It wasn’t so much the break-in itself as it was the wrath of it.
“There was glass everywhere,” the woman reported. “It was on the floor and all over the bed. All the drawers were open and clothes had been thrown everywhere. It was a disaster.”
And it wasn’t just the bedroom that had been ransacked. It was the kitchen, where cupboards had been thrown open and windows smashed. It was the laundry room, the living room and a spare bedroom where more glass was shattered and sheets were yanked off the bed.
“It’s just nasty,” said the rattled woman, “that someone would do all that.”
The woman is in her 70s and lives alone. She had been away a few days, off doing a kindness for someone. When she returned early Saturday, it wasn’t the familiar comforts of home that greeted her but the grim aftermath of an incursion.
“I put the key in the lock and right away my heart just sank,” she said. “The kitchen window above my sink had been broken into a million pieces. There was glass all over the floor, the counter and everything else.
“In the living room, everything was opened up and turned over. The door to my back porch was all ripped and broken. The screen was off and that window was broken, too.”
I’m not sure if there’s a diplomatic way to say it: Burglars are terrible people. They come like a disease into the private worlds of strangers, putting their greedy paws over things that don’t belong to them, utterly contaminating a space into which they were not invited.
These are low people who have exhausted their means to pay for the things that they desire — be they expensive electronics, jewelry or bottles of medication — and so they set out like godless pirates to take those things from people who have worked hard to have them.
Burglars are goblins who creep and crawl and slither into places that have been built to keep safe the people who rightfully live there. And once they get inside, their ugly specters remain forever, even if the burglar himself has slithered back out.
Once a stranger has pawed through your medicine cabinets, your underwear drawer, your closets and cupboards, the ghost of that intrusion cannot be easily exorcised. The sense of personal well-being is badly damaged by fear and uncertainty, if it hasn’t been annihilated.
Yet fear and uncertainty were not first on the emotional menu when the 70-something woman walked into her ransacked home.
“I was livid,” she said. “I was pissed. In fact, to say I was pissed is an understatement. If they were here just looking for drugs, why did they have to trash the whole place?”
In fact, nobody knows for sure what the burglar/goblin/pirate had been looking for when he or she smashed, crashed and bashed his or her way into the woman’s home.
“I don’t have cigarettes, I don’t have booze and I don’t have money,” the woman said. “There’s nothing really worth stealing in here.”
She didn’t have any medication to steal, either, and in the chaos of all those ruined rooms, it was hard to tell whether anything had been taken, other than her peace of mind.
Anger got the woman through for the first few hours as the police came, her family came and neighbors wandered over to find out what had happened on their quiet street.
Later, though, reality struck: Her space had been invaded, and would she ever feel safe again?
“I was beyond livid,” she said, “but then, after everyone had gone and I was alone again, I started to feel scared. I sat down and just bawled my eyes out.”
An unclean sense of violation: that’s what a burglar will leave you with after he or she has come and gone in a grubby quest for dope, cash or fistfuls of jewelry they can hawk for a few bucks at a pawn shop.
A day after the break-in was discovered, the woman had to go out again. When she returned to her little home with its boarded windows and trash bags full of broken glass, that sense of violation sprung out of the dark like a ghoul before she had her key all the way into the lock.
“I kind of took a deep breath and thought, ‘What am I going into?'” the woman said. “I might even leave a little light on from now on, which is something I’ve never done.”
Now the woman, who hasn’t even discovered the internet, is going out in search of modern gadgets that sound alarms, send alerts or take photos whenever her home is entered by someone who isn’t supposed to be there.
Gone are the days when she’d occasionally forget to lock the door at night. Gone is the feeling that home is a sanctuary, a place that’s always safe against the wildness and woes of the world outside.
The rampaging burglar goblin may not have come away with diamonds or pills or fistfuls of cash. But what he took was a lot.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.