TANDY VERSYP Staff Writer
My abnormally short friend isn’t taking her recent robbery well. That is expected – not because she is short, but because it was the first time. The first time someone approached her as she was unlocking her front door. The first time someone put a gun to her head. The first time someone took everything she had and sped away in her car.
She had to get the locks to her house changed – the mugger now has keys to her house – cancel her plastic, and file paperwork for a new ID. And now she can only mull over what else could have happened: murder, physical or sexual assault. But not in those legal terms. In those scary monosyllabic grunts: kill, beat, rape.
Her robbery isn’t the only one that happened in the past two weeks. Two friends of mine had their houses broken into over the holidays. Mine got pilfered too.
I woke up Christmas morning at a friend’s house – I was house sitting while she was out of town – watered her plants, put some dishes in the dishwasher, and drove home – a very Jewish way of celebrating Christmas.
When I opened the door to my house, the TV was all fuzzy. Loud fuzzy. An all over fuzzy. Like when your elbow falls asleep from too much pressure. And I knew someone had been there. It wasn’t a sinking feeling, a falling. It was a rising. A growl in my feet, like right before bungee jumping. Buoyant.
Before I even looked at the coffee table – the last known location of my laptop – I knew it was gone. I didn’t want to yell, but did it anyway. It’s funny. My laptop is a dinosaur, big, bulky, and circa 1997. It’s very similar to Cloris Leachman – so old it should be dead, but you’re happy it hasn’t passed away. It won’t get the robbers any money. The only valuable on it was my work – four years of my writing – and I just had to let it go without a proper goodbye.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. There was the attempted mugging at the Regal 10, the other attempted mugging with shots fired at me, and the break-in through my car window.
When the forensic guy came to my house with his name, Officer Smiley, monogrammed on his polo, I showed him where to fingerprint and cracked open a beer on the porch. He told me he understood and chuckled. He is one of eight members of the Savannah Chatham Police Department’s Forensics Team. They get about 180 calls a month – murders, rapes, robberies – and they split them just between the eight of them. (Ooh child; let’s hope things get easier.)
Although there are policemen, college security guards, and well-lit areas, Savannah is not a safe place. (Freshmen and new residents are warned.) My short friend was coming home on a Sunday at 7 p.m. She hadn’t been drinking, out late, anything saying, “Hey, you know what would be a good time? A mugging!”
But once you get robbed, in the beginning, it’s really funny. Funny ha-ha.
Little moments make you laugh. For me, it was flipping radio stations and stopping, against my will, on Nick Lachey’s “What’s Left of Me” before a dude in a white sedan shot at me. (Many months of night sweats while mouthing the lyrics followed.) For my friend, it was when the mugger told her to give him everything she had. She had lost her wallet earlier that week, so she told him. He groaned like he was the victim. These moments outline the absurdity of life.
Then it’s aggravating. Why me? Where’s God? And so forth. Wild growls roll out of you like you’re Gary Busey. And drunk.
Then it’s the fear. Not a sudden crescendo of music, but an everywhere, all over, omnipotent fear that incapacitates you into sleeping with the covers over your head and crying in restaurant bathroom stalls because you can’t sit in an open space. Terrified.
That’s where my friend is. Stuck. Because even though there are stages to the aftermath, sometimes they happen all at once, quietly, without your say-so. My friend was standing in a crowded room of people at a lame themed party when she began crying little whisper tears that she hoped no one heard. It makes you want to stop. Stop going to school. Stop going to the supermarket. Stop leaving your house.
However, you can’t pretend the world has stopped turning for you. In fact, it’s been turning this way before you were born, this awful, sickening way, and it will continue even if you shut down.
Days after the police had been to my house, I kept realizing other things had been taken, things I took for granted: My shampoo. Body wash. Icee Pops. In an obviously sick joke, my television remote, but not my television.
And my false sense of security.
After a robbery, you will never be completely safe again, and you never were. Anything can happen. Anywhere. Any time. And now you know. You really know. It’s fight or flight from here on out. There’s no time for perfunctory f******* around. Who we are isn’t defined by what happens to us. It’s how we react. And all that stuff we lose – maybe we didn’t need it after all.