Exactly one year ago, the Christmas countdown was Carol of the Bells and the rest of the Home Alone soundtrack. I blogged about how this movie probably contributed to my lifelong fear of burglars, and my recurring nightmare that someone would climb in through my bedroom window.
Then I casually mentioned that when a burglar finally did climb in through my bedroom window, it was almost a let-down. There was no soundtrack, for one thing.
That post got some people very worried, so I thought I should tell you the whole story this time. Here goes:
In 2008, I went to a big summer party. The kind that involves sitting around at picnic tables in someone’s enormous back yard, drinking wine and having long, conversations that seem to flow from topic to topic effortlessly until it seems like you’ve turned the minds of everyone around the table inside out and explored all the random associations and interesting opinions and funny stories you can find there. By the time you reach that stage, it is much too late for anyone to go home, so the house is filled with overnight guests, and I was one of them.
So technically, when I woke up in the middle of the night to find a man halfway through the bedroom window, it wasn’t MY bedroom window. It was the window in the room where I happened to sleep one night. Which in retrospect probably made the experience less scary overall; I didn’t have to sleep in that room the night after. But anyway, less than an hour after going to sleep, I woke up to find a man climbing through the window. He was wearing a white linen shirt and carrying pink, plastic gloves. And he had definitely not been one of the party guests.
We stared at each other for a couple of seconds, both frozen in surprise. Then he said: "I think I’m in the wrong house."
"Yes, I think you are," I answered. He climbed out again.
And I started to drift back to sleep. I wonder what would have happened if I had just dozed off again. Maybe I would have woken up to a much emptier house. Or maybe nothing would have happened, and I would have believed for the rest of my life that this was yet another nightmare about burglars.
Fortunately, some small part of my brain was awake, sober and sensible enough to realize that this was not a dream. I got up, borrowed a bathrobe and walked around the house, checking all the rooms, making sure all the windows and doors were closed and locked. And then I made my way to the front porch, where my father and some other party guests were sleeping on mattresses. The man in white linen was standing over them, still holding the gloves.
When he saw me, he said: "Um… I’m the neighbor."
"No, you’re not," I said, and then he started to run.
I woke my dad, and we ran after him.
If you had peered over the fence and into the back yard of this house at around 4:30 AM that night, you would have seen me running around in a white bathrobe, chasing a man in white linen pants and a white linen shirt, around white picnic tables with opened wine bottles and plastic glasses. Behind me, still more or less asleep, my father followed. The chase probably lasted for less than a minute, before whoever-he-was succeeded (on his second attempt) to jump the fence.
My dad and I just stood there for a while, waking up. I’m very glad he was there, not because I was scared at the time, but because I know that the intruder was really there. Whoever he was.
If not for the gloves, I would have assumed he was a drunk guest at someone else’s party, and that he literally did not know what he was doing. I mean, who breaks into houses wearing something that needs to be ironed? We didn’t hear about any similar break-ins in the area. But the lying, the gloves, the fact that he didn’t leave, the fact that he attempted to enter the house through a room that was always empty, except for that one night – it all seems like a badly planned, but still planned attempt to break in.
Which means that I can cross that off my list of experiences: I have chased away an intruder. And I’ve had a recurring nightmare come true. And I’m fine.
I haven’t had that nightmare since.