I guess it was my lucky day.
I parked my car across the street, my driveway blocked by a cruiser with no flashing lights. An officer was standing on the steps of my house, with my wide-open front door directly behind him. I steeled myself for the shock, digging my fingernails into my palms to distract me from crying.
He walked me through the house, asking me to detail what was missing, showing me where they broke in, and trying his best to be sympathetic, assuring me my missing cat would show up eventually, as I stared hopelessly at my still open front door.
After the officer left, I struggled to find a place of comfort to allow myself a moment to grieve. Everything had been tarnished—touched, grabbed and manhandled—by these criminals. I had nowhere to go, in my own house, to just sit and cry. Instead, I ventured out into the street to find my cat, certain he’d had his furry, pampered ass handed to him by the scrappy street cats in my neighborhood. I must’ve been a sight. Clothes wrinkled and a face streaked with mascara, my voice warbling as I again, tried to avoid crying in public.
Feeling hopeless and exhausted, I returned to a place I no longer recognized, and laughed as I unlocked the four locks on my front door, realizing how little they served their purpose. I crumpled to the living room floor, cringing as I imagined large, sneakered feet, trampling through the room, ignoring my preference for guests to remove their shoes in my house.
Finally, when I was sure my cat had been sentenced to death by this crime, his terrified face peeked out of a bag in the closet. I was overcome with a joy and relief I can only imagine a parent feels when finding a lost child. He must’ve felt it too, as he allowed me to pick him up and hold him for just a moment before squirming away in a cloud of white fur.
If I’d known what was coming, I would’ve cherished that moment a little longer.
With my four-legged friend safe, and happily gorging himself from one of the many cat food bribes I’d set for him around the house, I was forced to confront what had just happened. I’d heard stories about what it was like to be robbed—that I’d feel violated, and angry. I did feel that way, but most of that was felt between the time the police called me at work, and and my arrival on the scene. But at that moment, I felt nothing.
I walked through the house again, viewing it through new eyes. Everything they touched, everything they took, had suddenly been stripped of its aura. The wooden bowl I brought back from Tanzania, now carelessly thrown on the floor, had lost its magical power. As I picked it up and returned it to its place on the mantle, I felt no connection.
This continued as I walked through the house, stumbling over things I would’ve recognized as my own only hours ago, now seeing them as anonymous clutter. For the days that followed—actually, weeks—I was barely able to express any sort of emotion about the event, other than what I knew was appropriate. A few times I did break down—telling my parents all the jewelry my grandmothers had given me was gone, was especially difficult—but otherwise, I just felt numb and naked, unable to protect or hide myself from the outside world.
When the cowards returned the next night to steal my car, I was hardly surprised. They’d acquired my spare key in the heist, but I was ready, and The Club saved yet another car from disappearing forever. Naturally, I was upset, but still lacked the depth and agony one would expect from a victim of robbery, twice in as many days.
I keep trying to convince myself that somehow, this will end up being a good thing. That being robbed of the things that connected me with my family and my past would somehow give me a new appreciation for creating new memories. That I didn’t really need to replace that T.V. That I could just go back to Tanzania and re-take all the pictures saved to my backup hard drive. My friends and family kept telling me they were just glad I was safe, that I wasn’t there when it happened.
But I don’t feel fortunate. I don’t feel scared, I don’t feel violated.
I simply feel stripped.
Photo courtesy of Joey Lax-Salinas.