Monday, January 17, 2011

There are just days that are seared into your head.

Like so many days that one began while I was asleep. It was early in the morning when some sound, something I could never quite describe, woke me up. The sun was out, it was shortly past 7 a.m. Something didn't sound right. And without any thought I had jumped out of bed and was looking out my bedroom window trying to figure out what had happened.

I thought that someone crossing the street must have been hit by a car. I don't know why, but that is the only thing that came to mind. I realized my housemate. SJ, had just left for work, it was the right time for it. And then I heard the back door opening. I assumed he had heard the noise as well and was coming back into the house to see what caused it.

I turned and started walking toward the bedroom door and could see the kitchen door. But it wasn't SJ at all. It was a man I didn't know. His arm was extended, stiff and parallel with the floor. In his hand was a gun and his finger was on the trigger. He was shouting but I couldn't even take a second to think of what he was saying. Behind him I could see SJ, his face frozen with fear. Two other men were behind him. One of them had a gun to SJ's head.

As the first man got closer to me I spoke to the other two. The last one in had left the kitchen door open and I was afraid the cats would get out and be hurt. My first instinct was to say to them: "Excuse me, do you mind closing the door so the cats don't escape."

As odd as that was, the response was odder. The third man went back to the door and closed it.

By this time the gun barrel was firmly pressed against the center of my forehead. The two men pushed SJ into the bedroom and threw him face down on the bed. His arms were tied behind his back. I asked them if they would mind if I put on some pants. I reached for my jeans and slipped into them. One man ripped the phone out of the wall, having apparently learned his criminality from some B movie.

I was spun around and my arms were pulled behind my back. They had some rope and began to tie my wrists together. I held my hands flat against one another, my arms as well. But between my wrists I intentionally left about one inch of space. Once tied I was pushed down on the bed but facing upwards.

In this position they could not see my hands, which was a good thing. With that slight amount of space between my wrists I could now push my wrists together and the rope would be loose. Almost immediately I was untied, though they couldn't see it.

SJ was on the bed besides him shaking with fear. I could hear his panicky breathing.

Two of the men began searching the house. The one with the gun was in the bedroom going through the closet. They were looking for money and anything of value. In the nightstand beside me I knew there was the equivalent of more than $1000. This was a huge amount in this part of the world.

I slipped my left arm out from underneath me and opened the drawer. I grabbed the wad of bills and threw them under the bed leaving a few notes in the drawer. I closed the drawer and pulled my arm back. The gunman turned and demanded to know what was going on. I told him that there was money in the drawer and he should take it. He opened the drawer and found a few notes, worth only a few dollars. He took it anyway.

Apparently they were unhappy as they weren't finding enough. The gunman started putting the gun to SJ's head and screaming that he would kill him. He was unhappy that their searches weren't as lucrative as they wanted. I could tell that SJ was paralyzed with pure fear.

All I could think of was them pulling the trigger and watching the bullet pierce SJ's head. I made a decision. I lied to the man. I told him there was cash in the other room, even though I knew there was none. I simply had to get him away from SJ, I was afraid that if I didn't he would pull the trigger.

There was no money. And I honestly didn't know what I would do when they discovered that. I just knew that if he was in the living room with me he couldn't shoot SJ at the same time. The rope was loose around my wrists but I held my hands together tightly holding the rope between my fingers so it wouldn't dangle and give things away.

I nodded toward a drawer and told the man I thought the money was in there. He pulled it open but there was nothing of value. I told him that perhaps I was wrong, but I thought there was some money in there. Sitting in the corner was a large carved mask with kudu horns as part of the mask. He grabbed the one horn and started beating me with it.

I yelled with pain but don't remember any pain. I think I yelled because it was expected of me, not because I actually felt anything. Oddly I remember feeling nothing at all. I was just thinking that SJ was alright and as long as the man was hitting me he couldn't be hurting SJ.

He pushed me into the bedroom again and pushed me down on the bed. I had just recently had a building built on the lot. There was a guest cottage there already but I added another building onto the cottage and was using that as business offices. The man demanded the keys so they could search that building as well.

I told him the keys were on the kitchen table. We were ordered not to move. The men left the house and went to the new building. But these were not intelligent men. They had apparently grabbed the car keys and shortly returned in a fury because none of the keys would open the door. There were only three rings of keys on the table. I told them that they had the wrong keys and that the other keys were right there.

Again they went to the table. And this time they grabbed a second set of car keys, identical to the first set and obviously as wrong as the first set. Seconds later they were back even angrier. His gun was pressed hard into SJ's skull and he looked at me and told me he was going to kill SJ.

I begged him not to do that. I assured him the keys were on the table but that he must have taken the second set of car keys. I pleaded with him to try one more time. There would be some money there. Again the men left.

I laid there talking to SJ, telling him that it would be fine and that he had to be calm. I told him to lie still while I got up and walked toward the door to see if I could see what was happening. I couldn't see the men out the window but they had the backdoor keys to the building so the only way to be sure was to go into the kitchen.

