When I was a child, sitting at the breakfast table, sun streaming through the kitchen window, I happily joined my siblings in making fun of other children who kept the lights on in their rooms at night. I certainly wasn’t afraid of the dark. Nope, not me, the one snuggling down in her bed every night with a nightlight shining brightly. Not the one whose bedroom door stood wide open to the hall light she insisted stay on until her parents had gone to sleep. And when I woke up in the middle of the night, the comfort of the hall light gone, I never turned on my own light to shrink the giant I heard climbing the stairs (probably with a vampire on his back). Nor did I turn it on to scare away the opposable-thumbed lions and tigers who inhabited the wooded lot next door, where they hid ladders long enough to reach my bedroom window. You see, I knew perfectly well when I was out and about during those long, hot summer days, the bright sun burning my skin, that being afraid of the dark was ridiculous. We’d spend our time building forts in those woods, no lions in sight, and sliding down the staircase on pillows, giants’ footprints nowhere to be seen.
Daytime will do that to a person. During the day, when I can see what’s going on and when everything seems so much more friendly, I’m invincible. I hear sirens and don’t automatically think someone’s escaped from the state prison and is headed right for my house. I don’t worry when unfamiliar cars drive by; I just assume it’s someone visiting one of the neighbors. If I get a hang-up phone call from an unknown number, I don’t suspect someone’s hiding in my basement with a cell phone, making sure he really heard me walk in the door. I’m not afraid of being home alone all day, never even think about the fact I’m alone. Only on days when I hear that a friend of mine’s neighbor was raped by a repairman does the thought that I’m telecommuting ever bring me to the conclusion that I might be the victim of a daytime crime, and even then, if I hear this at 2:00 p.m., sun glaring down on me, I don’t pay too much attention to it.
For a brief period this past week, though, I was thinking about it. On Friday, Bob and I were at a party, and when we got home, not late at all, we decided to take Lady for a little evening stroll. We had just turned out of our driveway when a car approached, and I suddenly realized, as the reflection bounced off our post lamps, that the car had lights on top. I said to Bob, “It’s a cop. What on earth is a cop doing on our street?” We have nine houses on our street. It’s a dead end. This is not the sort of place where cops go cruising. His windows were wide open (he must have heard me. Good thing. I couldn’t possibly have sounded like someone trying to hide a crime, so can cross off my “list of things to worry about” the worry that this event would lead to an unfair arrest, and I’ll never see the light of day – the one that helps assuage my fears and worries -- again, as if I were in some Russian work of fiction or something), and he stopped to ask us if we’d heard any gunshots, as someone had reported gunshots being fired on our street. Bob explained that we hadn’t, but that we’d only been home for about ten minutes. By the time we’d taken Lady to the end of the street, there was another cop who’d come along, asking us the same question.
My first reaction was, “Damn, this is so typical of my life. Some sort of crime takes place right on my own street, and I miss hearing the shots by ten minutes.” That lasted about twenty seconds and was replaced with trying to figure out who could possibly be shooting at others on our street. Maybe the grandsons who live with the elderly couple next door are selling drugs, and "Slim Jim" had just visited with a little warning to "pay up." We haven’t even met the people who just this past week moved in on the other side. They’re from Texas, according to their license plates. Maybe they’ve hung out with Dick Cheney, and he’s taught them a few things about guns. Maybe it’s someone we’d never suspect, and we’re going to end up on Nightline talking about how we always thought they were such a “loving couple,” and how we had barbecues with them, and went to baseball games with them, and had no idea he could ever shoot her and put her body through a wood chipper.
Bob decided it may just have been the new neighbors hearing the grandsons shooting at wild turkeys, which they often like to do, and he went to bed. I went to bed, too, but then I found I couldn’t sleep, even though I’d double-checked all the locks in the house. I lay awake thinking there was some mad gunman on the loose in our neighborhood (he was, of course, wearing a ski mask). I wondered if we’d remembered to remove the spare key from under the mat, which we’d left there a few days earlier for our neighbors (and could we trust those neighbors?), so they could feed and walk Lady. I wasn’t about to go outside and check, though. I swear I heard rustling in the trees and bushes in our backyard. By 2:00 a.m., I’d decided we live in a very dangerous area. We were going to have to move, especially if I'm going to keep working from home, all by myself all day, once Bob gets a job.
Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous, bright, sunshiny day. Our sliding glass door was wide open all afternoon. The front door was open, too. We said "hi" to the new folks next door when we saw them outside with their adorable little dogs. Being afraid of masked gunmen or murdered neighbors? How ridiculous is that?