cock’s crow

after lying awake for at least 4 hours, at 02h45 this morning, i posted this tweet:

It’s been 20 years since on this date, at almost this exact hour, a man broke into my house & raped me. Wish it didn’t still keep me awake.

the irony is that for many years now, the date has come and gone without me even noticing it. this time however, maybe because i was home alone, i succumbed to paranoia. i knew that i’d armed the  security beams, yet i still got up at least once to make sure. on more that one occasion i held my breath, training my ears for any perceived sound, making sure that this time no one had snuck into my house, that there was no-one lurking outside my bedroom door, unlike that other time.

it reminded me of the one time i stayed alone in my other house after i’d been raped in it. i spent the entire night walking the length of the house, from the front-door to the back-door, convinced that the guy had come back and was trying to figure out a way in. and ironically i was probably right because not 2 weeks later, when i was out of town and had 2 women staying in the house, he found a way back in and nearly broke down the bathroom door to get at them. fortunately they fought him off, but i came back to chaos and having to change all my locks, as he’d taken off with my keys.

last night i lay and listened to a cock crowing inappropriately somewhere out in the dark. i tossed and turned and tossed and turned some more. and when i finally fell asleep for 45 minutes, i had a spectacular nightmare about someone trying to break into my house, wielding a huge knife – with my screams once again stopped in my throat. silenced. helpless. mute.

i wrestle with thinking it weakness – that i once again allowed that man power over me, my life and my actions, versus recognizing the strength in realizing my vulnerability and making sure to defend it –  like putting in perimeter security beams after waking up to find 2 men on my property.  some people might think that 20 years is a long time to still be affected by something, but i don’t think that they realize that rape changes one forever. you will always have a different perspective than someone who hasn’t experienced that violation. you will never again consider yourself immune. that’s the biggest loss. and the journey to healing is one you’ll travel till it ends in a grave or a pile of ash.

i did later tweet this, in honor of all survivors and also in honor of myself:

On this day I’d like to say to all survivors: there is a steely strength in even your most fragile moments. Know you’ll be ok. #thisiknow

i might have stumbled on the side of the road last night and bumbled bleary-eyed through my day, but know that i will get up. in fact, know that i am up – and moving right along. some of you are ahead of me on this journey and some are coming up behind.

i wish us all strength and maybe i’ll see you out there on the road.

Rude awakening – life is but a dream

5:30 yesterday morning my alarm goes off. Reluctant to relinquish the warmth I’ve cultivated in my bed all night, I hit the snooze button. As I’m luxuriating in the last moments before I’m ejected into the freezing waters of the day, I hear “something”. Probably one of the dogs in the kitchen, I think. A few moments later, I hear another noise, right as I realize that both dogs are in their beds in their respective corners of the room. Before I even get a chance to process this realization, I hear something else and one of the dogs starts up with a peculiar bark.
I desperately try to yank the bf from the depths of his dreams into what seems to be turning into a nightmare. I fly out of bed and as I pass the study, I see the lamp which is below the window on the stoop, teetering drunkenly as I hear someone moving stealthily outside. I race to the kitchen window and my heart crashes to the screeted floor and seems to impale my feet there in the process. There is a man in a blue windbreaker standing with his back towards me, keeping watch across my swimming pool.

As I stand there, a momentary imitation of Lot’s wife, he turns his head and we look straight at each other. The spell breaks and I bolt to the keypad to sound the alarm. Except I don’t remember how. Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph! I beseech deities I do not believe in before I recall the location of the portable panic button. I press the red button and the shrill siren shrieks through the predawn dark, freaking out the dogs, especially the SPCA special who is leery of loud noises and cowers from thunder and alarms. Alarms like this one tearing the fragile silence. The security company calls and says someone is on their way. By now the bf is racing around in his t-shirt, pants-less, wielding a huge sword he picked up from a thrift shop on a whim.

