Nihilophobia

When Don began a transaction today with “How are you feeling, Laura?” I didn’t immediately connect that this was the same Laura who Jessica told me was mugged in the parking lot while I was in California last week. 

Apparently, she was loading her groceries into her trunk at about three in the afternoon when someone snatched the purse resting in the child seat of her shopping cart. Instinctively, she grabbed it back, slipping her arm through the straps just as a getaway car pulled up and the thief jumped in, dragging Laura along as they hit the gas. She was knocked off her feet and pulled, her body scraping the parking lot pavement until she was able to let go of the purse.

Today at the bank, the large bandages on her hand didn’t manage to shield her swollen yellow fingers from view. She had trouble signing for her withdrawal because the pen wanted to rest where her stitches were, though in the end she managed a brave if garbled signature. 

Our manager Brad, former bouncer with a robust brotherly instinct, offered to walk her to her car, but she declined, saying she needed to learn to stop being scared. I protested that after my window was broken in, I had people stay over for several months, and it was a long road of fearful window avoidance, but I’m not scared anymore. I argued that it takes time to get over things, and in the meantime, she should do whatever she needs to for her own emotional well-being. She didn’t end up  taking Brad up on his offer, but I was glad she had the chance to talk about it a bit, and that I got to tell her that she shouldn’t feel crazy or weak for being scared after an experience like that.

I remember hating knowing that I was paranoid. I was in a study about eating habits shortly afterwards which administered a questionnaire which dealt, in part, with changes in my emotional landscape. I admitted that I sometimes freaked out when I was alone at night because I thought a hand would come flying through the glass, that I felt scared and reacted irrationally, knocking on my neighbor’s door and asking to spend the night when the wind made too much noise. But the girl asking the questions essentially said she wasn’t going to record it as abnormal, because those things are normal after a traumatic event. Just having someone say “This is a normal reaction to what you experienced,” was incredibly relieving. 

Well, wouldn’t you know that after my neighbor and I carpooled home and pulled into our shared driveway, I should look up and notice that the upstairs door to my house was wide open. “Uh, Don. . .” I started, and he turned from his own door and followed my gaze to the dark hallway falling away behind the open frame. He lumbered back up the steps to his truck and loaded his gun. I called my roommate’s sister to see if she recalled leaving the door unlocked while house-sitting. When Jenny said she didn’t remember anything about the door, I wanted to throw up. I asked if I should get a maglite from my car, but Don already had one in hand. I followed him from room to room in the darkened house as he checked all the closets and we secured the doors. The tools were all still upstairs, but I feared robbers were more likely to seek electronics and was expecting the blow to come once we got down to the living areas. I waited in the hall while he checked another room and wondered whether that position made me a more likely target. What would happen if someone was in the house? I imagined the safety I felt holding my cell phone was probably false, since cops can’t apparate and it’s an awfully small bullet-stopper. Living in an enormous house is definitely a drawback when trying to “secure the premises,” and I was thankful to have Don (and his gun) going ahead of me. 

When we finally got downstairs, my laptop and camera were still haphazardly placed on the desk, and everything seemed the same as I left it. None of the 6 outside doors showed signs of breaking in. The only explanation seems that the upstairs door was unlocked the entire past week and finally blew open tonight in the high winds. (The same winds that are now causing all manner of strange noises as I type this in my otherwise silent bedroom.) 

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This is particularly unnerving as our profile grows larger; two front page newspaper articles this month have made us small-town celebrities. The first, appearing on New Year’s Day, was juxtaposed with an article about a small child who was stabbed the previous night on our same street. “An MF man was arrested today by local police after he stabbed a 4-year old following a night of drinking. Gregory Cheslesky II of 201 N. 5th St., is being held in the county jail on charges of felonious assault, aggravated assault, contempt and failure to appear. No bond has been set.” Don also tells me that in December there were 4 break-ins on our street. (He’s the only neighbor we know on a first name basis, but he keeps up with many others living nearby.) 

So many things make me wish I didn’t come home after dark every day. 

 

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4 comments on “Nihilophobia

  1. LM's ima says:

    It’s OK to be scared, sweetie. Dark and noises are unnerving enough on their own, let alone after encountering such unsettling things as you’ve had to deal with. Rely on your big neighbors and brotherly-bouncer co-workers as long as you need to. This will pass. Hugs!

  2. LM says:

    I really, really sympathize with this. Coming home to that must have been terrifying – I’m so glad you had a man with a gun there with you. As for mitigating the lingering paranoia, I recommend you take the following steps:
    1. Get yourself a Netflix streaming subscription. Nothing is quite so scary when you’ve got 30 Rock playing on your bedside table.
    2. Put the local police number in your speed dial – not because you’ll need it, but because you’ll feel better with your finger hovering over it.
    3. Eat a lot of cookies. This will not make you feel less scared – cookies just taste good.

  3. LM says:

    P.S. I would like a large print of this photo for our next gift-giving occasion, please.

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