About ten years ago, I was recently divorced and living alone in a one bedroom apartment. The place was clean and the rent was decent. One of those places had a doorman; I felt safe there. I was alone and loving it, focused on my career and not on my clingy ex-husband. Things were finally looking up for me.
At the time, I was working pretty late at the office and would often stumble into my apartment sleep deprived in the early hours of the morning and wake up by 6:30, seven-ish to start the day. I started noticing that in the morning, my door would be unlocked sometimes. I usually dismissed this as my sleep dead brain, thinking that the bed looked more appealing than locking the door. Another thing that I noticed since moving in was that I seemed to misplace things more than I used to, little things like a hairbrush or nail polish, that sort of thing. It wasn’t really that big of a deal, just enough to be a slight annoyance in my day.
The longer I lived there, the more frequently I seemed to forget to lock the door. At first, it was every once in a while, then it seemed like an almost daily occurrence. More things went missing, things like pictures, shaving razors and most disturbingly, my underwear. This went on for long enough that I started to get a little paranoid. I started to take the time at night to make sure the door was locked. I got into a habit of every night after I locked the door, to turn the handle three times and say to myself, “It’s locked, it’s locked, it’s locked.” Time after time, I would wake up and the door would be unlocked. One time, I even tried staying up all night to watch the door, but I ended up falling asleep on my chair.
I decided that my mind was not reliable enough to stay up all night, so I invested in a video camera. I went all out and bought the fanciest camera that I could get my hands on. So one night, I set the camera up, facing the door. I hid the camera under a pile of towels on the floor. I locked the door and went to bed.
When I woke up, my apartment looked normal. Nothing missing that I could see. I decided to check the tape. I fast forwarded through hours of footage, not seeing anything. I was just about to give up when I noticed the handle of the door jitter. Then it slowly crept open. A figure slid through the half opened door, and walked towards the camera. It paused, and looked around as if it was listening for something. Then it walked forward into direct view of the camera. I paused the camera, the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck started to rise. I was staring directly into the face of the maintenance man of the building. I could see those big thick glasses and curly hair. I had no doubt who it was. I played the tape a little more. He looked comfortable as he walked around the apartment. Then he turned and walked towards my bedroom and out of the view of the camera.
I didn’t know what to do. Sobbing, I called the police. I tried to explain over the phone, but couldn’t. Soon enough, two officers arrived at my doorstep. I told them everything and showed them the tape. I remember seeing the blood drain from their faces. They promised me that I was safe, and that they where going to get this guy.
I needed to lay down, but didn’t want to be alone. One of the officers offered to stand outside my apartment door as I took a nap. As I was laying in bed, unable to sleep but too drained to move, something kept nagging at me. I laid there for a few minutes, tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable or rest. My mind was racing. Then a realization slowly washed over me and chilled me to the bone. We watched the tape, and saw the man enter my home… but we never saw him leave. I froze, then started shaking. I needed to get to the front door. I sat up, and looked around the room. I couldn’t see anyone. I swung my legs over the side of the bed cautiously, my feet hit the cold wood floor and I felt warm breath on my ankles. I raced out of my apartment as fast as I could and to the safety of the police officer. He called for backup. They found the man under my bed, clutching a knife and a Polaroid camera.
To this day, I cannot sleep alone.