Caro is a carbon-based life form who, while female, is not capable of parthenogenesis. It is unknown whether she would eat said young. (the mantis did not write the below.)
Sit back on your feet, then move them to the front of the mat. Now, lie down and settle into corpse pose. This is my favorite part. Every part of my spine decompressed and settled into the wonderful $80 Manduka mat I finally bought and everything became more and more still as I closed my eyes and rested. This is, perhaps, the only time I truly rest. Nightly sleep sessions are more about comfort than rest or sleep.
Slowly, coming out of corpse pose and my guided meditation, I brought myself to the front of the mat, seated and with my eyes still closed. The chant began briefly in a language that, even after several years of practicing yoga, I still do not fully know. The chant we chanted that day translates to “May all living beings be happy and free.” It always feels like bullshit, so I never really firmly bought into it, but followed along anyway. Bowing my head towards my heart and with my hands in prayer position, I said in unison with the rest of the class, “Namaste”. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The drive home was uneventful short of grabbing a new six-pack of some Oktoberfest that was also rather uneventful in both texture and flavor. Tonight, I am going to make an actual dinner for myself, I say. I am going to make something healthy and I am going to feel good and I am going to relax for once. Dancing around the kitchen in my new amazing yoga pants and matching top, I couldn’t help but think about how awesome they looked and how rarely that happens with me. If anything I’m wearing matches some sort of vague color scheme, it’s shit luck because I can guarantee you I didn’t plan it.
Dinner was predictable but delicious – part of a fade-in/fade-out diet plan I’ve stuck to, on and off over the past four years, while easing up on the protein. I hadn’t really noticed any need to until I went to the doctor and had bloodwork done. Something was way off the charts, so I had to cut back in order to keep my kidneys from cranking out some nasty, toxic stuff that would eventually kill me if I didn’t stop.
But I digress.
As part of my nightly ritual, it was time to watch some horrible TV show on Netflix. It mental comfort food – I’d finally settled into a comfortable routine after learning how to deal with my husband’s deployment. This was not his first, but it was our first as a couple. The time apart, the lack of physical interaction, the loneliness – these things were manageable. The obsessive-compulsive tendencies, however, are not.
Every night, as part of the nightly ritual that follows dinner and TV, each of the locks and doors has to be checked before fully lying down and getting ready to actually sleep. On the flowchart of my nightly routine, this multi-step ritual can occur multiple times, preceding dinner if the day has been particularly busy. Deadbolts, thumbscrews, switches. But wait! The gas on the stove. OK, back up the stairs, we’re ready to sleep. But wait! The laptop downstairs, did I unplug it? OK, back up the stairs, we’re ready to sleep. But wait! The sliding glass door downstairs, did I lock it? Did I turn on all the outside lights? OK, check, check, check, we’re good. And back up the stairs we go. WAIT! Did I lock the front door? Maybe not? Maybe not. But I’m pretty sure? Back down the stairs. YES! OK, but it was worth checking. And that’s always how it goes, every single night. Deviation leads to instability in a system, without fail. And this system is rickety at best.
I remember that I sat there, planning my meals for the week on my iPad like the turbonerd that I am, taking inventory and seeing what there was I could make with my existing supplies to prevent wasting supplies. Leaning over the iPad, I noticed a new feature for this application that allowed me to add recipes. Intent on that, I became more focused than I had been on work stuff for weeks. Glancing over at my cell phone, I realized I probably should have charged it, but I’d been putting it off and now it was on its last legs. And that’s when I heard it.
What the hell was that? It sounded like my neighbor had hit something against the side of the house. But why would they do that? Wait, why would anyone do that? Something wasn’t right. Jumping out of the rocking chair and all that was temporary domestic comfort, I pounded my heels into the hardwood floor as I scrambled to the door. Each step was calculated and deliberate. On the off-chance this was an intruder, I wanted to make damn sure he knew I wasn’t screwing around. This is my house and I swear, I’m a six-foot tall man. You are not going to mess with me.
I had checked all of the locks at this point. I had relaxed and was ready to dim all the lights in preparation for going to bed. Thinking that it was just something going on outside I could check on by going through our house door into the garage and open the garage door to see, I realized exactly how incorrect I was.
The deadbolt was almost fully unlocked from the other side and was visibly continuing to move. “GET THE FUCK OUT! I WILL FUCKING SHOOT YOU AND KILL YOU!” I screamed as loudly and deeply as a 5’4” woman could. I held the deadbolt in place as hard as I could while also holding my hips against the door to prevent him from entering.
Dying cell phone in my right hand, I managed to dial 911. “Someone is breaking into my house. I am holding the door shut and they won’t stop. They are pounding the door. I don’t know how much longer I can hold it.”
