Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Break-in

A couple of weeks ago I was returning from an errand and as I pulled into the driveway a little Japanese woman ran over to the car to tell me she was locked out of the house. She was pretty upset. She was wearing what seemed to be her workout clothes, microfiber tank-top, tights and athletic shoes; hopping around from one foot to the other and wringing her hands. Her English was probably about as good as my Spanish, but she was certainly capable of letting me in on her dilemma. She had locked herself out of the house. The telephone, her little dog, keys; everything was inside. She seemed most upset that she had to be at work and wasn’t going to make it on time. I got the impression she wanted me to call a locksmith. I brought out a phonebook from the house and started calling but for whatever reason I couldn’t get a response from any of the numbers I was calling. It was also pretty clear that even if I was able to get a locksmith to come out there would be inevitable complications: delay, how could she prove she actually lived in this house?, expense, jimmied doorknobs, etc. I suggested we take a walk round the house and see what we could come up with.

Our neighbor is a very nice man and a bit mysterious – but not at all in an annoying way. His name is John and he is very quiet. A man about my size with a calm face and gentle demeanor, he is the CFO of some local company I don’t believe I was ever told the name of. He is the one who bought the house to the south of us and had it remodeled to his specifications about three years ago. It was through that work that I snagged the guy who eventually became our electrical contractor. John is not, as near as any of us can tell, married. I figured he was gay, as he is easily in his mid-to late forties. Also, when he was first moving in we were talking to a friend of my wife’s who was doing some landscaping for him. She knew him personally and had only the nicest things to say about him. She is probably a lesbian. She said he was pretty well-off financially and involved in some unspecified social causes.

John was present and visible for the first month or two that he lived in the house, but as time passed he was there less and less…and Japanese girls began to appear. By girls I mean young Japanese women between the ages of, say, 23 and 30. The individuals in question change from time to time, but they always fit the same demographic slice and, I am ashamed to admit, all pretty much look alike. For whatever reason that house has always appealed to room-letters. The guy who lived there before was divorced with a sometimes son who stayed there about half the time and he also let out rooms to Asian girls. It most likely has something to do with the college down the street. (Another friend of ours who is Japanese -nisei- has told us that a large percentage of the Asian students at the local two-year College – and who could account for 80% of enrollment - are for the most part “rubbish children” from Japanese homes whose parents are disappointed in them; girls and boys who have been unwilling to adhere to traditional standards of behavior or academic application and are shipped to Los Angeles at substantial expense to get a second chance and do it in a place where they will bring no further embarrassment to their families. This may or may not be the case as our friend is something of a crank.) So anyway, we see less and less of John and more and more of the young Japanese women who actually live there on a day-to-day basis.

So, now we’re back to a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to help one of the women break into her own home.

I began at the front door and worked my way around the house trying each door and window for any crack, wiggle-room or opening that might be exploited to gain entry. Since this place was so newly remodeled it was securely designed and tightly shut; there was no place I could see that gave me the smallest opportunity, except…. On the north side of the house there are two little bathroom windows, one above the other like square portholes and probably no larger than 15” across. They are high on the wall, designed for venting and not for seeing out of and opening, transom-like, from the bottom. One of these was ajar. We both began looking around for something to stand on so that one of us could get at the opening. The woman found a plastic bench near the pool and dragged it over, but it was not nearly tall enough - the window was about six or seven feet off the ground. With a ladder from my garage I was able to get at the window and even put my head and one arm through to see a small dog looking at me from the other side. I suggested that the woman - the very small and light-weight woman - might want to try it herself, so she gamely climbed the ladder and crawled through the window while I maneuvered her legs to keep them from getting hurt against the sharp windowsill. Shortly after her feet disappeared I could hear her shouting excitedly and running around the house. She immediately came out the front door beaming and joyous over finally having gained entry and, one presumes, retaining her employment. Her elation was so great that her English failed her and she was left with an odd variety of hand signs – thumbs up, V for victory, high-five – with which to indicate her happiness and gratitude for what was clearly at least the second-greatest rescue of her life. Gamely, I bowed and mumbled out a lame “do-itashimashita” which only served to elicit animated expressions and another round of curious gestures.
The next day she brought over some very nice sweet-bean cookies.

No comments: