I open the front door, dog in one arm, in time for Stephen, just home from work and the store, to head up the walk toward me with his grocery bag. As he reaches the steps to the porch, he glances down at the little pocket knife sitting on our top step.
That thing has been sitting there for two weeks. We came home one night after the theater and found it sitting there. It's kind of creepy to find a pocket knife on your step. You try to pretend a friend lost it or it belongs to your postman who keeps it on his key chain in case of mail emergencies, but it seems more likely that a thief tried to jimmy the lock and got scared off, leaving his tool of trade behind.
Two weeks, and neither Stephen nor I has moved the pocket knife. I don't know why. Part of it for me might be that it feels like a tiny, evil thing that I wouldn't want to touch. That thief's tool of trade. It's not like it's diseased. But I don't know what I'd do with it if I did pick it up. It's not like I'd want to use it since it's not mine. And I don't like throwing things away.
Part of it is that it feels fitting sitting there, this tiny, evil thing. After the tiny, evil start to our year, with Stephen's middle-of-the-night fall out of bed and then the ER and then Urgent Care and then my mammogram and my followup mammogram and my followup biopsy - just too many trips to the doctor and too many worries in too short a time for us both.
And part of it is that it's become familiar, this thing I always see. The other day I came up the steps and didn't see it. For a second, my brain felt disappointed and then I noticed it was still there, just off to the left a bit, lying perpendicular to the porch instead of slanty. I wondered how it got moved. I felt possessive of it: Who moved my tiny, evil pocket knife?
Sometimes I wonder if Stephen just doesn't notice it. I mean, we both saw it that first night but maybe he's just forgotten about it and hasn't noticed it since. It's very small. But he notices everything. How can you not notice a knife sitting on your porch step? Maybe he notices it and leaves it there like me. But if so, why? It seems so unlike him, not to tidy something up.
Now, grocery bag on one arm, he clearly notices it. He takes a step up, toward it.
I'm afraid he'll pick it up and this will all be over.
With one foot, he gives a nudge to the pocket knife.
Just one nudge.
"It should be slanty," he tells me.
He hefts the grocery bag up the last step to the porch and follows me through the door.