May 11th, 12th Avenue. Home Invasion. Four armed suspects entered property, made off with valuables in a White Hyundai.
I arrived with my bag full of dread and fear. I crept around this new part of the city like a kitten in a new house. I panicked at red lights if a passer-by stared at me. I looked over my shoulder like I was permanently taking a driving test. Mirror, signal, manoeuvre, clutch purse.
I hid my money in my panties when I went out. I wore cheap sunglasses. I dressed down. I spent a fortune on taxis. I never answered my doorbell.
I rented a house on 1st Avenue. At night I slept with the bedroom door locked. I woke up to bangs and clicks and eves shifting and cats plopping onto rooftops. There were shadows outside on the street. The buzzer would sound at odd times. I wouldn’t answer it. I’d just check the alarm was on and the Maglite torch was by my bed and the windows and door were locked. I stood in the dark brandishing the oversized torch like a baseball bat, listening for movement.
May 22nd, 10th Avenue. Armed robbery. Two suspects apprehended a man entering his property, stole his phone and wallet.
I called my daughter and said the walls weren’t high enough. I needed the alarms tested, the electric fence checked. The pedestrian gate looked flimsy enough to be kicked in. There were no burglar bars on the window. When the light fades and I sit alone in the lounge, I only hear silence. I cock my ear for the sound of breaking glass, footfall, scrabbling.
June 5th, 6th Avenue. Burglary. Suspects tunnelled under back entrance. Stole jewellery and electronic devices.
Weekends are quiet, even here in the centre of the city. These houses built by the second wave of the gold rush. Did they live, like me, in fear every day of the enemy outside? Of a wild-eyed assailant clambering over the wall with a knife between his teeth? How long until it’s me?
We never used to feel this way. We played in the streets all day long. Now every face that passes looks like a suspect. Every car parked outside is staking the place out. Every night I lie in the dark mentally preparing myself for what I would do, how I would react. Could I remain calm, could I comply easily? Could I avoid eye contact, and hand over the goods without being hurt or killed?
June 11th, 4th Avenue. Phone snatching outside a restaurant. Suspect fled in a Silver Mercedes.
Phone snatching, that I could handle. A phone snatching would be fine. Take the blessed thing, I don’t like it anyway. Take the apps and the contacts and the infernal games, sell it for all it’s worth. I’ll communicate by letter, I’ll use the landline.
June 13th, 2nd Avenue. Forced entry. Two men posing as contractors held domestic worker at gunpoint.
They are closing in. My time is nigh. I have spoken with God. I have made my peace. I want it over and done with.
I have made a subtle change. Let’s see how long it takes. Just the side entrance left on the latch. A child could push it open. I’ll sit and wait. All night if it demands it. I close my eyes when it rains, knowing that I will hear nothing until I have a knife to my throat.
June 20th, 3rd Avenue. Attempted burglary. Intruder was interrupted when owner returned home and fled empty handed.
The bait has not been taken. New measures must go in place. The incentive is not strong enough.
I take a morning walk to the store. My watch, bracelet and engagement ring on full display. I leave my handbag open. I mince along acting unaware of my surroundings, like a daydreaming dandy. It must happen any moment. I must lead them back to the gingerbread house and show them all the candy on display.
July 15th, 5th Avenue. Home invasion. Four men posing as contractors stole vehicle.
I leave the garage door open overnight.
I leave the car unlocked with the keys in the ignition.
I wake up to find a shy, dishevelled garbage recycler standing by the garage entrance, waiting to politely tell me that I left the door open. His gang of thieves no doubt lurking nearby.
Soon we will get this over with. Finally.
August 1st, 12th Avenue. Armed robbery. Single gunman forced entry.
Finally, the thief is at the door. I can hear him scrabbling around out there. Perhaps fiddling with a skeleton key. Perhaps picking the lock.
I unlock the door for him. I retreat and lie down on the front drive. I have rehearsed this. Playing dead.
A voice calls softly, saying Hello? Hello? I stay silent. He must get on with it. He must do his business now. My jewellery box is open. The valuables easy to access.
He sees me lying there and is startled. I scrabble to my feet as he turns to flee. He is holding a black object in his right hand. He mutters something about coming back later.
There is a scuffle as I grab his sleeve. I won’t let go. I drag him towards the house, pointing at the booty inside. The jewellery, the TV, the wallet and phone. Take it, take it all, take it all, I scream. He wants to get away, must have lost his nerve. He has to wriggle out of his jacket to get free. The logo of the security company. That doesn’t fool me, I hiss, diving at the back of his ankles. He falls flat on his face, then swiftly gathers himself onto unsteady legs and sprints out of the gate to freedom. Empty handed. You won’t get away with this, I scream after him. They send me reports of everything.
August 25th, 1st Avenue. Altercation with resident. Authorities were alerted. No charges were pressed.
Gavin Weale is a journalist, publisher and social entrepreneur from the UK, currently living in Johannesburg. His writing has been published in the Guardian, Huffington Post, Dazed & Confused and more, and he was recently longlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award.