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Bad pennies

Much excitement at chateau deborahb this morning, but not the good kind. Turns out we had a break-in last night while we were sleeping. And before anyone feels TOO sorry for me, I have to confess that all I lost was a window (400 bucks, thank you very much) & whatever peace of mind I had left before the event.

Good thing for us (note: sarcasm) we live a reasonably dodgy part of Sydney. There’s a long history of break-ins in my area. Muggings, too. A couple home invasions, but that was one time and years ago.

About six years back my neighbour was robbed. Five times in six weeks. Including one time AFTER getting himself the expensive alarm system (they still took his son’s iPod, but they left in a hurry & as far as I know, they haven’t been back). Three doors up we have a house that once sported a sign by the front door that read ‘we have not replaced the stuff you stole last time, please stop breaking into our house’. Years ago someone slipped a broom handle through an open window & took my handbag. They took the whole five bucks & then dropped the handbag — complete with its credit cards — by my back door. Probably figured I needed it more than they did.

The next day I realised every single window had a handprint on its outside.

You get used to the idea you’re being haunted, that strangers are slipping by your outside walls. You form a relationship with your would-be tormenters. You start to swap stories about ‘the guy’s dead eyes’ and ‘the one in the footy shoes so he could climb fences’. You don’t know their names & they don’t care about yours.

I only know all this because I’m in one of those reasonably dodgy neighbourhoods, the kind that bring neighbours together. We watch out for each other. We don’t necessarily like each other. But unlike the thieves that swarm our borders, we respect each other’s rights to space, security, privacy.

One day I found a chewed apple core sitting neatly on the edge of a concrete flowerpot in the back yard. Had someone really climbed my back fence to eat an apple in my backyard in the sun & then left me the core like they were leaving a message? It wasn’t rubbish: they hadn’t discarded it. It was placed delicately on the rim of the pot. For months I wondered what they were trying to say.

Repeat offenders. That’s what we get around here. Teenage junkies, mostly (a local politician once told me off the record that when heroin supplies in Sydney increased, so did petty crimes). Part of the reason I often say ‘junkies!’ with such contempt. Fucked up, soul-spent drifters, heading nowhere, taking our handbags/iPods/laptops with them.

I have a sense I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Because I still can’t find anything missing. Thing is, with this kinda neighbourhood history we’re slightly more security conscious than the average person. Consequently we have the whole bars-on-windows thing going on & we have — the thing that saved us last night — a locked door between the less secure back-of-house & the space where we keep all our stealable stuff. The junkies’ side of the locked door gives them access to the laundry, bathroom & kitchen. Finding the door locked it looks as though they worked backwards through the house opening every kitchen cupboard & bathroom drawer & leaving them open. That’s what I saw when I unlocked the internal door this morning: every kitchen cupboard door hanging open. All I could think of, for several seconds, was ‘Sixth Sense”.

“Were they hungry?” one cop joked later.
“I thought we were being haunted,” I replied, but she didn’t understand me.

There’s been a spate of it recently, they told us. All over the area — including last night 2 doors up where my relatively new neighbour (in this neighbourhood you’re new if you’ve been here less than 10 years) called emergency at 3am, hearing someone in her house. In her case, they got her handbag with her wallet, phone, iPod, all the good stuff that’s a pain in the neck to replace. Thank god for that internal door, I kept thinking (selfishly).

The cops told me the junkies might not bother returning. Maybe they’ll pass up our place for the easier pickings. Or maybe ‘they’ll come back with a crowbar for that door’. My boyfriend tried to argue logically why they wouldn’t, logically why it made sense not to bother trying it again. Logically, logically… he doesn’t have the history with the local junkies that I do. Or the contempt. He thinks they’ll stop trying when it gets too hard. He doesn’t realise they often don’t stop. They don’t have the sense to stop. They don’t know where they’re going. They often end up in a place you wouldn’t expect them.

Me, my brain has switched to that cold rationality that I call ‘Terminator mode’. I’m now assessing my house again, wondering where they’ll try next, where I should be strengthening my defences. Fuck those junkies, for my $400 worth of new window. Fuck them for filling my head with the illogical image of me on my loungeroom floor, slowly beating a junkie to death.

But I figure what I’ll do rather than waste my energy on life’s disenfranchised is go up to my new neighbour two doors up & invite her over for a cup of tea & a history of the local ‘colourful identities’, the ones that have no names, who have a habit of turning up again & again. The ones who don’t think they need an invitation.