Saturday, January 19, 2013

Strangers In the Night

When something goes bump in the night and you know it could only be one thing…

I remember that night quite vividly, even though it was a few months ago now.  I was chin-deep in a film assignment and had been up until almost midnight pausing and fast-forwarding through various scenes of the movie ‘Strictly Ballroom’.  It was a Saturday night, but with nothing social to show for its self, it resembled a week night. 



Upon reflection, the day had not been remarkable either.   I’d gone for my usual 8km run on my usual running route, a practice that was not unusual for me on any given Saturday.  It was my reprieve and sanity during times of being weighed down by a flood of assignments.  This assignment was the first in a quick flurry of essays at only a few weeks into the semester.  Oddly, I do remember one distinct thought during that particular run, and that was that nothing much had happened in my life for a while.  I’m not sure what constitutes “happened”, or even “happening”, it was more just that nothing out of the ordinary had appeared recently.  It’s the unexpected things in life that had not appeared for some time now, like a prang to my car, or receiving a reply to an email I’d long since forgotten about.  These aren’t monumental or catastrophic events, they’re simply out of the blue.  Incidentally, I also remember thinking during said run it’s usually after having an intuitive insight like this that something does happen. I gave it no further thought; nothing was going to happen.



Deciding I needed to call it quits on the assignment for the time being, I switched off the lounge television and dvd player, placed my laptop on my desk in my bedroom and promptly got ready for bed.  It was almost midnight, and I knew the only way I could improve the assignment now was if I met it with fresh eyes in the morning.  I brushed my teeth, I put on my night crème (doesn’t hurt to start young), I climbed into my pyjamas.  I’d been home alone throughout the evening until Anna, one of my three flatmates, arrived home.  We passed in the hall uttering our goodnights.   It was definitely shut up shop time both of us and her bedroom door must have closed not long after mine.  Notably, the two other flat mates didn’t return home that night.

I was in the habit of saying my prayers at night around this time.  Not that I’m not still a night prayer, but I think I go through patterns with my prayer life.  Right now it’s very much in the moment and as it comes to mind, but a few months back, on that night, prayer time tended to be mostly structured, much like the rest of my life – lectures, assignments, church, gym, meal times – everything was to a schedule.   Of course, that didn’t mean I couldn’t also slip in a quiet one during any other hour of the day.

I should mention here something about my prayers.  I don’t confess this before many people as it seems to confuse and leave people stammering for how to respond to such a suggestion, so it’s just easier not to go there generally.  I was, however, for a rather long time, convinced that many of my prayers manifested in reverse.  For example, I prayed about a problem at my old job and instead of improving it got worse.  Time and again I would pray for my on-going physical pain to relent and be eradicated once and for all, yet years tumbled by with no sign of improvement.  If I was emotionally bruised, the praying, it seemed, set the pain further into existence, instead of slowly shedding away the layers.  As I’m typing this now though, many months down the track, I can see that my prayers were answered.  And not for the polar opposite of what I wanted either (nor for the opposite of what was best for me).  In terms of the job, I left almost a year ago after being accepted into university.  This move was one of the best I’ve ever made and I’ve never looked back.  The pain issue (detailed in my blog Does Taking Medication Really Make Me a Substandard Christian?) has improved remarkably, and though it’s not gone completely it is actually under control for the first time in over 20 years.  The emotional turbulence has also improved, but again this is a whole other blog in itself.

I shed this background only because it was relevant to the way things panned out on that night.  So, back to my detailing of events…



I was in bed now, silently praying in the stillness of the night.  Having spent much of the day on my own (to necessitate the coming together of my assignment), I was notifying God of how it would be nice to have someone to talk to at the end of the day – someone physically present who I could talk to about anything and everything.  The tiredness took a hold of my exhausted thinking faculties fairly quickly, and pieces of prayer then began floating around in my mind as though they were helium billboards with random topics on them.  The posted words would then kind of pass by the ever watchful eye of the great I Am.  I was definitely almost asleep.  Of all things, I distinctly remember this prayer portion in motion (as random as it was): “it would be good to have a man in my life, even from a safety point of view…”.  Funny, God must have thought I was bringing forth every which reason for why He should relent and bring forth a man in my life.  The fact was though my safety had never been an issue.  I’ve walked from function venues to dimly lit car parks in the middle of nowhere more times than I care to let on; I was completely un-phased by the idea that my safety could be jeopardised.  Reflecting back on it now however, it was out of character for me to bring up such a topic when talking with God, even if I was half asleep; I’d never contemplated mentioning it before. 



