I'm not trying to say that we don't have crime in our neighborhood; a cursory search of the blotter reveals a number of thefts, a burglary, an assault, and something referred to as "deceptive practice" occurring in the area immediately around the apartment. But these incidents are few and far between, relative to many other Chicago neighborhoods, and all things considered, unsettling but not scary.
Thursday was scary. A 56 year-old woman was found stabbed to death in her apartment, in a building that I can see from my first-floor window. She was found by her husband when he came home from work; he burst out of the building, screaming and crying into the arms of a teenaged boy who happened to be skating by at the time. The police had told curious neighbors that they suspected a burglary gone wrong.
And in spite of myself I slowly immersed into the thick black oil of paranoia, double-checking windows and being more conscientious about our security system, thinking that if it is true, if this is a burglary gone wrong, then it is possible that the perpetrators spent some time casing out several apartments along this block. It is possible that our apartment was a target, it is possible that our home is still a target.
It is possible that I could come home late one night after a show and find my wife murdered.
Unable to stop the momentum of morbid thoughts and conjectures, imagining if I would howl, if I would rush to her and try to revive her with desperate denials, if I would grab the nearest kitchen knife in case the killer was still there, suddenly thinking the dog oh god the dog and then the conflict within me; why I was worried about the dog your wife your wife is dead and where is my dog and I can't see, I can't hear anything but sirens screaming or maybe it's me. My brain coming apart with the wet snap of a drowning clock, and after that all is silence.
I'm a writer; I can create these narratives faster than I do anything else in the world, and I have been creating these narratives at the rate of at least one every twenty minutes for the past three days. It exhausts me, leaves me drained and teetering over the precipice of tremulous weeping.
This is no way to walk through life, constantly scanning the horizon for the possibility of horrific tragedy. I know this but cannot seem to seal the fear away; cannot seem to battle the beast to anything more than stalemate. There is no point to being petrified by any story of crime or death; being petrified is no guarantee that the bad things will not find you, it is only a guarantee that you will be miserable until the day that happens.
But still. I can see the building from my front window. And my desire to look out the window at anything at all diminishes slowly until I am more comfortable with the curtain than the city outside of it.
Kien Tran, the victim, was apparently murdered by her own sister-in-law (link removed because it provides information on where in Chicago I live, which I have previously tried to obscure in this post), who originally showed up asking for money to feed her gambling addiction. When Tran refused, this time, her sister-in-law stabbed her. After receiving $2,000 from the safe, the sister-in-law seemingly thought she had gone this far and might as well finish the deed.
She then hid the evidence, threw away the knife, took the $2,000 with her and proceeded to gamble all of it away that evening.
All of it. That evening.
$2,000, a woman's life, a man's heart and sanity, and the ease with which we walk the streets after dark--this was the going rate of one person's gambling addiction.
I had been considering that the incident was simply another reminder that I live in a city, that I chose to put up with the greater risks thereof because of what I perceive as the great benefits thereof. But it was not a burglary that went wrong, it was simply a dysfunctional family that finally escalated past the point of no return.
It is not a reminder that I live in a city. It is a reminder that I live among human beings. Which is not a risk I can easily avoid, nor would I want to.