19 November 2008

Late Friday Night

In the wee hours of the morning, the apartment complex is cloaked in a weak darkness, its rectangular buildings glowing across the hillside, illuminated by automatic lights outside every door, streetlights along every section of the curving drive. In one apartment someone wakes, frightened, to hear a rattle at the door: someone is trying to get in. They call the police.

Steve and I are asleep: Steve on the couch, me alone in our bed, still recovering from the cold that has been hanging on for a week. The girls are sleeping too, each in her own bunk. None of us hear our own apartment door open and shut again. We don't hear someone bump into the wall and take off his shoes, and whether he falls to the floor, or eases himself down, we don't hear that either. Even Steve, only a few feet away from the stranger, is still sleeping soundly.

Until six police officers also let themselves in. They are alert, their guns are drawn and they survey the living room, assessing the situation. They don't know who is supposed to be here; maybe the man asleep on the floor belongs, and the one of the couch does not. Suddenly Steve is awake. Six guns are aimed at him.

In the bedroom I begin to wake more slowly, I think I hear something happening in the living room: people's voices.

"Stay where you are!" Someone says, and I get up quickly and walk out to the living room. The police have decided that Steve is the one who belongs here, and that the man on the floor is the stranger.

"Is there anyone else in the apartment?" one of them asks me.

"Just the children," I say, and then, less sure, "I think."

They check the rest of the apartment, peering into our bedroom and the children's room where the girls are still fast asleep, two lumps under their covers, barely visible as the beam of the officer's flashlight dances across them. I watch, try to will the officer to be quiet, the girls to stay asleep. When he's done I close the girls' door behind him and we walk back to the living room to join the others. And the stranger.

A woman officer ask me if I know him, but the rest of the police are standing in a huddle around the man, putting him in handcuffs and trying to wake him up.

"I can't see him," I say, and step over his legs to where I can look at his face. He is white, he has brown hair, and he is out cold. He is in his twenties maybe, wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. His hands are bound behind his back by the handcuffs and his right elbow is bloody, scraped on something before he got here, I guess. I look at him carefully. No. I don't know him, I tell them. One of the police has taken the man's wallet out of his pocket and reads me his name. I shake my head, I don't know him.

I glance at Steve who is still over by the couch. We lock eyes and for a moment are both just thinking how weird this all is. I almost smile, but then one of the officer's says, "He's not wearing any shoes," and with insight that must only come from a rigorous training regimen continues, "but his socks are clean, he must have worn shoes to get here."

All eyes fall on a pair of men's sneakers tossed one on top of the other near the back of the couch. They ask if the shoes belong to us - to Steve - and we say they don't, they must be his.

The stranger on the floor still hasn't moved. I begin to feel sorry for him, the poor guy is so drunk he doesn't even know he's handcuffed and sleeping in someone else's living room. On the floor. Two of the officer's reach down and grab the man under his arms, hauling him to his feet. He looks around, obviously confused, but says nothing as they maneuver him, stumbling, around the corner and out the door. They don't put his shoes on for him.

The next few minutes are full of explanations on both sides, Steve and I give our personal information to separate officers who each write it down in separate spiral notebooks. The officer's explain that our neighbors called the police when they heard someone breaking into their apartment and that when the police arrived the followed the drunk as he made his way through the parking lot and up the two flights of stairs to let himself into our place. Unsure if he belonged, they had followed him in, just in case. They said they were planning to charge him with two counts of burglary: one for trying to get into the locked apartment, and one for falling asleep on our floor.

When they had gotten everything they needed and made sure we had no more questions they left and Steve and I sit down on the couch to say things like, "dude," and "wow," for a while.

"Guess we should start locking the door at night," I say.

"I usually do," says Steve.

We agree that if the police need us to press charges we shouldn't do it. Burglary? The poor guy just wanted to go to sleep. He was too drunk to know where he was, probably thought he was passed out on his own living room floor. He even took his shoes off at the door.

Having been woken at gun point, Steve needs more time then I do to come down from the adrenaline high, so I return to bed alone to try to sleep. I lie awake feeling sorry for the stranger and thinking of all the what-ifs that come so easily after something like this. What if he'd stumbled all the way into the bedroom and climbed into bed with me? All the officers had seemed so young, what if it was all some elaborate hazing thing, a prank? What if he had been someone more sinister than a passed out drunk who takes his shoes off at the door? What if he had spent the might on our floor and the girls woke first to find him there in the morning? I imagine waking him, asking if there's someone we should call...

In the morning I wake feeling I had lived a dream. Sure, the business card one of the officers gave me is on the fridge, but were they really here? I think about the stranger all day as I read and research and revise a paper for class.

That afternoon the sun has warmed things up a bit and the girls and I put on our shoes and coats to go outside and play. As we leave the apartment I notice for the first time a dark red smudge on the wall near the door and realize that the stranger's bloody elbow must have grazed as he came in the night before. I hurry the children outside and close the door behind us. I haven't told them about the stranger; they don't need to play the what-if game like I do.


Annika said...

holy crap.

Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas said...

Wow. I'm so glad he was harmless!!!

Lock your doors honey.

sue shannon said...

So have you found out if he lives in your complex? He is probably one embarrased neighbor! Glad he was just a harmelss drunk guy! Kiss the gilrs for me.

Krista said...

Oh my gosh! That's so scary and sad all at the same time. I hope he's okay and doesn't get into too much trouble.

She says said...

Wow, that's scary as hell. I'm glad it turned out okay and the girls didn't find out.

Please lock your doors.

Tracey said...

Just when you were wondering what to write in your blog besides, "wrote another paper today," the universe sends you the perfect material! I am glad you are all okay. You must be very sound sleepers! Love and miss you all!

Jen said...

That's just freaky. Even if he was just a harmless drunk it's very scary. Are you still weirded out by it? (I would be!)

Constructive Attitude said...

thats creepy.and scary.

nova said...

What an incredible, incredible story! I honestly have no idea what I would have done. Just... wow.

Momma Magpie said...

Oh Man. That's complete insanity. I'm speechless. I'm glad you all were OK...