I was in my bathroom when the first rattle sounded. It was so loud. I peered down the hallway, confused. The door was shaking as someone on the other side tried to force it open. I whirled around. I decided if this person was successful in breaking down my illusion of safety, I would fight. All that I had in close reach was my small exacto knife. The blade was probably dull from cutting out pictures for collages. I decided I would stab it in the intruder’s neck.
The door knob spun back and forth ninety degrees. I knew I didn’t have much time now. I ran to the screen door. I wondered if someone was already on the other side. I gripped my blade so tight my fingers turned white. I opened the door. I ran.
I didn’t own a cell phone. I didn’t own a car. I pictured the nearby businesses. I just had to make it to one of them. I am not a runner.
The coffee shop employees were kind. They let me use their phone. I shakily dialed the police. I sat in the funky chairs with happy, oblivious people all around me as I waited. I envied them their illusions. I was bathed in fear. I did not let go of my exacto knife.
The police were kind to me as well. They went to my apartment while I waited. They looked for the intruder. But the intruder was gone. My things had been gone through. Nothing was taken. What were they looking for?
It was hard to be in my apartment that night. I pretended to myself that I would sleep. I lay down. I did not turn off the lights. I had spent the year preceding the door rattling squirreled away in my apartment. I didn’t know anyone. I was living in a new city. I convinced myself that meant I was safe. Now I knew I had lied to myself.
Eventually I decided to be okay with the fear. It doesn’t matter that I am not safe. Safety is never guaranteed. No matter what you do, even if you hide for a year in an apartment, someone can rattle your door. Live despite it, because nothing is certain. Leave the apartment.
There are kind strangers out there, willing to press a coffee into your hand despite your blade. There are kind strangers willing to go to your apartment to see if the monster is still there. They can’t make you safe.
They can show you it is worth coming out despite the risks.