He was sitting silently on the floor with his legs crossed, right outside the apartment door. He had been there for hours. I could see him through the peep-hole. The doorbell had stopped buzzing about 9pm. How did he get into the building? The front door from the street opened by a buzzer system or a tenant’s key. I had no phone buzz to ask admittance, somebody must have held the door open and allowed him through.
It was not the first time.
He was there a week previously and rang the bell at fifteen minute intervals before finally leaving at about midnight. Tonight he looked like he was there to stay. I hoped one of the other tenants would venture out into the hall on their way to or from the laundry room in the basement. Nobody stirred. The building was always very quiet it was one of the things that appealed to me about the apartment. I seldom saw my neighbours. We were all out at work every day. Our contracts did not allow for loud music and baths were forbidden after 10.30pm on a week night, in case the running and emptying water disturbed our neighbours on the other floors. There was no restriction about early morning bathing.
The building was four floors high with the owner having his office and living quarters in the pent house. The Janitor lived in the basement and we also had laundry and drying rooms down there. On each of the three floors between these two were four apartments. Mine was on the first floor up at the back of the building so there was no way of knowing if I was at home other than by pressing the buzzer. The large windows in my living room, bedroom and bathroom faced the back garden and there was no access from the street.
I was home early and it was still daylight when he arrived and rang the bell on my inner front door. The only other person to ring that internal bell was the Janitor. I didn’t have the radio switched on and there was no need for lights. I was writing letters to my family and friends back in Ireland so the place was silent. The carpet swallowed any sound from my stocking feet as I approached the door to look through the peep-hole. There was no way I would open that door!
When darkness fell I refrained from switching on any lights so as not to draw attention to the fact I was there. I had no telephone and we had no mobiles in the early seventies, so without going outside I had no way of calling for assistance. Once I stayed inside there was no danger. Staying calm I got into bed.
I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep! I counted sheep. It didn’t work. I named my 657 thousand cousins and was still wide awake. I looked through the peep-hole and he was still there and not sleeping either.
I poured myself a stiff drink and planned what I would do in the morning. In the morning! What was I talking about? It was already dawn. The drink relaxed me and my head grew heavy, I must have dozed off.
I woke with a jump! It was the sound of the door to the stairwell closing that woke me. I went to look through the peep-hole once more and to my great relief the intruder had gone!
My problem was I knew who he was.
His wife worked with me, we got on well together and I really liked her. She had invited me to join them for dinner a month previously. At the time I had no car, there was no need for one since I was within walking distance of work. The wife drove me to her home straight from work and at the end of an enjoyable evening the husband offered to drop me back to my apartment. Accepting the lift, I thought nothing of it, I had lifts before from other friends and there was no problem. That night things were different. The husband once in the car and a safe distance away from his home, made advances that were way beyond the bounds of decency. I threatened to report him to the police and got out of the car as fast as I could. I ran all the way home and thankfully he didn’t follow me.
That was the longest and loneliest night of my life. I felt dirty and damaged. I broke the house rules and ran a bath. No amount of bathing would wash those memories from my brain. I didn’t go to the police. I was in a foreign country, a guest at this man’s home, a passenger in his car, we had drink taken and it was my word against his. He was a married man and back then women were not really believed in such situations.
So now I had decisions to make. I dressed for work and prepared what I would say. It was not easy telling my colleague what her husband was doing. She was not surprised or shocked, but aware that he was out the night before and on several other nights recently. It turns out they had problems in the past and they were surfacing once more. She called for medical help and he was admitted to the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. From then on, much as I tried to leave those dark events behind me, my job lost its lustre so I handed in my notice and made arrangements to return to Ireland.
Slowly and with time the memories faded and I was able to live a normal life. Good friends, love and laughter returned and life was worth living once more.