I emerge from the elevator and approach the door of my apartment. My peephole is glowing white. That means the lights in my living room are on.
Strange. I never leave my apartment lights on. I have on occasion when I was really in a rush, but this particular morning I had actually taken my time. Weird.
I shake it off and put my key in the top of my 2 locks, the expensive one, and the one that cost me hundreds of dollars because the locksmith told me it is nearly impossible to pick. I go to turn my key, but the key won’t turn. That lock is already open.
Again, strange. I can count on one hand how many times I forget to lock my top lock. And it’s always intentional because I’m carrying laundry.
I put my key in the bottom lock go to turn it the one and a quarter rotations it takes to open the door, but after a quarter turn the door opens. That means I didn’t lock the bottom lock. I never forget to do that.
And now my heart rate picks up.
I walk into my apartment and all the lights are on. I can see my couch cushions sticking up. Why are my couch cushions sticking up? And my body is adrenaline. And mind is fog, and I’m starting to shake.
I walk into my living room and now my heart is beating against the inside of my chest. My mouth is open and I am moving slowly. Goosebumps are running up and down my spine. I can’t feel the air around me. I don’t know how I’m moving but I am. I can see my computer across the room on my desk, lying on its side.
This isn’t real life. This is a movie. I don’t understand what’s going on. The blood in my ears makes it tough to concentrate. I am trying to be quiet to see if I hear anything or anybody. I can’t believe I am still moving through my apartment.
I move toward my bedroom and see that my closet door is open blocking my entrance, I try to close it but I can’t because all of my clothes are on the floor.
I have to squeeze by it, and step over all of my possessions to get into my bedroom where I see my fire escape window open.
And I die. My blinds have been ripped out of the ceiling. What was first confusion and disbelief is now a fact. I have been robbed.
And my world starts spinning further out of control. And I’m losing my breath. I have to step over the mess of my possessions and squeeze past my closet to get back into the living room.
I walk back through my apartment and out my front door and I ring the bell of neighbors I have never spoken to before. I call the police. My voice is fragmented and out of tune. I close the door to my apartment and I fall to the ground.
We’ve dispatched a car that will be there right away.
The time is 10:40 pm.
I manage to stand up. Now I try to process things for a second time. What do I do? I call my friend. Because I don’t know what’s going on. Waves of varying reality wash back and forth from my mind to my heart. My friend picks up her phone. And right away I’m crying. And I can’t stop. Because I’m discovering what is missing as I’m telling her.
My watches are gone, my watch box sitting in pieces on my bed, completely empty of all of my precious valuables. And my already sunken heart falls impossibly deeper into my body. I open my nightstand where I keep pens, and old concert tickets, and a marble box full of cash I made from bartending.
Too much cash to be honest.
Cash that was going to pay for flights and hotels and meals when I went to Fiji in January.
Cash that is now gone.
I am sick. My mouth tastes like vomit and I feel like a child. I have no ability to conceptualize what has just happened.
My stuff is gone.
And now I can’t breathe. And my friend is asking me what I should do and there are a million scenarios in my head. And I’m shaking. I can’t stop. I can’t process. I don’t want to touch anything; I don’t even close my window. The window through which somebody came to steal stuff out of my apartment.
I call my mom. I call another friend. I call a co-worker.
I start to doubt myself. Did I leave my window open? Is this my fault? Oh my god will my insurance cover this if I left my window open? Oh my god what does this mean?
What does this mean?
I am so emotional I don’t see that my window is broken. The metal latch snapped off because he or they or whoever it was, shoved my window open, breaking the latch. That latch, a false sense of security that had helped me sleep well for 2 and a half years.
Time passes. I sit on the floor of my living room.
The time is 11:40 pm.
The cops still haven’t come. I call again. My voice has not improved. It quivers at varying levels of volume. I sound like somebody who has been robbed. I sound like a victim, which now I am.
The car has been dispatched and somebody will be there as soon as they can.
I text friends, they text back concerned. People call. They tell me to stay with them. They ask if I want them to come and stay with me. I don’t know what to say. I cry sporadically. I can’t control it. I feel cliché. Violated. Betrayed. Naive. Insecure. Foolish. Childlike.
