Pandemonium: a chaotic situation; tumult.
Pandemic: a global outbreak of disease.
NOTE: The COVID-19 pandemic is real and it’s devastating. In the following posts, I am in no way minimizing what good folks around the globe are facing in loss of income, sense of security or family members. This is simply a look into my personal world with one jaded eye…while the other one is filled with sadness, empathy and hope for all of us.
Hello dear readers! January 25, 2020, dawned as the Year of the Rat, according to the Chinese zodiac, with said rat typically representing new beginnings, health and abundance. “Geez, I sure hope so,” I remember muttering after a tumultuous start to my own new year, all the while with this niggling thought at the back of mind: “Never trust a rat.”
Two weeks prior while in my car, stopped at an intersection waiting to turn right in the desert town where I live, a city trash truck (a pickup and not the giant one with the claw that thrusts out the side to grab your curbside barrels, thank god), unceremoniously plowed into the back of my car.
My car jolted forward, and my neck snapped backwards so hard it was like I’d been punched. “Oh shit, earthquake!” I thought.
I got out of the car to see an apologetic truck driver and minor bumper damage, my neck starting to tighten and throb.
I was already feeling sorry for myself since four days earlier, the dermatologist had carved an inch-long line into my face. “This MOHS surgery will remove the skin cancer,” he said with a calmly detached tone. “Nothing to worry about,” he continued while he stitched, and I countered with, “Yeah, but it’s not your face!” At the time of my unfortunate vehicular incident, the bandage still covered what resembled cross ties on a railroad track at the crest of my left cheek.
The city employee’s insurance took care of the car damage, my neck felt better by the following week, and after the stitches were removed, the scar I’d imagined that would necessitate a veil to go out in public (yep, I go from A to Z in a nanosecond), began to fade. I even had a handful of Match dates during that period, and each of the guys was kind enough to say, “That’s not so bad,” as I explained the thin, pink line on my face.
As the calendar shifted from that unfortunate month of January to February, I started to feel pretty good about life. My bff JP and I decided to hit our fave Mexican restaurant and clink our margarita goblets–TGIF–to thank god for Friday AND February.
As we returned from dinner that night and drove into the cul-de-sac where I live, JP said, “Uh oh, looks like there’s a problem at the neighbor’s.” Police cars and outlines of figures mingled in the dark in front of us, and JP’s approaching headlights suddenly sharpened the scene. “That’s not the neighbor’s–that’s my house!” as I realized it was lit up like a Christmas tree and my front door was standing open.
I hopped out of the passenger side of the car and walked though my gate as if in a dream, and a uniformed cop met me at the door. “Is this your house?” he asked as the shock of what happened hit me square between the eyes. In the past two hours, a stranger crowbarred the slider into my bedroom, shoved aside my pretty new silk, silver-gray drapes, walked through every room in my home, leaving behind open closet doors and dirty shoe prints, all while my alarm signal whined, alerting the alarm company–who alerted the police when the dispatcher couldn’t reach me (I’d turned my phone off at dinner).
“They were in and out of here in the time it took to make those calls,” said the officer. “They’re professionals.”
The policeman led me back through each room asking me what was missing. Laptop? Check, sitting right where I left it. IPad, televisions, artwork? Check, check, check. Jewelry? There sat a diamond necklace and earrings and a disorganized pile of silver bangle bracelets in a leather tray atop the dresser, untouched. But on the second pass through the master bedroom, the tears welled up as I was struck seeing my top dresser drawer pulled open, with my lace panties in black, nude and periwinkle blue all rolled up Marie Kondo-style, undisturbed as if in a display case. Feeling naked and exposed, I start to wail.
“Calm down lady and look at me,” the cop says, gently touching my arm. I try, but my eyes dart around the room like some tweaker who’s been cornered. “What’s missing? They wouldn’t leave empty-handed, so focus!” he says in a tone that’s firm but short on time, the squawking of his radio non-stop. As I turn and pass the opening to my walk-in closet a second time, I suddenly see it: The empty space where my safe, a heavy, bulky gray square the size of an ottoman, had been, it’s shadow now imprinted on the blank carpet.
“Oh my god, oh my god, my safe with all my papers is gone,” as my confusion lifted and I mentally ticked off its contents: My passport, birth certificate, Social Security card, investment accounts, Mama and Daddy’s death certificates, the title to my car, certified copies of my divorce papers from my ex, mr. invisible, and endless other documents–plus more than $25,000 in good jewelry. Besides some gold necklaces and inlay pieces with mother of pearl, onyx and coral, plus a strand of lapis and pearls with matching earrings, also missing was my Italian pave diamond wedding band in its soft black leather pouch with the gold block lettering of the name of the fine jewelry store where it was purchased. I had planned to sell that ring for the last five years, erasing the final vestige of mr. invisible from my life, but karma got to it first.
The feeling of violation soon turned into fear. “It’s someone who knows me, knows I had a safe here!” I said to the cop, voice trembling. “You’d think that,” he said, handing me his card with his direct line and my case number printed neatly in black ink, “but these creeps know these homes and your habits–and that if you have a safe, it’s usually in the master closet. They head straight there and get out while your alarm company’s still trying to track you down.”
With that, the cop drove off and JP joined me in my bedroom. I saw the drapes billow and recede, moving to and fro as the gentle breeze off the back patio slipped through the gaping slider. We tried to close and lock the door but couldn’t secure its bent metal frame. “You’ll stay at my house until we can get a locksmith here,” he said giving me a hug. I wrapped my arms around his neck, any buzz from my margarita long gone, and felt numb with the exception of my queasy stomach. As I stuffed pjs and blood pressure pills and my toothbrush into an overnight bag, the tha-thump of my heart, like an incessant drumbeat a few decibels too loud, thrummed in my ears.
I went to every light in the house, flipping switches on, some that I’d never touched in the three years I’d lived there, and then JP and I set the alarm and walked out into the chilly night. As I climbed into his car, I glanced back at the house, shining as bright as if it were waiting for a group of party goers, with nary a trace of what just happened.
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