Sunday
Mar022014

Good Kids

Carrie Guss


 

One night when I was still living in Kingston a man broke into my house. The man walked in after my boyfriend Pete had finished smoking a cigarette on the stoop and come back inside. Pete left the door unlocked when he came in, and he sat down on the couch with a book. The couch was against the south wall of the kitchen, beside the front door, which led out to the stoop. The man walked in shortly thereafter, with a gun. I don't know what book Pete sat down with. He'd been reading something long, something scientific. A geology textbook? But I think he'd finished it some time before the man came. Like, weeks before. So it can't have been that.

The man came in shortly after Pete did. He burst in violently—violently, somehow, even though the door was unlocked, and all he did as far as I'm aware was open the door.

"Where's the dope?" he shouted. Or, "Where are the drugs?" or something to that effect. And Pete replied: "I think you have the wrong house."

The man had a bandana covering his face, or he didn't, but I do not remember his face at all. He was short, pale, hair plastered to his scalp.

The man burst in, holding a gun. It was like when you're sitting quietly in your bedroom with the door closed and the lights low at night after a long day and you think you're alone and then you see a spider on the wall, with all of its eight eyes. It was a home invasion, and it felt invasive. Once I had an infestation of baby spiders, hundreds of them, and I'd stay up at night crushing them one by one with my thumb against the walls and the low ceiling, until my room was wallpapered with the patterns of their tiny legs.

So the man burst in violently and pointed the gun at Pete, and he said, "Where are the drugs," and Pete looked up calmly from his book and said, "I think you have the wrong house." Pete was and is clinically depressed, and does not always engage with reality in an appropriate fashion.

Later the detective said that yes, probably the man had the wrong house. The man with the gun probably thought he'd come to the house of a dealer. Our address was 328 ½ Green St., so he might've gotten us mixed up with 328 or 329. To be fair to the guy with the gun, it was a small town and most of the houses were grow houses or houses rented by dealers. Just his luck to stumble into one of the few that wasn't.

Anyway, when Pete told the man with the gun that he'd come to the wrong house, the man just kept waving the gun and demanding to know where the drugs were, so Pete said, "I don't know, maybe Erin's room?" Because the guy had a gun, and he was pointing it at Pete, and asking about the drugs, and Pete knew that sometimes I kept small quantities of various substances in my desk drawer.

I was in my room with the door open, sitting at my desk. The man with the gun was standing right in line with me—our entire house was maybe 600 square feet, if I'm being generous. He swiveled and pointed the gun at me. All I had was a dime bag. I reached into my desk, pulled it out, and very slowly leaned over to hand it to him. The gun was narrower than I thought a gun would be. I'd never seen a gun before. I've been having dreams since that night. Terrible dreams. Two-dimensional dreams.

The man with the gun held the gun in his left hand, still pointed at me, and stared down at the tiny baggy in his right hand. He stared for what seemed like a long time. I shifted a little at my desk so that I was slightly out of the line of fire. The man put the small bag in his large right pocket. He was wearing olive-colored cargo pants. His pants were the same color as the weed, I noticed. I was in college studying studio art. That's why I was in that town.

My roommate Kiva was in her room. I was in my room. My door and Kiva's stood maybe six feet apart. Both doors opened out into the kitchen, which was also the living room. Pete, my boyfriend, was sitting on the couch by the front door, and the man was standing beside Pete, with his gun pointed at me. That is what the situation was. Pete had slept with Kiva before he'd ever slept with me. He'd lost his virginity to her during his freshman year of college—my second freshman year. Now I was living with Kiva, and dating Pete. It was not yet not awkward, but we were doing OK. Kiva had a boyfriend at that point, anyway, who lived in Hamilton.

The man with the gun surveyed the kitchen. Of course he couldn't see every corner of the house, but from where he was standing he could rotate to make eye contact with any one of us in our three separate rooms.

"You're good kids," he said, after I passed him the dime bag. He gathered us all together in the kitchen then put us each in separate rooms. He put Pete in the bathroom, Kiva in her room, and left me out in the living room.

First he put Pete in the bathroom and shut the door. Then he took Kiva into her room and he went in there with her and his gun and started to close the door, which is when I started screaming at him. I couldn't help it. Our house had already been broken into the week before—by a different man, without a gun. But that time we'd slept through most of it.

The man with the gun took Kiva into her room. He went in with her. It was Kiva, the man, and the gun. He tried to close the door. Hadn't I let enough happen to Kiva already? She had really liked Pete. I'd broken up with my boyfriend, and Pete had ditched Kiva to be with me. I didn't know at the time that Pete had been sleeping with her, but when I found out it didn't stop me. I went ahead and fell in love with him anyway. And now Kiva had forgiven me, but the situation was newly healed and tender. So I screamed at the man with the gun as he went to close the bedroom door behind them.

