An Uninvited Guest

“We are the champions – my friends.  And we’ll keep on fighting, Till the end …”, Freddie Mercury’s singing adds to my high spirits.  Coming out of my Saturday morning gym workout, there’s definitely a spring in my step.  I head up Green from Polk Street.  The ascent up Nob Hill, a usually arduous trek, is a cake-walk today.  I get to the top and look east over Green Street.  A veil of mist drifts through the bay and partially obscures the Berkeley Hills.  Wow!  A view that never gets old.  Bohemian Rhapsody starts playing.  I spot my apartment building and head for the front portico.  “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for meeee! .. “, here comes my favorite part of the song.  A dark figure in the porch’s corner jerks my consciousness from its Queen reverie back to the present.  I rapidly pop the earbuds out of my ears.  Time slows.  A quick glance at the figure and an immediate mental assessment is made.  It’s a man with torn weathered clothing.  His gaze is blank.  He could be a threat.  I decide I will open the front door, turn my body, and close it quickly after.

I gently slide the key in the door knob – my peripheral vision keen on any of his movement.  A twist of the knob and the old wood door squeaks open.  I swiftly slip inside, turn, and press firmly against the door to press it shut.  The door swings a little and stops.  A downcast gaze shows his foot on the lower sill blocking the door from closing.  Through the translucent door windows, his body ominously takes on the image of a shadowy wraith. “Who are you?!”  I cry out.  The man says nothing.  “Do you live here?”, I knew the answer given his bedraggled appearance.  He mutters a nearly indistinguishable answer, “Yeah, I do”.  “Which apartment number?”  “Three”, he hisses and intensifies his pressure against the door.  Dropping my bag, I place one hand on the door and reach for my phone with the other.  I dial 9-1-1 and wait for the dispatcher.  “There’s a man trying to get into my building. He appears homeless.”, I affirm to dispatcher.  She asks several more questions and tells me police are coming.  Now I wait.

No one is around.  Hmm.  I can match his current opposing pressure, I contemplate, but I know he isn’t using his full force. When is he going to charge the door?  And more importantly what do I do?  A fleeting regret for not taking enough self defense classes comes and goes.  Minutes pass.  A quick high pitched sound ushers in a wave of cop cars.  The man looks back at the rush of uniformed figures and opening of police car doors.  He makes a break for it and explodes with full force against the door.  I’m overcome by his charge and fall back towards the lobby’s wall.  Two officers storm the lobby and take the man down like lions pulling down a wildebeest.  He resists their engagements and thrashes at the officers.  “Get down!, get down!”, an officer bellows to the wrenching figure.  A wooden baton raises and comes down hard on his buttocks.  He seems unaffected by the assault.  A female officer calls for backup.  Within minutes additional officers join the foray and finally handcuff the man.

To what end.  To what end, I wonder.  He wanted those FedEx packages near the mailboxes, which get stolen on a routine basis.  Or maybe he wanted to break into someone’s home.  It doesn’t matter, it’s over now. I think about my girlfriend now.  What if it was her that had to confront this man?  I think about the cops and appreciate their presence.  The city feels less safe these days.  How many more unscrupulous characters are lurking in the shadows?

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