I flattened myself to the wall, outstretched fingers reading the Braille of the stone as I inched my way along, my heels digging into the soft earth of a flowerbed. Finally, I hitched up my skirt and ran for the car, fumbled the key into the lock, and dove into the front seat in a wave of silk. I hit the door lock, grabbed my cell phone and punched in 9-1-1. While the call went through, I leaned down to try again for the pepper spray, the dress bubbling up around me like an out-of-control soufflé. I lay down across the seat, but the dress wouldn’t cooperate. A dispatcher finally answered and I blurted out my address and the situation, batting at the folds of material with my free hand, trying to keep it below the window line. The light from the phone winked against the silk as I waited for the cops to arrive, the breathing of the faceless woman on the other end of the line lost amidst the rustles of material.
Ten long minutes later, I saw the sweep of blue and red lights casting their familiar glow over my street. I met the officers on the strip of sidewalk beside our cars, and stumbled through my explanation, punched in my door code, and explained how to access the back garden. They didn’t need to tell me to lock myself back inside the Chevy.
From the driver’s seat I watched as they crept toward the building, one straight on, the other from around the left side, with their firearms drawn and glinting in tree-filtered moonlight. I had the sudden fear that they would find no one, and resort to searching each apartment only to find out my dog had gotten loose and had taken to casting odd shadows and unscrewing light bulbs in the downstairs hall. As I saw lights flick on in one corner of the building then another, I wondered if the search had begun.
What I wanted right now was someone who knew me, someone who didn’t see me as just a victim, a dot on a map down at the station. I called Kyle and woke him up.
“Somebody’s in the building,” I said.
“Yes. The cops are here. I’m locked in my car.”
There was a pause.
“Start at the beginning.”
I did, feeling a twinge of remorse as I imagined him sitting up in bed and flipping on the light, but the guilt wasn’t enough to stop me from asking him to come over. Outside, a collection of my neighbors had gathered on the lawn. I tried to imagine them with croquet mallets in their hands or smiles on their faces. I tried to imagine them not growing tired of me.
“I’ve got to go,” I said.