I experienced a moment of fear this week that I haven’t encountered in decades. The sense of imminent danger and the reaction of fight or flight. Since I no longer feel invincible, I chose to run.
It was almost midnight and I decided to have my last cigarette on my front porch then retire to bed. As I was about to light-up, I glanced over at my Mercedes parked just feet from where I was standing. I noticed a dark man in a red shirt sitting in the driver’s seat. A moment of disbelief had me thinking it must be someone I know. It’s midnight, and he’s in my car…of course not!
I said, “holy shit!”
The thief mouthed “oh shit,” as he sat there and stared at me.
I ran into the house, locked the door and frantically called to my husband, “call 911.”
“Why, what’s wrong?”
“NOW! There’s a strange black man sitting in my car.”
He dialed as I paced the house wondering if this stranger had a gun and if he was still on our property. I refused to go near our glass doors in fear of him holding a gun towards the door. My husband gave a description of the offender to the dispatcher, “A thin black man with short hair and a red shirt with white lettering.” It seemed like eternity for the police to arrive. I continued to pace with my finger on our panic alarm…just in case. I wouldn’t look out the door in terror of what I might see and I advised my husband to stay away as well. Where was that gun I had been meaning to buy. Where were those damn cops?
Three of them arrived and although I instantly felt relief I was still shaking. I rehashed what had happened and gave a description of the man. “Why did you go outside,” one officer asked?
“To have a cigarette.”
He laughed and asked if I would be able to identify the man.
“I think so.”
“We have someone in custody. If you want to change your clothes to ID him and give me a statement, then go do that.”
I was perfectly happy going in my pajamas, but perhaps he was uncomfortable so I went to change. By the time I came back outside our neighbors were in our driveway talking to my husband. I hopped into the back seat of the cruiser assuming I was going to the police station. A few blocks down the road two police cars blocked the main street into our neighborhood and five more cruisers were on a side street with dogs barking and a show of lights.
“What’s going on here? A murder?”
He chuckled. “No this is where your perp was caught. They’re going to put him in front of the car with a light shining on his face.”
As soon as he turned towards the car I recognized him, especially the red shirt with white lettering. He looked terrified and thinner than I had seen just moments prior. That’s only because I didn’t see his thin frame from the bottom down when he was sitting in my car.
“That’s him. The shirt, the face.”
The officer spoke on his radio then drove me back to my house where he would take my statement with his audio recorder. He was saving me from the drive to the station, although that was only a half mile away. “It wouldn’t take long,” he assured me. We sat in the car as I gave my statement while my husband and neighbors were still chatting in the driveway. Two other officers were fingerprinting my car.
My husband had a vodka drink waiting for me when I finished. I needed it to calm my nerves, I wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon. I spoke of my experience to my neighbors and they told me about the four break-ins and two robberies the past month. I shivered and thought about how lucky I was to have walked out front when I did and to not have anything stolen or any violence.
I wasn’t sure of the stranger’s intention. The cops think he was a crack addict just looking for change or anything to steal. But when faced with an uncertain situation I would rather plan for the worst. What if he got ahold of my remote to the house and tried to come into my home. He was in my driveway, in my car. He was brazen since my house was lit up like a Christmas tree, the most well-lit house on the block. He didn’t run but just stared at me, knowing that I saw him. He invaded my feeling of safety in my neighborhood and my home.
When I look at my Mercedes in the driveway at night, I still have visions of him in my car. Creepy.