The praying must have been over pretty quickly because before I knew it I was being awoken by a knock on my door.  Strange, no one ever knocks on my door after I’ve gone to bed…
Having been prised quickly and unexpectedly out of my sleeping state, I grumbled a word or two in recognition of the knock.
 “Can you please get up?” a weak and slightly urgent voice came from the other side of the door. 
My honest thought at such a request was probably along the lines of “I’d rather not”.  In the space of a few seconds, my mind rewound to the mouse trap that had been positioned in the hallway not far from my bedroom door earlier in the day.  There had been a rodent in residence at our flat, and it had become apparent after a couple of weeks that Mickey wasn’t going to leave on his own accord.  The only plausible reason that I could think of for why my presence was required in the dead of the night was because Mickey had met his fate.  His disposal wasn’t really this flat mate’s cup of tea, I figured.  His disposal isn’t really my cup of tea either, I thought to myself, why couldn’t we have just sent the mouse an eviction notice?

I switched on my bed side light and, climbing out of my warm nest of blankets, opened the door.  My flatmate Anna stood frozen on the spot in front of me.
“Someone has come in through Jenny’s window and is hiding in her room…”  her voice carried in the surrounding stillness. 
You know how it is generally accepted that people look on at other people’s misfortunes and fathom internally notions to the effect of ‘Yeah, but it will never happen to me’?  I was having one of those moments in the time frame of a split second.  Thus, I waited half a second for her to quip “Got ya!  Only teasing!”  and once that half a second was up, I knew it was time to execute a response.  Plan get the hell out of this house needed immediate initiation. 

I grabbed Anna by the hand and walked us quickly passed the occupied room, though I dared not look in for fear of witnessing anything that might leave me paralysed on the spot.   I lead us out our front door and into the foyer.  It will be alright, I reasoned with myself, the landlord lives upstairs so we’ll alert him and it will all be fine.  Hurrying up the stairs with Anna right behind me, I knocked on the door in the dead of the night and waited.  No answer.  I knocked louder and called out.  Nothing.  I heard a noise inside our part of the house, like someone was now inside, and looked at Anna whose eyes said she’d heard it too.
“Call the police” I instructed Anna.  She was poised next to me with her cell phone still stuck in her hand from when she’d been browsing the inter-webs from the comfort of her own bed.  A shaky hand began pressing buttons, and I persisted in my bid to wake the landlord. 


I kept a close eye on the foyer below us as we stood quivering at the top of the stairs.  What if they come through the door we just exited from; what do I do then? I pondered.  In my imaginary vision of what these intruders might look like when viewed from our angle, I saw not one, but two men.  I have no idea why. 

I would like to say that next, in true Chriz-o form, I began reverently praying, but truth be told I can’t remember praying at all.  My only thoughts were that if these intruders appeared, it would be pretty obvious what our situation was: two young females at the top of the staircase panic-stricken yet unable to enter through the door of accompanying living quarters.  Thus, they cannot reach what safety resides on the other side.  Or, should it become a briefed newspaper heading: victims unable to raise the alert of intruders, come hell or high water. 

So, I resolved in my internal dialogue, the police really were our only bet.  But what if the intruders can hear out desperate calls for help from inside the flat?  the issue continued to persist in my mental meshing.  What if they emerge and, changing tactics, come after us?  I didn’t give a damn about our possessions I must say, although for one fleeting moment my thoughts did return to my laptop, assignment residing within, clearly visible from my bedroom door that I’d left open.  It was an opportune setting for any burglars meandering through. 



It was over ten minutes before the knock arrived at our door marking the arrival of those reliable rescuers we know as cops.  During that time the call taker on the other end of Anna’s phone had remained on line, bringing forth the only presence of calm and collectedness in the entire ordeal.  I opened the door, conscious of my attire for one brief moment yet bent on ending this tribulation as quickly as possible.  The house was inspected with a torch by two officers, and a third paced around our front yard, sniffer dog in tow.  Declaring the house free from any intruders, lights were promptly flicked on and I only wished my sense of inner peace could also be reinstated in such a speedy manner.  A smidgen of reluctance towards the idea of feeling safe seemed reasonable to me, after all, I knew the police would soon be gone and Anna and I would be left to endure the rest of the night on our own.  With the portion of relief I did bathe in though, I took comfort in the fact that, right now, we weren’t going to be confronted by any untoward men. 