He yells out the door and we turn off all the lights so we aren’t targets for whoever is out there in the dark. We let the dogs out to investigate, but it seems the intruders have taken off. 9 minutes later I call CHUBB again, to see where the armed response is. It is between 15 and 20 minutes from the time i sent the first SOS, before they finally show up. 15 to 20 minutes that might as well have been eternity – anything could have happened in that eon of apprehension and insecurity. The armed guard walks the property and ascertains that there’s no longer anyone who shouldn’t be there. In the meantime time is doing its peculiar trick of racing by while it stands still, contracting and expanding in an inimitable tango. I have to be at work by 7, so I have to jump in the shower and get a move on. It’s only when I walk into the make-up room at the studio, that the adrenalin deserts me and I shakily reach for the rescue remedy.

Later when I get back home, I realize they’ve stolen my Saucony and Feivue sneakers through the open window of the storage room, but it seems that that’s all that’s missing. The afternoon is taken up by men installing additional security beams and movement sensitive lights – something which I didn’t exactly budget on after the splurge that was AfrikaBurn last month. This weekend we’ll put up additional electric fencing.

Despite the added security measures, I still find myself lying awake for a large part of the night, listening for phantom sounds. The illusion of safety and security has once again been shattered. At least this time I responded to the noise before whoever it was had the opportunity to surprise me in my bed. It’s taken so long to rebuild even a semblance of that feeling of immunity we all need to navigate our days and nights. The feeling that “it won’t happen to me”. Now I have to start all over. I realize that this time I’m not so much afraid. I’m angry. I’m unbelievably pissed off that I have to live with all these security measures, alarms, locks, electric fencing. I long for those 12 yrs in Topanga when I left my keys in the car and my house was never locked.
And yet I’m also grateful. We’ve gotten incredibly comfortable and lax the last while, leaving the security gates unlocked, taken showers with the back door wide open. This is the best possible outcome – no-one was hurt. I wasn’t wearing those sneakers anyway, and this has been the wake-up call to reinforce our security.

Truth is though, I would so much rather have stayed asleep and lulled in the reverie of a life lived without fear and electric fences, a life where a man in a blue windbreaker doesn’t jolt me back to another night that did not end quite as well as this one. And I’d rather live a life where that dream IS the reality.

wack jobs

a while ago, po over at south african sea monkey did a few posts about wack jobs, and it made me think about one of the first – and worst – jobs i ever had, an astonishing 20 or so years ago now. 

i was at university on loans and bursaries and i was barely getting by. there were months when i’d have 20c to my name with month-end nowhere in sight.  i remember one month i was so broke, i subsisted off guavas from a tree in the front yard of the black sash offices down the street from the commune i lived in in grove road, mowbray. (the result, the worst constipation i’ve ever experienced! be warned, guava eaters!)

someone in my commune was working for a security company called alert alarms, and seeing that i was desperate for money, i asked if she could get me a job there too. 

the job entailed reporting for duty at 5p.m., at a door leading up a set of stairs to a control room with a bank of monitors and a row of chairs infront of it. the shift lasted until 8a.m.. the job was to keep an eye on the bank of electric monitors. if you received a signal that someone’s alarm had gone off, you had to call up the number on record. if someone answered and could give you a pass-code for a false alarm, then that was that. you logged the call in the log book. if you couldn’t reach anyone at either the first or second numbers listed, you called the police and then logged the call.

i would finish my shift at 8 and then have 15 minutes to get to my first lecture of the day – a day which often would end at 11 in the evening, seeing that i was studying a BA in the morning on the main UCT campus and my performer’s diploma at drama school in the afternoon. if i was working on a production, rehearsals would start at 6pm after the afternoon’s classes and go till you were done. next morning at 8, the whole process started all over again.

