There is a point where things begin to intersect. The pattern begins to make itself known. In many cases, it’s a repeated pattern, a cable knit. They say that those who don’t read history are doomed to repeat it. If we have such trouble with spotting the patterns in our own life stories, how can we be depended upon to spot patterns that are playing the long game, those that take place over the course of several generations? The simple, true, shitty answer is that we have just as little control over the patterns that sway the world as we do over those that sway our own minuscule existences. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to spot the turning points, to do our best to persuade others back from the brink. But we should also be gentle with ourselves when we realize patterns are emerging, and begin to come to terms with the fact that we’ve seen this before, we know what’s going to happen next, why, oh why didn’t we try harder when we had the chance to escape the oncoming freight train? These are the thoughts that roll through our brains as we struggle in vain against the ropes that have us tied to already-rumbling tracks.
Here are the issues:
- A city without affordable rental properties in safe, walkable neighborhoods.
- A “cheap” apartment that costs roughly 50% of my monthly income.
- No permanent, full-time jobs available for much more than I’m currently making.
- A broken bicycle lock.
- The two men who tried to break into my apartment yesterday.
They looked to be older guys, maybe in their 40’s, but maybe just prematurely aged from living hard. Their faces were gaunt – malnourished? ill? addicts? I don’t know. They would have fit in perfectly with that group of crackheads I ran into last year on the neutral ground of Franklin Avenue, arguing amongst themselves about who had done the most crack. At the time, it sounded like the trolls’ conversation in The Hobbit, completely ridiculous, a worthy anecdote to share over drinks with friends. Now, I can feel the fear bubble up again. I already constantly watch my back, peer around corners, am suspicious of every man I meet, no matter the color or creed, just because I am constantly scared here, and on guard, despite my best efforts to relax and enjoy living in this city everyone keeps telling me is amazing and fun and pretty safe, all things considered.
You might have gathered by now that I was home when the attempted break-in (noted on the police report as “trespassing,” since they didn’t get in) occurred. It was mid-afternoon, and it was my day off, so I was in bed with boyfriend and cats, playing a silly game on my cell phone. I had actually just won an hour of infinite lives, and was settling in to beat this really tough level. It’s a game where all you do is connect dots. It’s for imbeciles, and is literally one of the stupidest things I could waste precious hours of my life on. I should have been writing memoirs, or sewing a costume, or maybe putting together that slow cooker chicken curry recipe I’ve been talking about, but when two men tried to break into my safe space I was in bed, connecting tiny circles on the screen of my mobile device.
It’s funny that I didn’t hear them walking on the balcony/porch that leads to my door. It’s metal, and has a certain sound when the neighbors cross. Maybe they were walking softly? I don’t think so. I don’t think that two guys who decide to break into an apartment at 3pm on a Thursday afternoon are contemplating stealthiness. But who knows what they were thinking. They obviously weren’t, as my funny across-the-street neighbor noted, “rocket surgeons.” Broad daylight, somewhat busy street, a corner where the neighbors are almost always out and keeping some sort of eye on all of the houses in the area. They managed to luck into a time when my other across-the-street neighbor, the elderly gentleman who hangs out on his balcony all day and seems to know just about everyone within a mile radius, was walking another neighbor’s dogs.
I’m saying “luck,” because if I admit that maybe they’d cased the joint before and knew that I’d be gone by 3pm for my night shift, maybe I get home tonight and they’re there waiting for me. I am so scared to go home tonight. I was already scared of that walk home every night, and then I got a bike, and I was scared of how long it took me to get my bike lock to actually lock, with my back to a dark yard, and a tall fence hiding me from street traffic, making it easier to attack me and silence me right there in my own yard. So I stopped biking because of the lock, and then I changed my walking route, and then I started taking Uber home even when I really couldn’t afford it, and now I can’t even be safe when I’m at home, because they’ll still try to break in, like yesterday.
