[Recently a friend of mine had something stolen from her, under some shady circumstances. She got it back, thank goodness. She inspired me to write this. People like to say "I know how you feel" when bad things happen to you. But they don't know. Here's how it feels:]
Almost 4 years ago...
I got home late from work, around 6pm. I put my key in the lock and turned it, but I noticed the usually sticky tumbler didn't turn. The door was already unlocked.
Huh, I thought, I am usually so good about locking the door. But I had left early that morning and was studying for a big test at work. Maybe I just forgot. So I went inside.
The next thing I noticed was that the hall light was on. Odd, I didn't remember doing that either.
And then I looked at the table where I kept my laptop. Gone. And my TV? Gone.
I turned to look at the doorjamb. It was splintered. Later I saw the tool marks- my door had been pried open with a crowbar.
Now in a state of panic I ran back to my car and locked the doors. I remember it being so hot, that between crying and sweating I was just a dripping mess-- perhaps you know the kind, where your entire face feels like it's melting off?
I called 911. It took forever for the police cruiser to arrive (forever, or maybe 15 minutes).
They took my statement, dusted for fingerprints. They saw a photo of my boyfriend on the shelf and asked many pointed questions about whether he might have done it. (He didn't. Yes, I'm sure.) An officer waited while I packed some clothes and headed for a friends house. The frame was too broken for me to lock the door. But that didn't matter, there wasn't anything left to steal. I am so grateful to my friend who took me for a few nights. Not that I slept much, of course.
A place I thought was safe was no longer safe. No place would ever be safe again. The next day, I had to go back. I had not packed more than one day's worth of clothes the night before, in fact I had forgotten underwear completely. I brought a friend from work with me, so I didn't have to go alone.
I moved out only a week later (I payed two sets of rent for two months until my lease at the old place was up- they refused to let me out early), I never slept another night alone in that apartment.
Though it had happened in broad daylight, I became afraid of the dark. I still do not go outside very often after dark when I'm home alone. When I get home late at night, I pull my car into the garage and close the garage door before getting out of my car. Nobody said fear was rational.
I got an alarm system installed- first at my next apartment and now in my house- but when I go on vacation I always worry about my house. Will the alarm function if the power goes out? Might someone beat the monitoring system and get in undetected? Will I come home again to find the doorjamb shattered, the TV removed from the mantle?
I haven't gone to bed alone a single night since then without thinking about what I would do if someone broke into my house that night. Never without imagining whether the alarm would wake me with time to get away... whether I would remember to grab my phone when I ran, so I can call for help? Where would I run? This closet? That one? The far side of the bed? Could I get to the gun in time? Would they run away when the alarm siren went off, or would they venture inside? Would the police come in time? Will they hurt me? I imagine different scenarios, different game plans every time.
What was taken from me that day? Many things. Most of them were replaced by my insurance. But my last safe place was taken too. I will never get that back.