Ten days ago you broke into our home and since then, I’ve often wondered what I would say if I ever came face to face with you. Even if the opportunity came one day, I’m sure I wouldn’t have the presence of mind to form the right words with the right tone to properly convey exactly how you’ve changed everything.
I am past the anger. Actually, I don’t even know that I was ever angry to begin with. Stupid is what I initially felt. Stupid that we didn’t have an alarm system. Stupid that we didn’t leave a light on in the house. Stupid that we have a big, intimidating pit bull, but he wasn’t home to deter you. I take back that last one because while I’m almost positive Chunk would’ve scared you away, who knows what your state of mind was at the time, how desperate you were, what weapons you might have had with you.
Detectives came to our house. They took pictures of the window on the back door you broke to let yourself in, fingerprinted every surface you might have touched while in our house, and itemized our stolen possessions – the Xbox, the PlayStation, the MacBook, the power cords, the controllers, the video games, and the black backpack you carried it all away in. The police said with the holidays approaching and the early darkness of daylight savings, ’tis the season for theft. Maybe if it was a random violation of our private property by some passerby – a statistic – perhaps I wouldn’t still be so bothered by this whole thing. But it wasn’t a faceless stranger. It was you.
When the police told us they had recovered all our belongings from your parents’ house, I didn’t feel better, I felt worse. I didn’t know your name until the police report, but I saw you on the many weekends you visited your folks. We waved hello to each other, you introduced your niece and nephew to us, you laughed with us at Chunk’s giraffe Halloween costume, my uncles helped you with your flat tire. And yet, of all the houses in all the towns you could have stolen from, you chose ours – your neighbors. Why? I still cannot understand it.
So no, I’m not angry. I am in disbelief and bewildered, but mostly, I am sad.
I feel sad for your parents, who will carry the public shame and humiliation of what you did for a long, long time. Your father came over to apologize to us with tears in his eyes. He cannot seem to stop apologizing. He told us that your mother had a nervous breakdown and had to go to the hospital. I’ve seen him with his head in his hands slumped over the garbage bins on the side of your house. I cannot imagine the heartache you’ve put them through.
I feel sad for our little neighborhood. It was peaceful and quiet – the kind of place where people just open their front doors without looking to see who it is first. I haven’t answered the door since the night of the theft, and instead let my husband deal with whoever might be on the other side. People were friendly and welcoming before, but they are afraid and suspicious now. And it’s your fault.
I feel sad for us. Even before the police recovered our belongings, it wasn’t the theft of material things that was most upsetting. The video games, the laptop – they held no sentimental value and could all eventually be replaced. The most devastating fact is that it happened in our home. My parents have lived on this street for 28 years – this place is the only home I can remember – and nothing like this has ever happened in all that time. No matter what craziness was going on “out there,” this street was my safe haven. You’ve taken that away and it will be a long time before I feel safe in my own home again. The idea that perhaps I never will is crushing.
We have a sun room – you must know, you had to pass through it to get to our back door. We just renovated it to be my art studio – did you notice? I was so excited to finally have a quiet space after a long day at work to make a mess, away from the blare of the TV and the distraction of a sink full of dirty dishes. But I don’t want to be out there by myself anymore knowing that’s how you got in, knowing the storm door isn’t secure, afraid that someone, anyone, could be watching me or just appear out of the darkness.
We got the note you left in our mailbox. You told us how sorry you are and asked for our forgiveness. I want to forgive you, I really do. I don’t want this cloud over our home, I don’t want our relationships with our neighbors to be strained. But then I wonder, are you really sorry, or are you just sorry because you got caught? Would you still be sorry if another neighbor hadn’t seen you acting strangely and then leaving our house with a black backpack? Would you have confessed if not for the damning testimony? Or would you continue to wave hello to me and pretend like nothing ever happened?
I suppose the answers to those questions don’t really matter. What’s done is done. I don’t know if I can forgive you yet, because what you took from me is so much more than just material possessions – it was trust and peace of mind. And it will take a long time to get those back.
But I’m not angry with you.
I feel sad for you.
I can’t fathom what kind of miserable mental state and lack of dignity and human decency brings a person to do what you did. I hope you get the help you need and that whatever consequence comes from this is the catalyst for change in your life. Perhaps then all this nonsense will have some meaning.