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I woke up in a panic realizing I forgot to brush my teeth. I’ve always been bad about it, but when I remember, I have to commit. It was 2 a.m. and I turned on my bathroom light. My face scrunched up with the abrupt flick of the switch, then I heard a rustling in the living room. I squeezed the Colgate onto my damp toothbrush and headed to the living room to see what my cat Fernando had gotten into.
Stepping into my living room, I was taken aback. Fernando was sleeping silently on the couch, but a tall man in a ski mask was crouched over my coffee table with a duffel bag. I knew I should have gotten a dog instead.
“Excuse me, sir, are you burglaring me?”
“Wait, no, that’s not a word… burglarizing? No. Thieving?”
“I mean, I think that last one’s a word, but I don’t think that’s the one you’re looking for,” he answered.
“I’m so tired, I don’t know…”
“Stealing?” he offered.
“No, it’s something bigger, more professional.”
“Professional? I’m robbing you.”
“Robbing! That’s the one! Yeah, you’re robbing me. Shit, what do I do?”
“Back up, stay quiet,” he hushed.
I put my toothbrush down and my hands up, and backed against the wall. “Please don’t shoot me. Or stab me. I don’t know what type of weapon you usually carry with you.”
“I could shoot you,” the burglar said. There was an inflection in his voice that made me instantly know he was lying.
“Sir, I just want you to know that I’m an INFJ, so I’m a little bit psychic. I know you don’t have a gun.”
“What does that mean?” he shook his head. “How do you know that?”
“Sir, can we please talk for a second? I don’t want any trouble. I was just wondering if I could keep some of the stuff in my purse you won’t need.”
“Like my license. I don’t want to have to go to the DMV and stand in line to wait for another one,” I said. “And maybe my debit card, because I’d have to call Wells Fargo to cancel it anyway, and then I’d have to get a temporary card. And if I need to get anything online between now and the time I get my official replacement card, I’d have so many cards on my Amazon account and that’s kind of annoying.”
“You’ve got to be joking.”
“You can keep the purse itself, it’s a Dooney and Bourke, which is a good brand. You can sell that for like $60 at any secondhand shop that knows what it’s doing. I got it at Goodwill for practically nothing, but they don’t know which end is up. But I have a journal in there with some very humiliating confessions I’d really rather not let out. And a chicken tortilla soup recipe. And my favorite chapstick, Burt’s Bees pomegranate flavor.”
“Oh my god, fine!” He dumped out my purse like an emotional blubber among confidants.
“I just… in the zipper part there are a few tampons… do you mind if I keep those?”
“Fine, whatever,” he scooped those out and put them on the coffee table.
“It’s just that tampons are like $12 a box and I can’t really afford to waste any.”
I hesitated. “Where’s my laptop? Did you take my laptop?”
“Shut up and sit down.”
“Listen. That’s okay, I have Geek Squad insurance: It covers viruses, water damage, and theft. But, do you mind if I email myself some Word docs and some other stuff I can’t lose?”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I have a few essays I haven’t turned in yet. Plus, I just finished making this beautiful new résumé on InDesign that I’m super proud of. I’d hate to lose it. It took me way too long to figure out how to crop my headshot into a circle. I don’t think I’d be able to recreate it.”
“You have a phone; where’s your phone?”
“Are you trying to make a call right now?”
“Oh my god, no, I’m taking that, too.”
“Oh, okay, for a second there I was really confused. But I’m sorry, I don’t have my phone right now. I dropped it down the escalator at City Target so it’s at the Apple store for repairs.”
“You shitting me?”
“No, this is my real life,” I shook my head in disbelief.
“Can we take inventory or something?”
I looked around and mumbled to myself, “I see you got my CD player, which honestly is embarrassing for me to have kept after 2012, but I guess here we are. So that, and…oh, my watch—it’s not in the little jewelry tray by my keys…”
“Wait, what are you going on about?”
“For insurance purposes. Like, together we can organize a list of things you’re taking with you, so I can have a concrete list of stuff for my insurance company to compensate me…” I scrunched up my face trying to work out the puzzle pieces of that last sentence. “Compensate me for? Compensate me with? I’m so tired, man.”
“I’m not going to sit here and make a list with you.”
“Why not? I’m being very accommodating, wouldn’t you say?”
“Not as much as someone who keeps their mouth shut and leaves me alone.”
“Fair enough,” I turned into the kitchen. “Do you want anything? Water? Coffee? I have some leftover pumpkin loaf from my book club meeting today. Or, I guess, yesterday. It’s morning now.”
“No,” he said. With a beat, he finished, “Thank you.”
“Are you sure? I could put some in a Ziploc for you. I have plenty. Just zap it in the microwave for, like, 10 seconds and have it with some chai. Have you ever had the powdered chai from Trader Joe’s? My cousin Jocelyn got me addicted to it.”
“Fine! Fine! I’ll take some pumpkin loaf. But I need to get out of here.”
“How did you get in here in the first place, may I ask?”
He didn’t respond.
“What was so special about my place?” I cut off two slices of the pumpkin loaf and packed them in a Ziploc. “Did I leave the door unlocked? Were you watching me for a while, seeing when I’d be around?”
“No,” he said a bit shyly.
“I’m here almost all the time; I work from home.”
He didn’t seem to care.
“That takes a lot of skill though, to break into an apartment. I’m a little impressed.”
“Thanks,” he mumbled back, avoiding eye contact.
“I’m just confused as to why,” I handed him the food.
He was silent, looking at the post-seasonal Christmas lights lining the full perimeter of my ceiling.
“So, you’ve got to get out of here?” I asked. “Is there anything else I can get you? Maybe some silver candlesticks?”
He let out a light chuckle. “Les Mis. Good one.”
“Thanks, this was fun,” I admitted, shooting him some friendly finger-guns.
“Yeah?” he popped his hands up jubilantly in reflex to the finger-gun bit.
“Yeah,” I almost blushed. “Ooh, what if we commit arson?” I suggested.
“Again, for the insurance. We could just, like, torch the place.”
His tone shifted, “Oh my god, no!”
“Um, okay,” I backed off, a bit bummed and offended. “I didn’t think it was out of the realm of possibilities.”
“No!” he insisted.
“I was just ‘yes, and-’ing you. But, whatever, I guess.”
“That was like forty steps too far. This is your own place!”
I looked around, uncommitted to the walls. “I’m just renting.”
“You’re insane.” Visibly shocked, he turned towards the door.
I rolled my eyes, “Okay, I am so damn sick of men calling women ‘crazy’ and ‘irrational’ and ‘arsonists.’ Like, c’mon, this is the twenty-first century; we should have evolved past this kind of misogyny—” I was cut off by the door slamming, the burglar gone without any of my shit.
Elena Ender has loved every bit of reading for and editing literary publications Tin House and Masters Review. She spends her time writing snarky fiction, listening to the latest wave of riot grrrl music, and driving around the streets of Portland, OR. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram as: @elena_ender.