A friend who lives in the neighborhood told me last night that she feels safe because she has a concealed carry license. But I don’t want to carry a gun. First off, because you’re much more likely to get shot with your own gun than you are to successfully ward off your attacker. Secondly, because it’s just not civilized, and it won’t make me feel any safer or happier. I’ll be even more scared. Scared that I have to harm another living thing in order to make myself feel safe, but knowing that even if I hurt that person, I still won’t feel safe. We are all ego, so I can’t pretend to not be full of it. But I can tell you what I already know about myself – I don’t want to hurt anyone else. I don’t want to be hurt, and I’m very scared that I will be hurt, but worse than being caused pain is causing pain to others. Always, without a pause. If I hurt another person, I will suffer greatly for it, for the rest of my life. Whether or not any court of law decides to punish me for my actions. Because it hurts to hurt others. And yes, I know that this doesn’t make sense to those of you who do carry weapons and feel brave because of them. Good for you. Do your thing. I don’t work like that.
The pattern I’m talking about here is extreme fear that is leading me right back to anxiety, and from there, possibly depression. Though I do have a new kitten in the house, so maybe not. As long as no one breaks in while I’m gone and hurts the cats, which is my second greatest fear since yesterday. Yesterday, when they tried the door handle. That’s what I heard first, before they started throwing themselves against the door, testing to see if the deadbolt was going to give. That’s when the rage bubbled up. Thank goodness for rage, but also damn it. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. On your way to the Dark Side, you forget to collect sufficient evidence.
I leapt out of bed. From the bedroom, I could see them at the kitchen window, faces pressed against the screening, peering in through the partially-open Venetian blinds. My kitchen was wrecked from cooking the night before, and I felt a split second of shame, followed by a little bit of relief. Maybe a filthy kitchen makes you look poorer than you are? Poor housekeeping skills for trashy people? Maybe I’ll cling to that, though it’s not very logical. They saw me, I saw them. I screamed at them: “Get the fuck away from my house!” They didn’t run away. They ambled. They sashayed. They talked shit to me as they were walking away. I forgot to watch which way they walked. I never thought to take photos. I thought about it for a few minutes, then called the cops, with little faith that they’d even come over. But they did, and only 15 minutes later. I was pleasantly surprised.
The cops dusted the door knob for prints, and got a partial palm print. They asked me questions about gender, age, skin color, hair style, clothing, what was said and done. They were kind, but it was clear that nothing was going to happen after this interview. I didn’t expect them to even show up in the first place, so at least they did something, right?
Later last night, I heard my next door neighbor get home, and went over to tell her about the day’s events, just so she’d have a heads up. It turns out that the dread I’d been feeling in my yard at night was well-founded; last weekend, my downstairs neighbor caught a guy hiding in the bushes, just around the time I normally get off from work each night. The cops were called for that, too.
I’m feeling defeated right now. There are no viable options without a more robust and reliable form of income. To move, I need money. To get money, I need a job. There are no jobs in my field. So I take a job in another field, and then I have money, and I move, but I hate what I do since it’s not what I want to do, and because salary rates here are still incredibly low compared to cost of living, I’m still too poor to afford to live somewhere safe or get a car, so I’m still in the same position, except for now I hate my job AND I’m scared to commute and scared inside of my house every night. Awesome combination.
So here’s what I do: I talk to my landlord. I get the bars put back on my windows, get the lock on my steel security door replaced, beg him to get another security camera upstairs, replace my porch bulb with something extra bright, talk to the neighbors and see if everyone would be OK with cutting down the bushes and adding extra yard lighting, and then I carry pepper spray.
And that is where we’re at right now. It isn’t great, but it’s what can be done. I doubt it will help me feel less hopeless, but then I can just be another of the people who falls in line with the erroneous belief that these are the sacrifices we have to make to live in this wonderful city where education has been forgotten and heroin rates are rising and public transportation is completely pointless and AirBnB owners have fucked us all out of affordable rental properties in areas where crackheads won’t peer through our kitchen windows.
This is as far as I’ve gotten in seeing my own pattern. I’m nowhere, and I’m exhausted.