"Rape me," I screamed. He froze. "Don't rape her, rape me," I screamed again. "It's fine, I've been raped before. But don't fucking touch Kiva." I had been raped before. Twice I'd been raped before. Kiva was still so innocent—why not go for a trifecta if it would protect her? My mind, my mind, I'd lost my mind. I sunk down and started laughing. I curled up on the floor in the fetal position and I laughed and cried simultaneously and hysterically.

The man, frozen in the doorway, stared at me. "Shit, man, fuck," he said. "I'm not a sex pervert." He left Kiva's door open.

He ransacked all the rooms. He looked under our beds. As I said, we'd been robbed already the previous week so there was really nothing there to take. There had been nothing the previous week, either, but now there was really nothing. They seemed disappointed, both of them. The guy who'd broken in the week before and this guy. The week before I'd felt a little guilty about not having more things. This week I said: "Well, we were robbed last week. So."

The man with the gun found Kiva's cell phone, which she hadn't been able to find since the last break-in, and had assumed was stolen. So that was exciting, and this man with the gun didn't want to take it, but then he hid it so she wouldn't be able to call the police, and after that we were never able to find it again.

After tearing the house apart he let Pete out of the bathroom and he sat us all down, packed side-by-side on the couch like sardines, and he paced back and forth in front of us, gesturing with the gun as he spoke. "You're good kids," he said. "You should stay in school." I started to yell at him again—who did he think he was—but Pete wrapped his arm around my shoulders and clamped his small hand over my mouth. The man with the gun didn't notice. He talked and talked, waving the gun. If we dropped out of school, he said, we'd end up just like him. Then he regained some awareness of where he was and what he was doing and moved to leave.

Before he left, he tried to hug me, still holding the gun. "You're good kids," he repeated. "Good kids."

"I'm not hugging you," I said. So he shook all of our hands instead, and walked out the door, leaving it open, wide open, as he walked away. He seemed not to be in any kind of rush.

I stood in the doorway and watched as he disappeared around the corner. "Call the police?" Kiva said, and Pete snuck past me through the front door.

Without really thinking I stepped through the doorway and onto the stoop, down the stairs and through the yard, following after Pete. Kiva stepped out after me, leaving the door open behind her, light spilling out and casting our three shadows long across the yard and into the street. When he reached the sidewalk Pete turned to the right, and I followed him, and Kiva followed me, and as we emerged in a single-file line in front of our neighbor's house I saw that what we were doing in fact was following the guy with the gun.

We followed him twelve silent blocks and he never once turned around. It was dark, dark, dark, until finally up ahead was one house all lit up, and the guy with the gun went in. We walked until we reached it and we stood outside the house, and inside, there, was the guy with the gun, moving around in someone's living room all lit up. Maybe his living room. Maybe a friend's. We didn't know. No one else was in there. He opened some drawers and closed them, picked up a framed picture from a table and put it back down, plunked a few notes on the piano, scuffed his shoe on the rug. He tilted his head as if detecting some sound and stayed very still for a minute, but no one came. He sat on the couch. We watched him as he sat on the couch. He stared straight at the window but didn't see us. He didn't move for what must have been at least an hour, and finally, without saying anything, Pete turned and started walking back in the direction of home, Kiva and I trailing along behind him like toilet paper.

 

Later, when we'd recovered a phone, we got it together to call the police. The detective who came was awful, called us all "sweetheart," even Pete. First he tried to get us to admit that we knew the guy who'd broken in—that it'd been some kind of drug deal gone wrong. Then he, too, tried to isolate Kiva, and then me, after making a number of insulting and innuendo-filled remarks. Finally he said that there'd been a series of similar break-ins recently around Kingston, and that this was probably the same guy, and that he'd follow up with us, and he left.

 

They did catch the guy, a few weeks later. They had us come and look at a lineup, and I didn't recognize his face but I recognized his body. And we were finally able to convince our landlord to install motion-sensor lights.

 

The next year Pete and I moved in together, into a larger house in a better neighborhood, across the street from a 24-hour laundromat. Then a year and a half after that Pete broke up with me, said he didn't love me anymore, and moved in with a friend in Toronto, a few hours drive to the west. Later he said he'd made a terrible mistake; he said he'd thought it was our relationship making him miserable, but that it turned out he was just miserable in general. By that point it was too late. I didn't take him back. I moved back to Toronto and found two new housemates. Nothing else changed. Nothing else ever changes. We pay bills; we clean. We're good kids. Come and get us.