At one time, the question must have been a genuine one, but it had become a school-yard charade. For me, it never was a game or silly riddle. The question once brought deep terror to me as a child.
I was most surprised and caught off guard when finishing a Popsicle one hot summer day. My hands were sticky and orange colored. The stick teased me to play along.
“KNOCK, KNOCK! WHOSE THERE?” was printed in blue, bold print.
I shook my head. Walking to the trash, I exhaled deeply and threw the stick in the garbage. On popsicle sticks? Really? I thought in disbelief. Is that where this inquiry has made its final resting place?
My annoyance turned into anger when I became so lured by the question on that stupid stick that my curiosity got the best of me. The way it did with all those who once knocked on my door. I dug the stick from the rubbish. Flipping it over and reading the response made me inhale sharply. NO ONE was printed in blue, bold print.
No one? My fumes of anger were turned to wrath.
No one? No one! NO ONE! My fumes turned to liquid tears of hurt.
Now that was truly the saddest answer I had ever heard. I could handle the silly answers and the pretend answers, but this answer screamed something profoundly untrue. NO ONE.
Besides being void of any imagination, such a response was completely false. It was a lie because, as all of us know, seekers who continuously knock on a door are never truly alone. They always get an answer. And eventually something is found.
That was certainly true for the Seeker who used to come to Unit 75, where I hid. A long time ago, in the shadows of the dark, my little heart would start pounding as I sensed his approach. With both hands on the rod iron handles, the Seeker with a quiet voice would pound heavily on the door.
I would slink up to the hole in the door and barely peep through it. My toes hurting from being on their tips. I whispered my question, “Whose there?”
There was nothing but silence from a presence who had not left. Finally, he commanded me in a low, firm authoritative voice, “Open the door.” I didn’t.
With the door’s large barrier between us, neither of us got what we most wanted. I, the answer to my question. He, the obedience to his command. We came to an unspoken understanding. I pushed the cardboard, which was blocking the bottom of the door, to the side and stuck my trembling hand through the hole. Two sounds provided answers.
Plop. Bread in my hand, bringing relief to my hunger pains.
Clink. Coins in my hand, protection from a man I deeply feared and desperately loved.
Some One is there.