“Ok, what is your name? What is your address?” I told the 911 operator my address with sudden calmness, as if I was a computer for a customer service center dealing with an angry bank customer on the other end of the line. “Where are you? Are in you a safe place? Can you get to a safe place?” I explained to the operator that I couldn’t, and that the only thing between me and the person trying to break in was the door. No, I couldn’t see him. No, he wasn’t saying anything. I was screaming at the top of my lungs at this point telling him I have no drugs, no money, and that I will shoot and kill him if he does enter my home. Still, he continued to turn the deadbolt as hard as he could while I held it from the other side.
Over and over again, I told the 911 operator that I do not have a safe place to run that I trust could hold off the intruder if he entered the home. Wait, the panic room. We built a panic room into the house specifically for this reason! Fire and burglaries to prevent hostage situations. It was on the fringe of things we were concerned with and ultimately the gun room, but still a possibility, so we built the room into the foundation of the house. But could I get a cell phone signal? What would happen if the phone died while I was on the phone with 911? How would I know it’s safe to come out if I run? These calculations, all of them, occurred at a million miles a second. Safety, distance and time. It became my mantra as fight or flight took full effect. It was time. I burst up the stairs, sprinting over two of them at a time. My skin burned, my sight was completely focused on where I needed to go and how much energy it would take to get there. Breath and lung capacity not even a factor at this point, I had apparently remembered to turn off all of the lights as I ran upstairs, including the room I ran into.
The decision to build a walk-in closet was one of the best decisions we had made when building this house. Not doing my husband’s laundry and putting it away for six months was the second-best. Sliding into the closet, I shut the door firmly but quietly enough that if they were in the house, they wouldn’t know where I’d gone. I shoved the laundry basket as hard as I could up against the closet door, wondering if this would really keep them out but knowing I had no other option at this point. The rabbits were right: you should always have two ways out. There was only one way out. I couldn’t see anything but the dim glow of the phone against my ear, wondering when it would die. The words, “is your life in danger?” echoed in my mind. “Yes, my life is in danger!” I had yelled into the phone when I was downstairs.
Ten minutes had elapsed. And then, another five. That’s fifteen minutes between telling a 911 operator that your life is in danger and the police actually arriving on scene. My eyes had adjusted to the dark by now. Simultaneously holding down the door with one leg and muffling my whispers behind all of the clothes I’d finally hung up on the rack, I asked when the officers would arrive. “Where were they dispatched from? Are they here yet?”
“They will be there as soon as they can, ma’am. They are on their way.” A chilling realization swept over me and the fire that had burned through my skin to make me sweat just seconds prior suddenly switched to ice. The cavalry wasn’t coming for my rescue. The cavalry would come after it was too late. My heart slowed down.
“WHERE ARE THE OFFICERS?” I whispered as loudly as I could from behind the shirts. “They are on their way ma’am. You’re doing great. You’re doing great, just hang in there!” the operator offered. I remember taking slow, deliberate breaths as calculatedly as possible to make the least amount of noise.
“Ma’am, the officers are on scene. Are you in a place where you can answer the door?” I think. I calculate a thousand options per second. Realistically, the intruder didn’t quit when I held the door down. Was he inside? Where was he in the three-storey house? Was he waiting outside the door for me? Did he have a gun? If he was in the house, how would I see him if I ran to answer the door? Was it wiser to exit the house off the second-storey deck? But most importantly, if he had entered and was downstairs, and I ran downstairs to open the door, would I be taken hostage? Was anywhere safe? The adrenaline was burning so fast that there wasn’t any time to consider.
By the time I stumbled down the stairs, I saw the officers through the glass in our front door. The sight of them was still not reassuring on the off-chance they were impostors. We had decided on this particular door because of all the light it would let in through the top window. We wouldn’t even need a peephole. Why would we? This was one of the safest neighborhoods in the county. I fumbled to unlock the door as the adrenaline started to wear off, leaving me stupid, exhausted and stuttering. Pulling the door open as hard as I could, I greeted them and collapsed onto the floor, hyperventilating as my adrenaline put on its last show.
Authorizing them to look wherever they wanted to and perform a thorough scan of the house, two of the officers looked around. They asked where the intruder had attempted to break in, and I showed them in my weakened state as best I could. No signs of forced entry, they told me. No broken windows, and no stolen items in the garage. Nothing taken out of the cars. The motorcycle – the most expensive item in the entire garage which could have been rolled away when put in neutral – still there. So what was he after?
“Do you live here alone?” “Did your husband made any enemies overseas or here that you know of?” “Have you been hanging out in the hot tub upstairs while the workers have been out there?” one of them laughed because this was apparently a joke. Stone cold sober, I stated no. “Have any guys been hanging around, hitting on you? Especially if they knew your husband was away?”
“Surely someone knew he was deployed.” The officer stated. What the fuck? Was it a fucking ghost?