I quickly went into the kitchen but couldn't see them. I looked out the door and realized that they had taken the house keys and inserted them into the outside lock so I couldn't use a key to get out. We were locked in the house. All the windows had security bars on them as did the front door. Without a key were were trapped and the keys were dangling outside.

I quickly returned to the bed and laid back down in the same position I had been in previously. SJ was begging me to lie down again. "If they see you are up they will kill us, they will kill us. Please don't! Please lie down! They will kill us!"

I followed his instructions to try to calm him. A few minutes more passed and I heard nothing. I told SJ to be still and wait. I quickly ran to my inside office where there was another phone. I called the police, who tried to waste my time with needless bureaucratic BS. They wanted to know how to spell my name, for instance, This even though they knew armed men were on the property and could return any second. I told the police operator to get the police to the house immediately and hung up on her. I laid back down on the bed to wait.

A couple more minutes passed and I heard nothing. I sat up and asked SJ if he would allow me to untie his arms. I didn't want to do it and panic him that they would find him untied and kill him. He was still terrified and begged me not to do it. I laid back down for another minute of two.

But with still no sign of the men I asked SJ one more time if I could untie him. This time he consented. They had used wire to tie his arms. He's over 6 ft tall and played rugby for fun so these smaller criminals were worried about what he might do if loose. With his consent I got scissors to cut into the wire. I urged SJ to follow me into my home office where we could lock the door. And I again called the police who still had not arrived.

From my office window I could see one police officer looking over the wall. I motioned to him and urged him to come in and help us. He made his way to the back of the house and found our keys in the door. He opened the door and came in. He urged us to lock the house and he want out to see if they were around but the men had left.

SJ was traumatized pretty badly. His insurance policy covered counseling and his employer suggested he use it. In addition the police offered "free" trauma counseling where counselors would visit your home and talk with you. SJ refused to use the back door, out of fear that the men could be there again, as that was where they grabbed him. And I thought the counseling would help.

The first visit from the police counselor was scheduled almost immediately. When she arrived I suggested we use the cottage which was vacant and was next door to my offices. I couldn't necessarily stay the entire time and needed to be available in the office. So this was compromise. The counselor and SJ went into the cottage talk and I joined them a few minutes later.

When I came in I listened carefully to what she was saying. I knew how badly this had traumatize SJ. I could see it in his face. What I heard was some New Age mumbo-jumbo, which was bad enough. But it got worse. This "counselor" spoke of a "white light of protection" and how you envision this light and it will protect you. She then recounted how she did this and never suffered an armed attack. This was obviously bad logic but, even though I strongly disagreed with her nonsense, I didn't say anything.

But what followed next did get my attention.. She told SJ that nothing happens to us unless we want it to happen. I saw the expression on SJ's face as he listened. She was telling him that he brought the attack on himself by thinking badly. Apparently she thought herself the Mary Baker Eddy of crime. All SJ had to do was fix his thinking and these things wouldn't happen. He was to blame for being a victim. The trauma he experienced was self-inflicted.

My first thought was that this woman was clearly thinking badly herself because she was inviting some whoop-ass in her own direction and I was angry enough to deliver. I stepped toward here and raised my voice to levels that she wasn't going to forget. I told her exactly what I thought of her shitty counseling and informed her that she had no right to come into SJ's life and tell him that he invited this traumatic event by thinking wrong.

I made it quite clear that she was to never set foot on the property again and that she should be ashamed of herself for inflicting this sort of pain on someone who was already suffering badly. I must have been red with fury, I know I felt the anger in every muscle of my body. I told her that if she didn't leave immediately her white light wouldn't be able to help her. And I believe I suggested a place where she could put her white light, appropriately called a place where the light don't shine. She looked at SJ briefly to see if he was going to defend her. He didn't.

I pointed to the door and told her she better leave immediately and that I fully intended to report her to the police captain for the district. I took some comfort in my anger knowing full well she couldn't actually blame me for being angry since it would be her own bad thinking that caused my fury. Actually it was her bad thinking that cause me anger, just not in the manner that she theorized. She was shaken, apparently not having as much faith in her damn white light as she pretended. And she wisely beat a hasty retreat.

I have no doubts that this woman really believed the manure she was spreading. But her sincerity is entirely meaningless. Earlier today, in another context, I told a co-worker that sincerity is a greatly overrated virtue. Some of the worst crimes against humanity have been committed by sincerely wrong people. When facing a real problem I would rather have correct advice from a deceitful person than wrong solutions given by a sincere one.

What brought this up was listening to a couple speak of a horrible tragedy that befell them. A truck plowed into the back of their car killing all three of their young children. They talked about the things people would say to them, to comfort them, which actually made things worse for them. People would talk about how time would heal all wounds, and how some god must have a plan that apparently including killing their children.

These people are sincere but their sincerity doesn't reduce the pain inflicted by thoughtless comments.

Sincerity it what I call a "reliant virtue." The virtue of sincerity depends entirely on other factors. Sincerely offering assistance to a friend is good, but sincerely believing that the Jews are behind the troubles of the world is not. Arsenic is not a cure for a sore throat no matter how sincerely you may think it to be the case.