On January 29th 2014, after a long day at work and then an hour at the office gym, I got home to find my door wide open. At first, I wondered if I had walked to the wrong house. I also entertained the thought that perhaps I had left the door open after having left in the morning in a rush. Before I even entered the house, I thought back to that morning. I had woken up in a good mood, taken out the garbage and even drew my curtains open, a regular morning. At the pit of my stomach, I knew the truth, I had been burglarized and so with trepidation, I entered the house.
The first place I looked was the TV trolley which needless to say was empty. The living room looked like what I imagine a hurricane aftermath would look like. Papers everywhere, cushions on the floor, empty boxes, knives and screwdrivers (used to dissemble electronics) and things like artwork simply knocked over. I noticed that the electronics were all gone. The weird thing that also caught my eyes was the print left at the edge of my sofa set where someone had sat down to disconnect the electronics from the sockets. I never wanted to sit on that spot again.
I tried to tell myself that perhaps the burglars only targeted the living room where all the electronics were. Unfortunately, walking to the other rooms, the situation was the same. My bedroom was the worst hit, clothes on the floor, jewelry strewn all over, the bed tossed, it was a mess.
I looked at my nightstand where my laptop used to be and of course it was empty. I had been given that laptop as a gift in 2009 by my former employer who had then joked ‘now you can write books and be a famous writer’. That laptop was full of articles, most unpublished, and short stories spanning over a period of almost 6 years and two unfinished manuscripts. It also had all my favorite music and e-books. I knew that it was one thing that I would never get to replace.
The thing about being burglarized is that you do not notice the small things at first. In my case, I didn’t even think to look at the kitchen initially. However, when I finally walked in, I sighed when I saw my fridge at the door, not sure why it was the door. But then it hit me just how quiet it really was, without a familiar buzzing sound. That is when I noticed that the fridge had been unplugged and the fridge guard stolen. Soon I also noticed the gas cylinder was missing and I cursed myself for having refilled it only a week before.
I remember when the police finally came and as we walked room to room, I began noticing other things. All my gold coated jewelry was gone. In addition, my lotion and a half used perfume bottle was also missing. I had worn the same scent for ages, ‘Rasasi-Royale Blue’ it was a beautiful scent that I unfortunately gave up since that break-in. Later I would wonder what the burglars did with it, do they walk around smelling of my scent or did they perhaps use the little loot to woo someone. I guess I’ll never know. My skipping rope was also gone.
Finally back at the living room, I stood there with a policeman who was writing furiously on his notebook and trying to estimate the cost of stolen items. He looked at the TV area again and asked me if there was something else that used to be there.
“DVD, Speakers and…OMG my books, where are my books, they took my books!”
I just started screaming as I finally lost it. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it before but my makeshift bookshelf was completely empty.
I had hundreds and hundreds of books mostly from street vendors. I also had some awesome books by Iyanla Vanzant that my friend Lydia had graciously lent me, priceless books. On my “soon to read” side of the shelf, I had a book by Muthoni Garland, “Tracking the scent of my mother”. It was a new book that I had gotten from the author herself, autographed when I attended one of her trainings. Well, I lost that book. It didn’t make sense why they had stolen all of my books instead of the artwork which cost more and seemed portable.
Although the street books were acquired at very fair prices, they were still quite a collection that I really loved; most of them were still new.
The fear and desperation that comes with being a victim of any crime is terrible. I didn’t want to be in that house anymore. I couldn’t stand the thought of the violation of strangers coming into my personal space like that. I didn’t know then my life was about to change drastically.
Oh and by the way, two weeks after the first burglary, a second attempt took place and this time I lost my carpet and any remaining sense of security.
These past 6 months have been quite trying. The paranoia and constant fear has become a permanent companion. I lock all my doors at all times. The bedroom doors, kitchen door, living rooms, every single door stays locked night and day. I have become obsessively alert such that footsteps wake me up. I also became a self appointed night patrol policewoman, walking around the house at 3:00am checking all the locks, looking out of the windows, worried and waiting. I used to sleep well before but now, I wake up at least four times at night with every single noise. In addition, my health has also taken a hit from the stress.
In just 6 months, I have already moved twice after having previously been in the same house for three years.
Last week, as I was leaving the house, I saw a man drive into the compound. I couldn’t see the guard and the man just drove in and parked his car and then walked out. I watched the man for a while as he walked away and then he started making a phone call. Paranoia kicked in and I kept asking my friend to go check if my house was still locked all the while I was saying my prayers. Luckily, I was the only suspicious person on that day seeing that I was the one watching the man, almost following him and trying to listen to his phone calls. However, that is just how paranoid I have become.
Nobody tells you that thieves don’t only steal your property, they also can still your peace and sense of security. They will also mess with your mind and just throw your life into spin. That carefree attitude you once had leaves then.
Oh and sometimes, they also randomly steal all your books!