December, Part 2

Let’s talk about theivin’. In the past 30 days, I’ve witnessed and/or have been told about more break-ins and robberies than I have ever experienced in my whole life. Seriously. I’ll say it again because I can’t believe it. In the past thirty days, I have experienced more theft than I have in my whole lifetime. I’m trying to figure out what it is, exactly. I mean, I know the economy’s in the tank. I know people are hard up for everything from groceries to gas… but, honestly, I feel like the whole world is going out of its way to prove that old economics textbook inverse corrolary between the economy and crime. It goes: when things get bad, the theivin’ starts.

So, the first incident, of course, is my house. I’ll get to that. But, first, I just HAVE to tell you about what happened to two clients of mine. The first one was moving her office from the first floor of a building to the third. She works for a larger company and that company was moving all its offices to the third floor as well. The company hired a moving company to move the heavy stuff like filing cabinets and furniture. The moving company told my client’s company this: they, the movers, would be responsible for everything but laptops. The movers were NOT to touch laptops. The owners of laptops were told to have them OUT of the building on moving day. Moving day came and my client showed up to loosely supervise. When she saw the crew come in, she knew something wasn’t right. They all looked a little shifty. One of them approached her while he was on his cell phone and asked her the address of the place. That was a little odd since he should have known that… having shown up for work that day at said address and all. Well, within seconds, the guy had swooped into the empty room where she had her purse and her laptop bag (she ignored the caveat about laptops) and was out the door, literally hopping into a getaway car (the thief was on the phone with the driver; that’s who needed the address). She did an equally brazen thing and ran up to the supervisor from the moving company and ordered him to get into his car and pursue the guy. They tried, but they weren’t able to catch up with him in time. Within hours, they’d gone to the Sprint store and racked up $2800.00 in sales with her stolen credit card.

Then, I get into work this morning, check my email, and discover that another client of mine, traveling in South America, had his car broken into while he was sitting in it. He was stopped at a red light, minutes from the airport, when a man broke the window behind the driver’s seat, reached in, grabbed a camera, a phone, and a bag with a passport and credit cards in it, and then sped away on his friend’s motorcyle. It all happened in seconds flat. Unbelievable, huh?

When I rifle through the Rolodex in my mind and stop on “image of thief”, I’ve got a guy dressed in black wearing a ski mask, almost comically sneaking-around-on-tiptoe in the night and carrying a cinched burlap sack. Ten blissful years in front of a TV on Saturday morning is probably to blame for that. Now I don’t know what to think. Could be “guy at barber shop”. Could be “dude next to me on bus”. I have no idea. I do know that he’s brazen enough to freakin’ ASK HIS VICTIM the address of the building he’s about to rob, and I know he’s quick and strong enough to punch through a car window and yoink a couple thousand dollars worth of electronics and cash in the time it takes a light to go from red to green.

World, have you gone crazy?

It starts with a rabbit and ends with a rabbit. There are rabbits that live on our property. Maybe they are the offspring of the previous owners’ rabbits. Maybe they’ve just always lived under the rhododendron on the side of the house. I don’t know. I do know this: on some mornings, when I get ready to leave for work, there is a black rabbit sitting near my car. Sometimes he’s on the lawn munching our weeds. Most of the time, though, he’s near my wheels. It’s like he’s waiting for me. There’s another rabbit, a white one, with black feet, but he doesn’t come around as much as the black one does. The black one just sits and waits. When I get close, he takes off. When I found him the day of the robbery, I had this thought: He is the only bright spot in my life right now. Every morning, when I stepped out of the house and I surveyed the mess under the carport, or the spiny, dead, brown boughs of the monkey tree all around the front porch, or the muddy, scrubby incline of the driveway, I would just sigh heavily under weight of all that ugliness and work to do. And then I would see Black Bunny (as I took to calling him). And suddenly, everything was okay.

