the dog was darting across pacific coast highway, through a line of oncoming traffic. a thick blue collar wrapped around its neck, it was clearly someone's pet. it looked back briefly as it skittered through the lanes and i cringed every time a car passed through the intersection. sitting in the left hand turn lane, i watched it darting around cars, eventually reaching the sidewalk unharmed.
it sniffed around a triangle of grass on the corner and i wondered-- should i pull over and try to see if it had tags? i was running a few minutes over on my lunch, but i work at a church and knew that stopping was the right thing to do and my boss would agree. inexplicably, i wrestled with the decision for the minute that i sat at that light. should i? it felt like, for some reason, i should not. someone else will stop, i assured myself as two bikers passed the dog apparently unfazed by its vulnerability. as the light changed, something in me took over- -was it guilt? fear of how i would feel were it my dog? whatever it was, i decided to stop.
i pulled into a nearby parking lot, got out of my car and walked over to the patch of grass where i last saw the dog. i was wearing a dress which would've made it hard to bend over and coax the dog towards me and as the wind picked up the hem rippled in the wind. i looked around for the dog but didn't see it. people looked on from their cars wondering what i was doing on the corner, in the wind, my hand shading my eyes as i looked around for some unseen thing. or maybe no one noticed at all.
it couldn't have gone far, but i couldn't see it anywhere. the feeling from before, the "you shouldn't have done this" overtook me as i walked back to my car. a group of men exited the restaurant i was parked at and made their way to their respective cars. as i climbed back into mine, i thought maybe i saw the dog from the corner of my eye running down the street. but now there were witnesses, and i had to get back to work.
my dad works hard. he always has. he can fix just about anything and if he can't fix it, he'll build a new one. he's earned everything he has and everything he has given to my family. he had the same kindle (a father's day gift) for five years-- a time span in which i saw three phones, two ipads and a new laptop. he bought himself a new one this Christmas but ended up giving it to my brother instead. last week, he finally bought himself a new one.
we live a pretty simple life, in our small house on a quiet street with our dog. dad has lived there for 13 years, me for three. i've always felt safe, at home alone on the weekends or walking my dog late at night because the rain finally stopped at 12:27AM and she hasn't been outside in 14 hours.
yesterday, our home was robbed. someone walked into our house, past my sleeping dog, pictures of my brothers as babies, and polaroids of a Christmas party and stole over $4,000 in electronics, cash and personal items.
my brother's brand new backpack that he let me borrow for a trip. my laptop-- the first big purchase i ever made and paid for entirely by myself. a cleveland cavaliers hat that i bought as a souvenir for my brother at the team store and kept in the bag because i thought it was cool. dad's old kindle. and dad's new kindle.
people talk about the invasion of privacy that comes with a home robbery. it's true-- suddenly there are two very large uniformed police officers in your very small house, taking notes and asking about the value of what's missing. a forensics unit is coming to your home to dust for fingerprints and take photos and you have seen enough episodes of CSI and Law & Order to know that you have seen too many episodes of CSI and Law & Order but you still don't know if you should put things away or touch anything in your house.
for just a brief moment, you stop and try to see your home as the intruders saw it. did they notice the pictures of you on the bookshelf when they took your jar of change, where you hid dollar bills from yourself, secretly saving for some undetermined future? did they know that the sleeping pit bull didn't wake up because she was born deaf? did they realize that the camera that they took is worth maybe $75 to a pawn shop, but much more to you, knowing your mom shot with the same one 20 years ago? when they grabbed a bag of cables did they know that your external hard drive with six years of research and writing was in it as well? was this their first crime? did they act alone? do they have a family? that moment ends abruptly as you realize that you are trying to reason with evil and find logic and understanding where there is none.
as you're falling asleep in a room that doesn't feel like yours in a home that doesn't feel safe, you'll smell some foreign odor of rot and unfamiliarity. maybe a neighbor is taking out the trash or maybe you're imagining it, but somewhere in the millions of synapse firings, your brain convinces itself that the smell is trace left behind by the people who invaded your home, a bitter and pungent reminder of everything that they took from you.