This post is going to prove two things: safety and boundaries keeping people out don't actually exist, and writers are absolute nutjobs who still take note of things for their books, even while they're giving a report to the cops.
Last night, we were sitting down to dinner (Totino's Pizza, we roll high) when two people knocked on our door. I'm going to preface everything that happened from here on out with: "I am an idiot of a human being and I know better."
They waved through the peep hole, hand in hand, they were young, they didn't have anything in their arms (guns, brochures, burgle tools, nothing). We thought they were new neighbors (because we live in the Shire) and so we opened the door.
Let's revisit the disclaimer that warned you I'm an idiot.
Turns out they were students who were taking a public speaking class. They had to talk to a certain amount of people in order to fulfill a class credit. Now if the teacher side of my brain hadn't kicked in, the logical side should have. But I was like, "Well of course, that makes sense."
It doesn't make sense.
They carried on a conversation with us, learning our names and what we do for a living and what we like to do in our spare time. They asked us if we knew our neighbors. Oh Jesus, we're idiots.
They then tried to sell us magazines from a shady company. We said no. They left.
About twenty minutes later, they came back, knocking. Somehow my brain cells had started up by that point, so we didn't answer.
Ten minutes later, they banged on the door, then jiggled the handle.
We called the cops.
The cop agreed I was an idiot, and said that perhaps they were casing the place.
Well, you can imagine how that made me sleep at night.
I'm not completely worried about our stuff, because we really don't have anything. We have Goodwill furniture and some Harry Potter books. Oh, and our Totino's Pizza and eclectic collection of ramen. Writers don't make money, guys, and students make even less.
That aside, I'm worried about my safety.
I have been told multiple times I'm being crazy, thinking something is going to happen, but that doesn't stop my brain from turning.
If you have ever been in a situation like this, from actually having a break-in while you're there to just having someone jiggle the knob, you know even that jiggle can be enough to pop the illusion bubble that there is anything called privacy in this world. We build our homes, we fill it with our stuff, we have our memories there, and there is a door and some windows standing between all of our stuff and everyone else, some of which would do harm.
So does security actually exist?
And of course, because I'm writing a book about war, through this whole debacle, I'm thinking, "This is how they feel. This is what my characters go through. They're homeless, they're landless, and they're in the throes of war."
It's so weird how much our characters can go through while we have never even imagined what they're going through.
How awful would it be to not have that sense of security that we just take for granted on a daily basis? What if you didn't have any place to curl up from the rest of the world and disappear for a while? What if you couldn't sleep soundly, knowing you were safe? What if you couldn't trust the people around you?
We never think this crap is going to happen until it does. Just that afternoon while I was writing, I had to leave my laptop on my table while I went to the restroom because I looked around and saw a bunch of middle-aged rich people in a "good" neighborhood.
"You're not in Chicago anymore," I told myself, and I left the computer unattended.
The computer was safe, but the apartment wasn't.
It reminded me of all the times in Chicago I didn't feel safe. My friend and I went out to Starbucks, and she hung her purse on the back of her chair. I never did that. In my lap. But she'd grown up in Chicago, and maybe she wasn't as paranoid as I was.
I sat across from her the whole time, and I did not see the guy behind us take the purse with him when he left. I knew what the guy looked like, but I'd not seen it happen. And by the time we got up to leave, it was gone.
The first day of student teaching, Code Red blared. An active shooter. We sat in the shop room for three hours, watching the slit of light coming from the door.
"If someone's shadow shows up in that light," my cooperating teacher didn't finish her sentence.
The time I was on a bus and let my guard down, thinking the guy was nice. The guy followed me, tried to grab me, and I ran for it.
These thing have happened out in the world, but never here at home. And even now, someone's walking down the hall, and I'm jumping.
I've taken something important away from this whole experience: The world can be dangerous, but once home's safety is broken, the world actually gets scary.
Now how to better write that in the book ...
What is this?
Dawson is an editor and writer and MFA student at Stonecoast. She writes stuff.