I have a hard time sleeping in one place, especially in the summer. If I get too hot, I'm outta there. If I get uncomfortable, my half-asleep mind lingers over the various aspects of my discomfort until I get up and do something about it. My family knows this. They know that any bed is fair game, especially if they're out of town or at college.
So, last night, I'm in the den. I rarely sleep in the den. Not that the couch there isn't comfortable. It is. It's top notch. But I just usually tend toward either the top floor or the basement. But last night it was the den. I've been having some allergy issues and I just kind of camped out there. Got up about 2:20AM for some water.
Around 3AM, I could tell that someone else was up , too. My wife, the lawyer, has restless nights as well, so she may end up on the computer in the kitchen reading The New York Times at 4AM some nights. I could hear her creaking around in the dining room, but I couldn't figure out why I didn't hear her come down the stairs. I blamed that on the Benadryl.
Then she creaked towards the den. I saw a hand come in from behind the door and feel for the light switch. The hand kept feeling for the light switch that we had taken out. Everyone knows that light switch has been gone for years. But wait. Then a head appeared. A male.
"Help!" I yelled, as I rolled off the couch.
"You better not say anything," he said.
"Help!" I yelled, by the point at the door of the den. I could see him retreating into the dining room, where another man was coming toward him. I couldn't hear what they said because I was running up the stairs and my wife was yelling "What's wrong?" and I was yelling "Intruders in the house! Get in the bedroom and lock the door!"
The two men disappeared into the kitchen. At the top of the stairs, I saw my two children emerging groggily from their rooms and running into the master bedroom. The door closed and locked, leaving me and Taco, the wonder chihuahua, in the hallway. He had not been the effective watchdog I had expected, and seemed to take it as a personal affront that he had not been allowed into the locked room.
I could hear my family in there talking, worrying, calling 911. I stood at the landing, waiting to see if the men were going to come up. I did not want the four of us trapped in that bedroom without knowing what's outside unless we had to. Taco continued to whimper and claw at the bedroom door.
I stood silently, no pants, no glasses, no weapon, listening to the sounds of the house, not sure if they were coming from the bedroom, the kitchen, the basement. I stood for several minutes. I thought I could hear police sirens eventually, but wasn't sure, and then they stopped.
Then I was sure I could hear noises downstairs and prepared to make a beeline for the bedroom. Then I saw the flashlights in the hallway below me and yelled, "Who is it?"
"East Ridge police," came the answer. They had been fast. I was grateful. When I got downstairs, their guns were drawn as they searched the house, and then the barrage of questions began.
My description was useless: young African-American men, maybe one wearing something orange, maybe one with his face partially covered, about my height, short hair, no visible weapons. I had seen only a flash of each one without my glasses on.
Still, the police continued their questioning and searching. They thought they had found a viable fingerprint or two, so we waited for the detective to come dust those spots. We all engaged in fractured conversations involving guns, break-ins, dogs, our lack of cash, things we thought had been stolen that weren't, which way the men came in, which way they left, weak doors, unlocked doors, security systems, my use of the word "intruders" (what do you say? Robbers? Thieves? Burglars? Crooks?), the safety of the neighborhood.
Though it only happened nine hours ago, I have replayed it all many times, especially the "what ifs." Had I been sleeping upstairs, we never would have heard them until they came up. Had I been sleeping in the basement, I would have assumed the noises were a family member and never given them another thought, rolled over and gone back to bed. But, for some reason, last night I choose the red couch in the den. Only the surprise that created stands between us and the things we'd rather not ponder.
But about 5AM, we triple-bolted the door to the deck, I moved the refrigerator in front of the back door in the basement, I bolted the front door and took up residence on the couch in the living room, and we tried to go to sleep.