As predicted, sleep was elusive for both Anna and I for the rest of that night.  We slept with our bedroom doors open so we could talk to each other from our rooms.  A sprinkling of lights was left turned on throughout the flat, should any new intruders approach this property, we wanted to make certain they knew that residents were home.  The landlord was still none the wiser of any of the goings on we’d just bore in our quarters of the house. 

The following day a closer look was taken at our flat’s exterior, and the midnight stranger’s intents became apparent.  Jenny’s bedroom window had not been left open a crack as we initially thought, a set up that would have facilitated sinister persons in pursuit of gaining access.  Jenny’s window, she informed us upon returning the following day, had in fact been closed.  The burglars had prised it open with a crowbar, and had then reached in and drawn back the curtain, which was the noise Anna had heard from her room next door.  Jenny’s curtains, however, had not been closed that night.  Needless to say, it is now mandatory flat practice to close all curtains in the flat upon nightfall. 

Additionally, a window in the lounge at the opposite end of the house had also been dealt to by a crook wheeling a crowbar.  It appeared that insufficient time had seen this window only damaged in the frame and not actually prised open.  The ranch slider too had scrapes depicting further attempts at entry.  With this much tampering it seemed most likely that there was more than one stranger set on entering our dwelling spot.

In my opinion, there could have been only two things that deterred the encroachers in their pursuit of entering: Anna turning on the hall light as she headed towards my room to alert me to the matter, and our rachis at the top of the staircase that no doubt echoed throughout the surrounding areas.   It struck me as a pungent realisation then that, had Anna arrived home ten minutes later, I would have been there alone and out to the world.  If I had awoken to noise I would have assumed it was one of the girls coming home, as had been the case historically when I’d been disturbed during sleep.  However, if the crooks had entered my room, I would have been beside myself.


Like a little prayer…

In relation to my earlier conviction that my prayers produce the exact opposite to what I pray for, something came to mind as I was contemplating this blog yesterday.  I recollected an ornament that a friend of mine has in her home.  I can best describe it as a small piece of rectangle wood with a maze-like pattern carved out of it.  Up close it doesn’t isn’t look like much, in fact, it appears a bit nonsensical really.  However, when you take a few steps back and view it from a greater distance, it becomes obvious what it is…

It would be easy to consider my prayer that night and then examine it against the events that unravelled and think this is merely another example of a prayer failing me.  In truth, the following day my thoughts were somewhere around those lines, after all, who wouldn’t want a man around at a time like that?  But really, on closer inspection, I’m trying to put God’s intervention into a limited box.  My small thinking means that a knight in shining armour would have had to appear for me to believe that God truly heard my prayer and intervened accordingly.   I digress though, as this is real life, and not a product of Disney land.  Furthermore, you’ve got to wonder why a guy would be on my premise so late at night, unless he was my spouse, but that was never going to come to pass in the space of five minutes.

No, God remained true to His mandate of the standards we should live by. He sent me a flatmate to intercept my being alone that night, and provide alert ears that would raise the alarm.  Again, thinking about it further now, the fact that Anna arrived home only some minutes before the break in was attempted means I should see clearly how God aligned His intervention.  Anna’s arrival back was so close to the actual event that I should never have missed seeing it for what it really was: God sending in another to aid my safety just at the moment it was needed most.  Additionally, I think going through something like this with another person forges a new found trust and an unspoken bond as a result. 

Like many things in life, there is a lesson to be learnt here.  God can sway our thoughts when we’re praying in such a way that our prayers are aligned to what we need the most, even if we don’t know it at the time, and even if we are dog-gone tired.  Thus, the God who gave us life can protect us in our times of trial and needless to say He is to be praised for this.  Oh, and one more lesson:  always shut your curtains at night  J


1 comment:

  1. Have enjoyed reading your blogs this avo - easy to read and entertaining - thank you.