Arriving home late from work on a winter’s night a few years ago, I opened the door of my apartment and immediately stood stock-still. Something was wrong. I knew instantly, because the doors of the two rooms that face into the hall were closed. I never close them, always leaving them prised open to let light into the hall.
Somebody had been in my home. Somebody could still be in my home, standing silently behind one of those closed doors and planning their next move. For a brief moment I didn’t know what to do, and then instinct and anger took over. How dare they, I thought to myself, before calmly walking across to the first closed door and slowly pushing it open with my elbow. Relief flooded through me on discovering the room was empty, but there was disarray everywhere, with cupboards ransacked and their contents all over the floor.
In the second room, my bedroom, there was even more chaos. A jewellery box was missing and other items of jewellery were scattered across the room and on the dressing-table. Drawers were lying open with underwear dangling out, and clothes were strewn across the bed.
Was I upset? No. Angry? Absolutely.
It was that anger that stayed with me while I waited for the guards and then while we accounted for what was missing – some jewellery and, heartbreakingly, my only child’s first tooth, which was in a trinket box with a ring and had been scooped up, presumably, by the guttersnipes who had invaded my home. I was still fuming when the forensics guy arrived a day later and it was anger, not distress, that dominated my mindset in the weeks ahead.
It was anger that rose up in me again this week on hearing about that Carlow man being assaulted by the low-lifes who invaded his home and attacked him before making off with just €100. I hope he’s angry too, and I also hope he can put it behind him.
It’s about loss, of course, but some losses go way beyond money or possessions.
Was I OK? That’s what family and friends wanted to know when I was burgled. I batted away their concerns. I was grand, I said. Sure, it was only a burglary. Wasn’t I lucky they hadn’t taken my laptop, or my one particularly precious piece of jewellery, or the silver-topped antique perfume bottle that had been my late husband’s last Christmas gift to me. And wasn’t I really lucky they had fled the scene of the crime before I got home.
When reality eventually dawned, however, I couldn’t believe how dismissive I had been of what was a really traumatic event. Had I actually been feeling grateful to the criminals who had entered my home without my say-so, rifled through my underwear and stolen from me?
I still get flashbacks sometimes when I come home, seeing again those two closed doors and feeling, for just a moment, that terrible sense of unease I felt that night.
Even without a physical assault, it’s never “only” a burglary. It’s still an assault, and a violation you will never forget.