Updated: Aug 18, 2022
-Photograph by Gabe Pierce
"Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof-uh ( Because I'm happy ) Clap along IF you feel-".
Pharrell blasted out of the speakers of his Ford Fusion as he drove to the nearest gas station. It was late. My mind was racing. I was still in shock. He put the song on to cheer me up and I could tell he meant well, but seconds later my body trembled as I burst into tears. What the FUCK just happened?
It had been a few weeks since the march I attended. We were protesting the wrongful death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. I remember vividly how the peaceful protest quickly turned into a battle front as the police began shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at us unarmed civilians. No amount of mental preparation was enough to get me ready for the intense and burning sting of the tear gas or the gruesome view of a face dripping in blood from a rubber bullet. Luckily we made it back home safely that night. I had stayed fairly lowkey since but was on high alert for weeks after.
One night, I was returning home to my apartment after being out a majority of the day. Like any other night, my key was in hand as I quickly walked to my door. It was fairly dark outside, but I approached my apartment as fast and as cautious as I could. Like usual, I reached for the doorknob, unlocked my door in one swift motion, turned the knob and pushed...
...Except this time... I couldn't get in.
The top lock had to be locked. I stayed with two other roommates at the time. Both were young, white women who were attending the same college as me. It was my second year in grad school and I was living in off-campus housing. Since all of my friends had already graduated and left to their hometowns, I had to find a place that was affordable, and unfortunately, with random roommate matching. I knew that at least one of my two roommates were at home because her light was on in her room. I quickly became suspicious because we NEVER left the top lock locked. The reason being, we all left and came home at different hours of the day and night.
I knocked once.
The apartment complex I was staying at was one of the cheapest complexes in the area and a rather large one. Often times our entry gate would be broken and remained open for days at a time. Other times, when I would walk my dog at night, I would see random people digging through our dumpsters. During this time, unfortunately, the area surrounding my building was almost pitch black because the outside lights weren't working. And of course, our porch light wasn't working either.
I knocked again.
I was getting impatient and my anxiety was starting to kick in. "Did she lock me out on purpose?" "Did she overhear me on the phone talking about the protest?" "Oh God, please don't let anybody come up to me while I'm trying to get inside my apartment."
I knocked again. This time loud enough to be sure she heard me from the back of the apartment where her room was. Still nothing.
"Let me try calling her", I thought to myself. The call immediately failed. At this point I was getting extremely irritated. I decided to call my other roommate to figure out what was going on. She answered, told me she wasn't home at the moment, that I had the correct number, and that she would try to call her too.
"I tried calling her and she didn't answer me either," her text read on my dimly lit iPhone.
I was annoyed. "Please don't let anybody come up to me while I'm trying to get inside my apartment." Luckily, no one was near me outside from what I could see. I tried knocking on the door again with no luck. Frustrated, I paused to listen to hear if I heard any voices behind the door. "Is she locking me out on purpose?" I thought to myself. Then, moments later, I heard a door shut in the distance followed by footsteps and low toned murmurs. I looked out across the dark field surrounding my side of the building and saw two figures exiting from another apartment building. There was something about the way they were walking; slow, calculated, cautious... it gave me the most uncomfortable sensation in my body. As the figures grew closer I could tell they were two young men. There was a numb buzzing in the pit of my stomach. I knew they were coming for me.
(To Be Continued...)