Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Burglar and Me

Last night I promised my 7 3/4 readers that tonight I would post about the time I woke up with a burglar standing at the foot of my bed. And unlike criminals, my word is my bond, so I will.

First, though, a quiz.

If you awoke from a deep sleep with a light shining in your face, and you didn’t know what, or who, was on the other end of the light, would you:

(A) Pretend you were asleep?
(B) Call 911?
(C) Scream bloody murder?
(D) Start a conversation?

If you answered A, B, or C, then you are not me.

Back in 1983, when I was deep in the throes of that intense agony that is known as the first semester of law school, I shared a house with my brother, Casey. He and I had about as much in common as any two strangers randomly selected by throwing two darts in opposite directions, so we tried to stay as far apart as possible. Thus, he had the front bedroom and the run of the house, and I had a big room/study and bath along the back that was sort of a one-woman Law School Angst Cave. Three other students lived upstairs, one of them in a one-room apartment directly above my own.

One afternoon, Casey and I thought we smelled a gas leak. We considered calling the gas company but never got around to it. Instead, we opened one of the living room windows. I studied until about 11 back in the Law School Angst Cave and, unable to keep my eyes open, went to sleep.

About 2 a.m., I woke up. An incredibly bright light was shining on me. Somehow, probably because the light was shaking a bit, I immediately realized that there was a person on the other end of it.

But in my middle-of-the-night fog, I first assumed that the guy with the flashlight was a friendly gas company employee there to fix the leak. "Where's Casey?" I asked him.

No answer.

"Where's Casey?" I asked, this time a little louder. Still no answer.

The flashlight was shining directly in my eyes, so I couldn't see the person holding it, but I was beginning to wake up, and I realized a gas company employee would be a bit more responsive. Whoever this was, he probably didn’t work for a utility. And it pissed me off.

This is where a more prudent person would have shut the f**k up. But not moi. Instead, I just blew up.

"Who are you?" I asked -- okay, yelled. Still no answer.

I can’t really explain why I didn’t back down. All I know was that I was about as pissed off as a person can be. If this guy had the nerve to break into my house and shine a light on me at a time in my life when every last second of sleep was precious, the least he could do was tell me who in the hell he was. I was up on my knees in the bed, shaking my finger at a still completely invisible person. "Tell me where Casey is!" I screamed. "Tell. Me. Your. Naaaaaaame!!!!!"

And then -- as God is my witness, I swear this is true -- the burglar spoke. "I'm Jeff," he said in the calmest voice you ever heard. "Casey's fine. Go back to sleep.

And with that, he strolls away. I could tell because the flashlight was just bop-bop-bopping along, easy as you please. Which is pretty bizarre behavior, if you ask me, although that is perhaps the pot calling the kettle black.

About the time Jeff and his flashlight departed, Casey – who must have had a few before he turned in – finally comes running in. (The cute young pharmacy student who lived directly above me? The next day he said he “thought he heard me screaming.” Wimp.)

Once Jeff was gone, of course, and it had finally sunk in that he was a real, live, certified, card-carrying burglar (which I had just learned in law school simply meant that he had broken and entered my dwelling in the nighttime with the intent to commit a felony therein), I freaked. We turned on every light in the house – no sign of Jeff, of course – and called the cops.

As we waited for them, we looked for what they had stolen. NOTHING -- not one thing -- was missing. My purse was right by my bed where I’d left it. Casey’s wallet was in his room. Those were the only things we had that were worth anything, except my law textbooks, and you’d be a pretty freaking creepy burglar if that was what you were after.

When the cops arrived and we told them nothing was gone, they offered a reassuring comment: “Ma’am, we have to tell you ... we think he was here for you.” That’ll make you sleep like a baby.

The police did help us discover that we’d left our front window wide open, which is kind of like inviting crooks to come on in and bring their friends. The cops filled out an incident report but told us not to expect anything. And then they left.

Shortly afterwards was when I thought to look in my purse, where I found that I no longer had a wallet. Which was frankly reassuring, as it kind of poked a bunch of holes in the rape theory. So I happily went back to being absolutely furious that some asshole thought he had the right to crawl in my open window and shine a light on me.

The next morning, a student at a nearby elementary school saw my wallet in a trash can outside his school. My credit cards and ID were still in it, as was my change. All that was missing was $11 in cash.

A few months later, my mother ran into a family friend whose daughters rented an apartment in the same neighborhood. Someone had broken in and stolen their wallets – nothing else. They had not caught his name.

As time went on, I heard of a number of people who’d been victims of a university-area wallet thief. And seven or eight years later, I read in the local newspaper that a guy had been convicted for stealing hundreds of wallets – nothing else -- from students in the area over a period of years.

His name was not Jeff.


Katherine said...

That's weird. and scary.

MommyTime said...

This is a great story, although I do think you are a wee bit insane for yelling at him that indignantly. But that insanity just makes you all the more endearing. Also, I'll bet it was the same burglar, but he had the presence of mind to give you a fake name so you couldn't track him down.

I'd love to read the story he wrote about this encounter on HIS blog. :)

Janie said...

I bet that was weird.

HRH said...

I hope I am your 3/4 of a reader. That is a crazy GREAT story. OMG. I can't believe he just told you some random name off the top of his head when you were yelling at him! That is one poised burglar. I am glad that your wallet was missing even though it is a big pain. Makes me feel less creepy for you. Wow.

Purple Teacup said...

found you thru June Cleaver....I would have yelled at him too, but I live in a false reality.....

Jenni said...

I'm with MommyTime. I bet he tells a great version!