The police came to our home yesterday. I saw the officer amble across our front porch before he rang the bell. Judging by his advancing age and his rickety gait, I figured him to be the old sea captain who once owned our house, who townspeople tell me about and forewarn of his likelihood to drop by unannounced to ensure we’re taking good care of his abode. As I walked toward the front door, preparing my speech about how we cherish the cramped rooms and atrocious kitchen appliances, I noticed that he was wearing a badge instead of the captain accessories I imagined he would don, like a telescope and symptoms of scurvy. Upon spying his gold medallion, my chest felt heavy and my throat constricted in the flight-or-fight response the body undergoes when confronted with something alarming.
I took a mental inventory of the humans I live with and live for. My husband, G, was upstairs in his office, safely droning on about corporate debt on a conference call. Liv was in my arms. Dom and Eve were at school. Please, God, be at school. Be at school.
I wrestled with the iron skeleton key required to open the door, even from the inside, cursing its function and muttering apologies through the window to the officer. “Don’t worry,” he called, “there’s no emergency.” With that reassurance, all the breath I’d been storing deep in my lungs rushed from my nostrils in a cathartic release and my hands stopped quivering so that I could summon the appropriate motor ability to turn a key. As the door swung open, I thought, I knew I was going to get nicked for parking in handicapped spots. Will he believe that paralyzing self-doubt and a bad skin day are legitimate handicaps? I wonder if they allow a breast pump into prison?
I straightened my spine and raised my chin in a show of refinement and law-abiding confidence. “What can I do for you, officer?” Why did I say that? That’s what the suspect in crime movies says right before an officer discloses the babysitter they’d last hired was found in a river holding a piece of paper with this address on it.
With that, the officer pulled a flyer from a stack I hadn’t noticed he was carrying and flipped it around, dramatically displaying a photo.
“Ma’am, it’s our duty to inform you that a sex offender has moved into the neighborhood, just a street over,” he pointed to the expanse behind him, “All the neighbors are being notified and given this flyer with his picture on it.”
He handed me the flyer, and I studied the picture like I’d just been given a cache of files from Roswell or the identity of Tupac’s gunman.
“I see you’ve got children,” he nodded at Liv before putting a finger up, “You may want to consider putting strollers away rather than leaving them in your driveway.”
My mind raced, neurons firing but failing to bridge gaps in logical processes. Why? Sexual predators like double joggers? If anyone can actually do anything that approximates jogging with that thing, they’re welcome to it.
“You should go about your life as usual but be cautious about any obvious signs that children live in the home.”
I looked over his shoulder, taking stock of the evidence of children inhabitants that littered my yard. Strollers. Bicycle. Plastic gardening tools. Shoes. All I needed was an oversized banner announcing: Woman with 3 young kids lives here alone most of the week while husband travels for work. Also, no alarm system! And, no firearm!
I felt under attack and filled with bitterness, and, for once, not as a result of the two croissants I’d eaten for breakfast. And possibly not even because a convicted criminal with a history of hurting children had moved into the vicinity of my home, but because I was going to have to put our shit away.
I closed the door and watched the officer walk to the next house. G cleared his throat, signaling his presence behind me. I slammed the flyer into his chest and stormed past him, urgently compelled to find more French pastries. “We moved to a small town to avoid this sort of thing,” I muttered. G followed me into the kitchen, watching as I rummaged through cabinets and checked expiration dates on whipping cream canisters. G shrugged his shoulders, “This happens everywhere. I grew up in a small town and these flyers went around there, too.”
I remind him that I was nearly sexually assaulted by a paraplegic in camouflage and a wheelchair at the watering hole in his hometown. Not exactly surprising. He defaults to the one kernel of sagacity he employs across the entire parenting spectrum, from choking hazards to too much Disney Channel.
We will just need to be vigilant.
Vigilant? As in hiring the Navy Seal outfit responsible for clipping Bin Laden to sit on our roof? As in digging a moat around our home passable only by gondoliers armed with retinal scanners?
With a mouth filled with egg salad and oatmeal cookie, I began an impromptu tour of our home, showcasing the security susceptibilities to G. The front door is made of a rotting wood, probably reclaimed from the Mayflower. It’s weathered, ancient, and includes a window made of glass surely blown by glassmiths of the first century. The only thing older than this door and its glass window is our dog. Only an intruder concerned about lint-rolling their all-black jumpsuit for years to follow would take pause at a twelve year old Samoyed.
Between dismissive eye rolls and glances to the Blackberry, G nodded with disinterest as I prattled about the siege brought down upon our home. Why can’t he cop to fear or even remote inconvenience that a convict has arrived to our neighborhood? This isn’t a minor convict, a darling of Liberals, who protested the closure of a Planned Parenthood or National Park. This is someone who preys on fragile people, a predator, like a Velociraptor, or a Tiger Shark, or Nickelback. He is lurking in the tall grass, lying in wait, as our children frolic blithely by the thicket, their toys rolling ever closer.
Their toys, I recalled with a slap to my forehead, as G slips out sight. I yelled after him:
“And now I have to go put our shit away.”