“Yes, rear detachment and our families on the east and the west coast. No one else knows.”
“Someone knows.” They said.
I gathered everything I would need for the next 24 hours and I would just have to figure it out from there, even if it meant buying clothes from Walmart. I didn’t care. Teddy bear? Toothbrush? Blanket? Underwear? Medicine? OK, let’s get out of here.
“Don’t worry. He’s not going to come back after you screamed at him and he knows you’re here. And now that we’re here, there’s no way he’ll come back,” the officer told me. I took solace in this even though I was going to stay in a hotel for the night. “He isn’t comin’ back,” the other officer said, nodding in agreement.
Arriving in my hotel room, I went to the bathroom to lay down the medicine and the toothbrush. I looked up into the mirror, I saw myself, haggard and stressed, and burst into tears. How had it come to this point? How long would I have to run? When could I return to my home? This was supposed to be the safest place – my home. Our home. My husband was due home in just a few days. Should I tell him? What do I do? What’s the right answer? They don’t prepare you for this in army wife school. Or anywhere.
Get it together, I told myself. No one is going to take care of you but you, right now. You’re alive, you’re safe, so breathe and try to relax. A few minutes later, I called my neighbor and told her what had happened so she could look out for the guy if he tried to break into her house. She thanked me profusely and told her she’d let me know.
Not even fifteen minutes later, she called me and told me she just got off the phone with 911.
“There was a guy outside your house with a moving truck, wearing a headlamp and running around your house to the front.” Everything stopped. Resume burning skin sensation – I was on fire. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE WAS A DUDE OUT FRONT WITH A FUCKING MOVING TRUCK?” I yelled.
“He left when he saw me on my back porch. I couldn’t sleep so I walked downstairs. He was out there running around and he saw me with my gun.” She said. “911 are on their way.” I couldn’t stop thanking her. What would I have done if I didn’t have her? We’d be cleaned out.
Roughly 45 minutes later, the police apparently arrived. I say apparently because I wasn’t there and the estimate is rough at best. No sign of forced entry, they said. No one inside the house, they said. What the fuck? I couldn’t sleep, so I called my brother-in-law to tell him, albeit rather hysterically, what had happened. I wasn’t prepared for his offer.
“Do you need me to come out there? I’ll be out there tomorrow. I’m dropping everything and I will be out there tomorrow,” he said. I couldn’t believe it.
Six hours later without little-to-no sleep and the shallowest breathing I can recall, I left my hotel room, taking everything with me down to the truck. Is this what it is like for folks in witness protection? How do they do it? I didn’t know where I was going. I knew that I had to go to work. But I didn’t know what comes after the one foot in front of the other.
A few hours later, at work, my boss pulled me aside. “Are you OK?” I shook my head, trying desperately not to cry.
“No,” I said. She motioned for me to come into her office. I explained the entire ordeal. She was very understanding about the whole thing, listening intently and offering to let me work remotely that day.
“But where do I work from? I don’t have a hotel room and work is the only place that’s safe right now. I can’t go home.” Different words echoed in my mind this time. “I can’t go home.” She nodded in agreement.
Around noon, I got a phone call from my neighbor asking if both my garage doors were open. Absolutely not, I told her, and asked her to call the cops immediately. What the hell was he after? When would he leave me alone? The only things of value in our home are built into the home itself: textured walls, hardwood floors, and a really nice vessel sink. Certainly nothing worth breaking into the home over and over again to get.
I thought back to the entire year and how it had gone. In sequence, leaving my hometown, friends and family. Moving across country. Moving in with my boyfriend of about a year. New job. Another new job. Another new job. And then being sent on a month long work trip to the middle of nowhere with no friends, family or significant other. It is a desolate, non-female-friendly place, as coal-country typically is. Getting a gun pointed at me while driving to work in said-coal-country. Getting home after a month of isolation only to find out my boyfriend is going to deploy, so marrying. Marriage, then deployment. Becoming part of the army as a spouse. And now, a break-in. If I didn’t need therapy then, you can be damned sure I need it now.
I arrived at my house with the police on scene only to find that there were still no signs of forced entry. Again, nothing was stolen. And again, no one was there, because 911 were busy and it took my neighbor at least ten minutes to get through.
We still don’t know who tried to break into the house, what he was after or what made him as bold as to think he could keep trying over and over. But it jolted us out of a sense of false security, and with good timing – we are going on vacation not too long from now. We have fortified our panic room. We’ve installed a security system. We have two exits to every hiding place in the home. I’m learning how to use our guns, which we’d held off on before. But, perhaps most importantly, we have neighbors we can count on in an emergency who I will assuredly call before I even think of dialing 911. And while incredibly traumatic, it all makes for a great, lengthy anecdote and gives me some decent street cred in our neighborhood.