The day of the break-in was an odd one in that all the rules of routine were broken. I took the day off work- unusual for me- and the housemates were working at the same time, away from the house- unusual for them. CLH was spending the first half of the day at home and the second half away. We got up early (again, an anomoly for me) and went shopping for some last minute things so that I could pack up the box of Christmas gifts to be shipped back to my family and the suitcase to be brought to Panama. CLH and I came home, did a few things around the house, and then we left at the same time- he in one direction and me in the direction of the post office. I was so relieved to check “mail 50 lb box across country” that I almost didn’t notice the dark mound in the front of the house when I pulled up. It was raining out. It had been raining for days. The ground was muddy; since we don’t have sidewalks in our part of town (cue banjo music), i was able to see clearly that the dark mound was a rabbit. And it wasn’t moving. It was Black Bunny. He was lying on his side. There was a small pool of blood behind his head.

I went inside and called CLH. He chuckled a little at my calling to report dead wildlife, but he stopped when i started to cry. Softly at first, and then the heaving sobs came. And then a great tidal wall of revelations hit me. The first revelation was this: I really loved that damned rabbit. The second was this: dead rabbits, pets or not, in the front of one’s house, are not an omen of good things to come. In fact, they are an omen of horrible things to come. I said as much to CLH. “I don’t think we should get on the plane”, I said. We were scheduled to leave, at the point, in 12 hours. “We can talk more about it when I get home”, he said. He said it in that way that suggested he knew that even though the idea of not getting on the plane because of a dead rabbit sounded ludicrous, he’d experienced firsthand too many accounts of my intuition being right to dismiss it.

I sat in my office and finished working on the project I had for the next three hours. Every once in a while I would look up from my work and stare across the front lawn to the dark spot. The rain was falling, and it just made the day seem all the more ominous. There was a heaviness in the air- there was a potentiality that I couldn’t name, and in the absence of knowing, I started constructing the story of this rabbit’s life. And this made me cry harder. Firstly, I knew it was a male rabbit. I didn’t know this for sure. I just felt it. I knew his name was Black Bunny. I knew he felt safe at our house. He was my little spot of sunshine. The white bunny was his bunny wife. They had bunny children. I’d never seen them but CLH and the other housemates had seen them. He was their provider. He scoped out the lawn in the morning and came back and told them all where the good weeds were. And then he was dead. Some careless driver, probably, speeding down our residential street, had run him over and he’d limped to our front lawn to die. He was dead. His family missed him. It was raining, and I was alone, and I was staring out my window at his body, and he was dead. Thinking about his little white bunny wife… thinking about the white bunny finding his body out there in the rain… well, that just made me cry harder. The word “innocence” kept running through my head. I couldn’t shake the feeling, the word. I had to. So, I decided to leave the house.

Around 6, I finished my work, took a shower, and got ready to leave. Again, completely out of sync with any normal routine, I was going to do the following: I was going to go work at a client’s place for a few hours, then go to a party to see off a friend who was also traveling the next day, and then go home around midnight to catch a few hours of sleep before getting on the plane.

I left the house at around 6:30. I stopped at a store to do some last minute Christmas shopping. I got to my client’s place around 7:30. At about 8:15, CLH called. “Someone broke into the house”, he said.

I got home in record time. The thieves had kicked open the front door, so the door didn’t close quite right. They’d hit my office, then my housemate’s upstairs, and then they booked on outta there. It was a rush job for sure. They hadn’t even unplugged the computer; they’d just dragged it from the wall to the front door. The surge supressor that everything was plugged into was in the middle of the room. There is nothing like surveying the mess someone else makes of your personal belongs… it does two things. It raises your blood pressure and it fills you with the most overwhelming sense of violation. There was the party favor from my dad’s uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary, on the floor. There was the picture of my family at Christmas, torn from the side of my file cabinet, on the floor. There was the memo pad holder that my grandfather made me when I was a small child, on the floor. My adding machine, the paper unspooled. My pencil cup. Everything on the floor, knocked over, spilled out, trampled on.

They pulled the laptop out of its power strip, but not before crashing into my craft table- and two UNsewn 4″x4″ canvas bags of unpopped popcorn. (I was in the process of finishing them for a game of Cornhole. ) I had to clean that up too. As I swept, I kept hoping all those hundreds of kernels crashing to the floor scared the bejesus out of them, even if it was just for a few seconds.

They made off with my two laptops and my desktop, and a few small electronics. They also got a few computers from my housemate. They didn’t however, seem interested in the passports that were just lying there, in plain sight, on the desktop. I was absolutely amazed at either their stupidity, their haste, or both.

