did get back to washing your dishes.

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