It started with several rapid strong slaps on my back. My headphones were on. As I slid the headphones off and stood, I caught her mid-sentence:
“…hear the screaming?”
“What?! No,” I replied.
“Jason, there’s a man in our backyard! He busted through the bushes!”
I took a breath. I tuned my ears as I followed Tiffany into the family room. I didn’t hear screaming, but I noticed the moans of someone coming from the side of the house. They were disturbing.
We got to our sliding doors, and I didn’t see anyone. Tiffany pointed at bushes that line our back wall at the place he broke through, but I didn’t see anything (I would later). She realized the door jamb wasn’t in and rushed to lock him out.
I took a breath.
I grabbed my phone and went back to the front of the house. As I dialed 911, I heard grunts. From our office windows, I saw the head of a man hurling himself over our front gate. He stumbled a bit, and I moved to the kitchen to watch what he would do next.
“9–1–1. An operator will be with you shortly.”
He hustled across the street. Tiffany is beside me now. I tell her he jumped over the fence and at the same time I’m answering the operator’s questions. I’m not sure how I held both conversations at once.
I took a breath.
He’s trying to climb into our neighbor’s yard. Our friendly neighbors who have lived there for 45 years. The neighbors with our favorite local dog, Pearl, who escaped their backyard and visited us last year. Sweet Pearl scared the daylights of our intruder, and so he leaped into our other neighbor’s yard. The home of the old lady who lives alone that we’re regularly worried has died if we don’t see activity at her house for awhile.
I’ve been updating the operator the whole time. A white Lexus has stopped in the middle of the street. The driver appears to have been tracking the guy from whatever trouble he had been causing on the block behind ours.
“Officers will be there shortly.”
“Thank you,” I replied.
My shoes are on, and we’re outside now talking with our neighbors about everything that’s happened. The man is not in our view anymore, and we’re all talking animatedly but calming down. The threat — at least to me — feels over.
An LAPD chopper flies overhead and begins circling the neighborhood. We point to where we believe he’s gone. We trade jokes and anecdotes to ease the tension and calm nerves.
I note how quickly and frequently people ask about the race of the perpetrator. I realize we are all trying to create a narrative of the incident so that it makes sense. I’m doing it too.
He must have been going from backyard to backyard and got caught…all this construction has brought squatters…someone said they’d seen him around before…blah blah blah…
I ask Tiffany to take a breath. I inhale too. We examine the backyard damage. We go around the corner to visit the folks at the house behind ours and see a police car and an ambulance, but things seem calm. The chopper has done its final fly-by. Our neighbors appear rattled but okay. We exchange pleasantries, but the officers tell us to go back to our house to meet another patrol car that’s been dispatched. They never show.
I checked my watch. It read 11 AM, and I could use a drink. Tiffany says she needs one, too.
I took a breath instead and turned on last night’s Saturday Night Live.
And I’m grateful.
Cross-posted on Medium.