What do you do all night when you’re expected to stay awake? I had been working a graveyard shift for only about a month and I asked myself that very question twice a week. What should I do all night? After all, I really only had one responsibility while the girls were sleeping, and that was to make sure they kept sleeping.
There were three girls under my watchful eye that night. Brittany and Lisa were roommates and I spent the night sitting on their couch. Both of them had mental disabilities that required them to live in the care of the company that I worked for- Chrysalis. Once 7:00 rolled around, it would be my job to wake them up and make sure they were ready when their bus came to take them to work. The third girl was Crystal, who also had special needs. She didn’t live in the same apartment, but lived next door. She wasn’t independent enough to be left unsupervised during the day, but she didn’t have a staff during the night like Lisa and Brittany did. Instead, what she had was an alarm on her door that sounded for me to hear next door.
I went in to each bedroom and checked on them every couple of hours. Lisa was asleep. Brittany was asleep. Crystal was asleep. I was awake. I sat on the couch entertaining myself with a John Grisham novel when I heard something. At first, it sounded like it was coming from Lisa’s room, but when I went in to check on her, I knew it wasn’t Lisa. It was coming from the apartment next door- the other side of Lisa’s wall. It was coming from Crystal’s bedroom, so I went next door to check on her.
That’s where my night went from “what do I do all night?” to “what do I do with a rapist in the closet?”
When I first started to creek her bedroom door open, I peeked through the darkness and saw Crystal lying asleep in her bed. As I was shutting the door, however, I saw someone out of the corner of my eye move in the open closet to my right. I stared. Maybe I was imagining things. Maybe it was just a shadow of something that caught my eye. Then, as I hoped and hoped that I was wrong, I saw the closet door very slowly begin to slide shut. It was dark and the door made no sound, but there was no mistaking it. Someone was hiding in her closet.
It’s moments like that when you find out what you’re made of. Face it and fight or turn high tail and run? I didn’t know what he wanted. I didn’t know why he was there. And the scariest thing was that I didn’t know if he had a gun, a knife, nunchucks, or a nuclear device.
“I don’t know who you are,” I said calmly, hoping that my mellow voice would keep him from panicking or doing something drastic, “but I’m going to turn the light on.”
Nothing. He said nothing. He did nothing. Nothing.
I turned the light on just like I said I would. The door, which had been open about 3 feet when I first stuck my head into the room, was only open about six inches and I couldn’t see who was inside. I looked over at Crystal’s bed and saw that she still hadn’t moved. Turning the light on didn’t wake her up.
“I’m going to open the closet door now, okay?” I said, still getting no response.
I stood to the side of the door as I opened it, not knowing what was going to burst out of it, but nobody came out. I looked in. It wasn’t my imagination. There was someone in the closet. Someone was curled up into a ball in the corner of the closet… laughing.I didn’t know Crystal very well before that night. I didn’t know much about her personality and I didn’t know what types of things make her laugh. I found out that night, though. She wasn’t trying to play a joke on me- she was trying to play a joke on the staff that would come in to wake her up in a few hours. Yes, it was Crystal in the closet, not Jack the Ripper. And the Crystal that was asleep in her bed turned out to be the contents of her dirty laundry hamper that she wadded up under her blanket to make it look like she was still in bed. She laughed pretty good about it. All of my coworkers laughed pretty good about it when they read my report. I don’t usually feel that much relief when I find out I’m the butt of someone’s joke. Whew! True story.