I don’t want to touch anything so I stay on the floor of my living room. I turn on my television and watch the channel that shows the video feed of my lobby, hoping I won’t miss the arrival of the police. I do nothing but sit and watch.
I sit and watch.
I don’t move. I don’t know what else to do. Should it take this long? My heart jumps every time the door to my building opens but it is just people who live here.
I sit and watch.
The time is 12:40 am.
I haven’t moved. I have texted. I have spoken to my mom. I have cried. But there are no police. I feel forgotten. I call 911 for the third time in two hours. I tell them nobody has come yet. A woman takes my information for the third time.
Somebody will be there as soon as they can.
Friends text me back. Are the cops there yet? What is taking them so long? Where are they?
I don’t know answers. I don’t know anything. I don’t know how somebody got into my apartment. I don’t know how this happened to me.
The time is 1 am.
My life zooms in and out of focus. My subconscious tries to contextualize what has happened. Should I go to work tomorrow? I thought I lived in a good neighborhood. I shouldn’t have had cash in my apartment.
At some point, I don’t know when, I suddenly feel vulnerable. Weak. Like a target, like an easy target. I close the window of my bedroom and lock it. I don’t even realize at this point that the latch is now broken. The remains of the shitty metal sitting on the floor like corpse.
The time is 1:15 am.
They stole my change. The empty Gatorade bottle I fill with coins at the end of the day that I usually turn into cash at the bank that I then use to buy dinner or drinks. My change. My fucking coins.
The time is 1:20 am.
The cops finally arrive. Two police officers knock on my door, a man and a woman. But they look like teenagers. The man enters first followed by the woman who closes the door and locks it.
Oh shit, I just touched the door.
Are you fucking kidding me? They look clueless, they walk through my apartment, and they ask me stupid questions. They ask if he came through the window. I want to scream at them that I don’t know. That I wasn’t here. That they are the fucking police and they need to figure that out.
They ask for a list of items I lost. I give them one I wrote on a piece of notebook paper, it won’t be until the next morning that I realize I left off half of the items stolen from me.
They call their supervisor who comes with his partner. He asks me if there are any junkies in the building, any drug users. I tell him this is a safe building, a good neighborhood. He tells me he has never had a call here before. For a fraction of a second this makes me feel better, until I remember I have been robbed and the past doesn’t matter any more.
They tell me they are going to check out the roof. They go up the stairs and push open the fire escape door, which sets off the alarm. They walk around the roof and come back. They close the door, which doesn’t shut off the alarm.
Over the raging fire alarm tell me they haven’t seen anything but they are sending forensics to take finger prints. They tell me they will tell my super to turn off the alarm. They leave.
The time is 2 am.
I watch the video feed of my lobby over the sound of the fire alarm, which has not gone off yet. I am realizing it is going to be too late to sleep anywhere else tonight. I am hateful, I am broken, I am afraid. My mouth still tastes like vomit.
The time is 2:30 am.
The forensics team comes. They take fingerprints off the window.
Are there any other places there might be fingerprints?
Are you kidding me? How the fuck should I know? You are the police. Fix this. This is the crime scene, figure it out. Find fingerprints. Please don’t ask me. I don’t know. The fire alarm is still going off.
So I look, I point here, I point there, I point to my computer.
None of it works. There are no usable prints they tell me.
The time is 2:45 am.
They tell me I can clean up my apartment now. I can get on with my life now they say. I can’t comprehend any of this. I can’t function. They tell me they will tell my super the alarm is going off. I feel beat up. My chest is tired. I pick up my computer and fix it. I see they took out the cords, they were going to take it, but for some reason they didn’t.
Why not? Too heavy? Too bulky? I plug it in and it works. I am grateful for something tonight.
The time is 3 am.
The fire alarm is still going off.
I have no desire to sleep. My mind thinks a million thoughts. I think about everyone I know. I think about what tomorrow will bring. I think about how I am scared of my bedroom, of that window. I contemplate staying up all night.
I put the cushions back in my couch.
The time is 3:30 am.
The fire alarm is still going off.
The time is 4 am.
I grab earplugs from my nightstand. I take a blanket that was in my closet but has been ripped off its shelf and is now hanging from a nail. I lie down on my couch. The alarm has not stopped. It will never stop. I pull the blanket to my chin. I close my eyes.