The police officer arrived soon enough. We were told by the 911 dispatcher that he was busy investigating a vehicular homicide down the street. “Joy!” I thought. All this just in time for the holidays, when humanity is at its finest. The cop, either recognizing the potty mouth that spills out of us native born New Jerseyans when the ish hits the fan, or picking up on my references to having to tell the East Coast family that Santa came early and TOOK presents instead of giving them, reveals that he was born not to far from where I was born. Go figure. He spends an extra long time fingeprinting the place. “Fingerprinting?” I think to myself. “Do they even DO that anymore? I thought that went out with VCRs…” He got a few good ones, too. My bedside table drawer was left open- apparently, the thieves were looking for guns in there- and we knew they’d have used their grubby little paws to pry open the clean lines of our Scandanavian design inspired drawer faces. Weren’t they disappointed to find a giant red leather bound Webster’s dictionary and a few tubs of shea butter?! Ha, you jerks. That’s what happens when you mess with intellectual peaceniks. You look for guns and what you get is fair trade shea butter.

The cop spends nearly three hours fingerprinting. It is midnight by the time he leaves. We are all exhausted. We start thinking about that party we were going to go to. We look around, survey the damage, throw the last dustpan of corn away… and then we all pile into the car and head towards the party.

CLH and I don’t sleep that night. We just stay up all night. We hit an all night diner and order eggs and toast at three in the morning. We go home, get our stuff, and head to the airport. We are missing our computers, but we have our passports. By the grace of some god, or because criminals are just too dumb to know, we have our passports. And that’s all we need.

Am I leaving out the hatred, the rage, the wanting to gouge someone’s eyes out with a spoon upon seeing my office the way it was? Yes. There are greater injustices in this world than having your machinery stolen, so I don’t want to dwell. I was lucky. I had three machines to be stolen. For god’s sake. The thing that stung more, of course, was feeling like I was walking amongst criminals for the next couple of hours. ANYone could have done this. Anyone could have kicked in my door. Guy waiting for bus? Guy in convenience store? I didn’t know. And I hate not trusting humanity. I was on high alert for the next 24 hours. I couldn’t let my guard down. It didn’t happen till I was in the air for a good couple of hours.

We had an absolutely amazing time in Panama; I’ll tell you all about it soon.

But, back the bunnies. I can’t even describe accurately the scene that follows the cop leaving and before we head to the party. We go outside, all four of us, plus some relatives of our housemates’ who drove down upon getting the call. It’s raining. It’s dark. Housemate and CLH have already scooped up Black Bunny from the front of the house and put him in a cardboard box. They’ve dug a hole in the backyard near the tulip tree. When the cop shows up, they come back inside to give their testimony. They are wet and their boots are covered in mud. There is a joke somewhere in all this… I want to tell the copy to add “murder” to his list of things to attend to. The victim is out in the yard…

But I don’t, exactly. I am somber. We gather in the rain and in the pitch dark night to each throw a little clod of mud onto Black Bunny’s grave. I am sobbing like I am burying the love of my life. The break-in, my dead rabbit friend… I can’t deal. I feel the world is supremely unjust in that moment.

We return from our trip down south refreshed and renewed. All desire to gouge out eyes with kitchen utensils has passed. A huge snowstorm paralyzes the city for a week straight while we were gone and I am so glad to have missed it.

With snow comes tracks. And one morning, as CLH and I each leave the house for our cars, he points out a familiar pattern in the snow on the lawn. Two little round indentations, then an oval, in succession. Rabbits. I don’t know how it’s possible. I nearly leap for joy. I do the calculations in my head: rabbits + rabbits = rabbits. Where there was one, there are many. There rabbits have come back to hang out on our lawn. Maybe those tracks belong to Black Bunny.

And then, a day later, I see him. A black bunny. I don’t know if he is Black Bunny, and that maybe Black Bunny wasn’t the bunny we buried, or if he is just a black bunny, and Black Bunny is dead, but he is by my car. And he is waiting for me. And he is saying, in his telekinetic bunny way, it’s okay. I’m here. I’m here for you. It’s going to be okay.

And it is.