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Saturday, August 15, 2015

I Know You're In There

I must have been about twelve years old that night. It was late and I was sleeping soundly, surrounded by dogs. I'm not sure how many were with me that night, but I imagine that there was at least one on my twin-sized bed, taking up as much space as it possibly could. I was wakened from a deep sleep by hard pounding on the window of the basement bedroom where I slept. My heart leaped into my throat as I looked around. I could see the glow of a dog's eyes watching me from across the room. The dog was looking at me as if to say, "Hey, what's going on? I was sleeping. Who's making all of that noise?"

I, on the other hand, was hoping that the dogs would defend me from whatever horrors were possibly going to happen to me, and maybe even them. BANG, BANG, BANG! "Hey!" I heard someone shout from outside the window. What should I do? Where could I hide? How could I keep safe? I was terrified.

I was no stranger to violence. I had, along with my siblings, been beaten in my earliest years with my father's belt, and often threatened with it as well. On one fateful Saturday, we were awakened by the sound of our mother's screams in the early morning, asking for help. She was calling out to us in Hungarian and said that I shouldn't come into the room with the others. Of course, all of us were taken by surprise at her screams and none of them stopped me when I ran along with them into mama's bedroom. We found her lying on her blood-soaked bed, writhing in pain. Our father had beaten her severely with a hammer and left us to find her in this horrible condition. She died two days later. He turned himself in at the police station and went to prison for less than five years; the mental prison his actions created for his children may last forever.

It is probably because of this personal history that I was so terrified by the intruder or attacker that was at my window. I was paralyzed with fear. I sat in my bed, as quiet as possible. Maybe if the person outside thought there was nobody in the room, they would go away and I would remain safe. Please go away, I thought.

As I sat in the darkness with the bedcovers clutched to my chest, the pounding continued. "Hey! HEY!" the angry voice shouted. I won't answer, I thought. I'll be very quiet and they'll just go away. BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG! The window rattled with the pounding. I was almost crying with the terror I felt. "I know you're in there!" the voice shouted. "Let me in!" I won't do it, I thought. Why on earth would I let someone come into the house to kill me?

The voice called me by name and said again, "I know you're in there! Let me in! Gram forgot her key and we're locked out of the house!" I was still shaking, but most of the fear evaporated into a mixture of relief and anger. It was my sister Liz pounding on the window so late at night.

Back in those days, Liz, who was six years older than me, worked at the local Taco Bell restaurant. Sometimes she worked late hours and had to walk the short distance home after her shift. Gram would occasionally walk down to meet her partway so that she didn't have to feel frightened by walking alone in the semi-darkness. I say semi-darkness because even though it was late at night, the streets were fairly well lit. On this particular night, when Gram left home she had forgotten to bring her keys. She had also locked the doors, probably for my safety. Ironic, isn't it? When the two of them got home, they realized that I was sound asleep and they were locked out of the house.

Liz decided to remedy the situation by being as loud and mean sounding as possible while beating the window so hard it's amazing that it didn't break. Liz thought it was pretty funny. I am sure that if she had been in my position she wouldn't have found it so terribly amusing. I've never really forgiven her for the terrible way that she chose to wake me up, but I have found a bit of humor in the situation after the many years that have passed. And in an interesting twist of fate, can you guess which one of us grew into an adult who is afraid of the dark? Well, it sure wasn't me. I survived an attack in the middle of the night from a yelling murderer. After that, most regular stuff isn't quite as scary!