I was living in Los Angeles with a good friend from high school. We were nineteen or twenty years old. I can’t remember exactly. One of my childhood friends was visiting from New Jersey. We were all getting ready to go out on the town.
There was a knock on the door. I assumed it was our neighbor and without a thought opened it up. A young man with a backpack pushed his way inside. I yelled something along the lines of “What are you doing?” He grabbed me by the neck and closed the door behind him. He told me he had a gun and a knife in his backpack and he wasn’t afraid to use them. I believed him because our apartment was in a sketchy part of LA and I didn’t want anyone getting shot.
We had a dog at the time. We had found her in the street and took her in. She was barking hysterically and he made me put her out on the patio.
The man led me around our apartment searching for anything he could steal. An unexplainable calm came over me. I was very present and aware of his fear. He couldn’t have been much older than me and his nervousness made me even more wary. I remember thinking that he was new at this unfortunate path he was taking. I wanted to give him what he wanted so he would leave never having shown me what may have been in his backpack.
I went through our wallets and gave him our cash. He took all my costume jewelry and my class ring. I was making ends meet as a leasing agent and auditioning for acting roles. There were no riches in our apartment.
The man made the other girls lay face down on the floor. He took me into the living room and his hands began to wander. That’s when I knew I would defend myself. Suddenly, the phone rang. He told me to answer it. I remember being dumbfounded and thinking it wasn’t a smart move on his part. