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(early August events, as recalled in September)
The phone line was installed exactly one week later on Wednesday (8/3), and the alarm system was installed Thursday. Over the weekend I moved in once again. This time I sneaked my new replacement computer into the apartment in the evening, concealed as much as possible in black garbage bags. With each trip back and forth between the car and the apartment, I wondered who was watching me. For each person who walked by as I transported my belongings, I speculated which ones were surveying me as a possible target. I was still living without furniture, except for a free bed I had acquired with the help of TGNO friends Allison (who found it posted on the Internet) and Leslie (who helped me transport it in her truck). At least I’m in my own place now, I told myself, and it’s up to me to shape my new situation into a positive experience. I really wanted to fall in love with this apartment, and I tried to maintain a positive attitude. The location was central to so many cool and convenient places. Upstairs neighbor Ono (carpenter by trade, artist on the side) would keep things interesting with her outgoing nature and eclectic aesthetic tastes. I kept reminding myself that the burglary was the act of a desperate opportunist, and it wasn’t a personal attack against me. I was now more aware of my surroundings, and had no reason to feel unsafe as long as I stayed alert. Despite all the self-reassurance though, this move-in felt different. I was no longer able to see this as my new home. I realized that I could not learn to be street-smart overnight, and my brain was becoming weary from having to consciously watch my back. Whenever I departed or arrived home, I’d turn both locks on the doors and activate the alarm (Remember – turn off the inside motion sensor when home, turn it on when away). I kept the blinds closed on all the windows, day and night. The raucous old air conditioning unit made me increasingly resentful that I didn’t feel comfortable keeping windows or doors open. I started hiding whatever valuables hadn’t been stolen throughout the apartment, hoping I wouldn’t forget where they were. There were not any great hiding places, but at least the next intruder would have to work for his keep. Living here already felt like an imprisoning burden, and I began to wonder when and if this paranoia would wear off. My apartment was now as secure as possible, and I also had an alarm installed for my car, yet I couldn’t stop worrying about crime. As much as I wanted to adopt a “no fear” attitude, I couldn’t hide the fact that I was an outsider. Every time someone would observe “You’re not from around here, are you?” reminded me that my suburban California upbringing stood out as much as my California license plates. I felt like a big target for more problems.