Friday, July 9, 2010

The Intruder

It was about 10 o’clock at night. I was in my bedroom sitting on my bed, which was by the window. The shade was down. I was studying. Suddenly, I heard someone trying to open the window from outside. He was shaking the window. In one instant, my body was covered with sweat, and I froze in fear. I could still hear the man struggle to open the window when I got up and went to the kitchen and picked up a kitchen knife. I turned on all the lights so that the intruder would know that I have been alarmed and may also think that someone else was in the apartment with me, although I knew that he knew that I was alone.

With the kitchen knife in my hand, I decided to call the emergency number. I was so nervous that instead of dialing 911 I kept dialing 119 and couldn’t register that it was the wrong number. After a couple of tries, frantically, I called my friends’ house and in a shaky voice told them that someone was trying to get into my apartment, and I don’t seem to dial the right number for emergency. They told me to make sure and dial 911 and that they would be there as soon as they could. By this time, the noise had stopped, and I was worried that the intruder was already in the apartment or was trying to get in another way. I looked around me in horror and called 911. I was relieved to hear a person’s voice. Stuttering, I told her that someone was trying to get into my apartment and that he had tried to open the window. She, calmly, said, “Are you sure you’re not imagining things?” I said, “No, I heard him. He was trying to get in through my bedroom window. I’m not imagining things.” Hesitatingly, the woman got my address. I pleaded with her to send someone to my apartment, since by the tone of her voice, I could tell that she didn’t believe me. I hung up totally baffled at the reaction of the 911 operator. I could be raped and killed, and she didn’t care. With the knife in my hand, I started to pray. I didn’t hear any more noises, but it took about 20 minutes for two police officers to arrive. I was wondering why it took them so long. I lived in a small town and less than two miles from the police station. I was relieved to see them when they finally arrived. Two minutes later, my friends Sima and Shahram arrived. The police examined the area outside by the window. There were huge footprints there. They were very visible since it had rained the night before and the area by the bedroom window was muddy. Fortunately, the window of my bedroom was a storm window. It had two layers of glass with a screen in the middle. The outer window had been unlocked and was wide open. The screen was torn, pulled out and thrown on the grass. The third window was still locked. The intruder unable to open the second window had given up probably because he knew that he had lost his window of time for getting in. I felt extremely lucky that the second window was so difficult to open from outside.

I knew I could no longer stay in that apartment. Living there had been difficult for the past six months. I knew someone was stalking me. I had seen him. One winter night when I came home at about 8:00, as I was entering the apartment, I saw a man about six feet tall with a big build wearing a jacket with a hood standing about 20 yards away looking at me. Since it was dark I couldn’t see his face. He stood there and watched me unlock the apartment door and get in. I was scared. I, quickly, got in and locked the door. Shortly after that incident, every night as soon as I would come in to my apartment the phone would ring. I would pick it up and say hello, and I could only hear someone breathing on the other end. I would hang up and a second later the phone would ring, again I would say hello and he would say nothing. This went on for weeks. During that time, I was always scared of being alone at home. I talked to the manager of my apartment complex and also to the police, but nothing could be done. No one had seen anything, and no crime was committed. At the time, I was 20 years old and a college student, and that was the only place I could afford to live. The apartment complex was in a terrible neighborhood. I saw police cars in my neighborhood quite often. Some of my neighbors were drug addicts and one was arrested for selling stolen merchandise. All the men looked at me with hungry eyes and were vocal about what they wanted from me. I knew I had to find another place to live, but I hadn’t found anything I could afford. It was at about that time that I started to have difficulty sleeping. I used to be able to sleep through anything. Before that time, I remember when I was sleeping, and the phone would ring next to my ear, I would barely wake up. But during those few months, I was always scared at home. I made sure that the door and all the windows were locked at all times and all the shades were down. At night, I slept with so much anxiety that the movement of the leaves of the trees outside by a gentle breeze would awaken me. I would get up to make sure there was no one in my room. The smallest noise would make me jump and in the darkest hours of the night I couldn’t sleep.

After that night, I spent the next few weeks at the homes of different friends sleeping on the floor or the sofa. The spring semester ended and I moved to Maryland for the summer to work for my brother. I moved to a different place when I came back to school in the fall. Living in fear for those few months, and the experience of that night had a lasting effect on me. I have not been able to sleep deeply since then and I wake up with the smallest noise.

Another consequence of that night was the recurrence of a nightmare that haunted me for many years. The nightmare was always the same. I was walking alone in the middle of the night in a city, which was abandoned. There was no one in the city. As I was walking I would always notice that there was a tall man with a limp following me. I would start to run, and he would start to run. I would always tell myself, he is a tall man, but he has a limp maybe he won’t catch up with me. But as I was running, I would see him get closer to me. I would try to lose him and hide in a building, but he was always behind me. I would find a staircase and run up the stairs, he would follow me and get closer to me. Finally, as I was running up the stairs he would get really close, stretch out his arm and grab me. At that moment, I would always wake up breathless. My heart would be beating fast and I would be covered with sweat. I would lay in bed terrified telling myself that it was a dream and no one was going to hurt me, but that didn’t help much. I could not shake off the fear and the thought that someone might be in the house. It always took me a while to go back to asleep.

I had this recurring dream every 3 to 4 months for nearly 16 years. While I was married to my ex-husband Jason every time I had this dream I would wake up in fear like always. Then I would stretch out my arm and touch Jason. When I was reassured that he was laying next to me, I would feel better. After a few years of sleeping next to Jason the nightmares didn’t scare me as much, and I finally stopped having them.