it was the most grueling schedule, and even though you weren’t supposed to, everyone who worked the control room, would pull the chairs together and at least try to take a nap in the middle of the night. you would hope beyond hope that there wouldn’t be too many calls. one of the guys who lived in my 6 person commune, also worked there and once he fell asleep, a herd of pachyderms couldn’t wake him. i.e., not so alert and not so good for anyone raising an alarm in the middle of the night.

of course, none of us lasted too long in the job. it simply wasn’t sustainable!

a few years later, as i was finishing my last year at university, i was unexpectedly served a subpoena. it appeared that i had responded to a particular call when i was working for the alarm company and a wealthy businessman had been killed in a “burglary” on my watch – a story surprisingly similar to the talented, albeit unfortunate, taliep petersen’s murder. it would seem that i had written in the log-book that i had spoken to someone and “…they said they would check.” i was required to testify in  court whether i had spoken to a man or a woman. uhm… it was the middle of the night. i probably responded to hundreds of calls in the time i worked there. it was about 2 or 3 years later. uh, no, i couldn’t remember!

what i do remember is that i drove a motor cycle at the time and i had to show up at the cape town magistrate’s court looking “suitably presentable”. i had my clothes in the box on the back of my bike which was similar to the many delivery/messenger bikes you used to, and still see, zooming around the city. on the back of the box i had placed a  “why be normal?” sticker, modified to read, “why be norman?” (don’t ask – it made sense at the time). i slipped into the nearest rest room to change into my purple, shoulder-padded, pencil-skirted suit and low-heeled pumps. you’d never have guessed. after my testimony, back i changed into my biking gear and helmet.

the dead man’s wife was eventually convicted of hiring some men to murder her husband. (?!)  it was all totally bizarre. 

the job was horrible. you were always tired. you never had enough sleep. your body was always sore from napping on those horrible chairs. you were responsible for responding instantly to any possible alarm, this when you were constantly exhausted. and the hours were impossible! i’m sure right now there is some impoverished student nodding off in front of a bank of monitors. hopefully not at the company i now pay to respond to my alarms. what do you think? how alert are they?

should i be worried?

things that go bump in the night

last night i drove my s.o. to the airport for his long anticipated trip to hungary, which means that i am now home alone with the new pup. 

let’s just say that things are not going well. 
after almost a month of (mostly) successful house training, she has shat and pissed in the house probably 5 times since yesterday. maybe it has something to do with the fact that i am more security conscious being alone and am not leaving the door open for her to come in and go out when she wants – and i’m obviously not tuned in enough to her signals. i think she might also be protesting lasz’s absence as he was the one who has been spending the most time with her, as i’ve been working such long hours lately. i’m so frustrated. i’ve taken her out into the garden numerous times and she pees several times, but she seems to wait till we come back inside to do her number 2. and the piles and the puddles are growing in size as fast as she is.
last night she woke me up twice – once around 1, then around 3. both times i took her outside and she peed. we had just come back inside and i’d just locked the security gate and latched the door when i heard a distinct, muted thud. like someone jumping over a fence or a large duffel bag landing from a height, followed the next moment by the wailing of an alarm. startled, i ran to the kitchen to look through the window, but i couldn’t see anything or anyone. i didn’t actually know whether it was my alarm or one of the neighbor’s or where exactly the sound was coming from. very disconcerting. after a few minutes the alarm finally stopped, leaving me feeling very skittish.
there have been reports of numerous break-ins in my neighborhood and i seem to be on constant alert,  a constant prickle of fear beneath my skin. not a state of being i particularly enjoy.  i feel like i’ve been living in denial lately about security and now it’s a trainwreck off which i cannot seem to take my eyes. 
i did manage to get in my run today – went straight to the track from work and did my  2 sets of 4 laps in the fading light. my toes are beginning to chafe and i can’t seem to find moleskin at my local pharmacy. 
right now, it’s almost 2a.m. and another alarm is going off in the next street over. maybe it’s time for bed. at least the load shedding stopped promptly at 10 so there’s power.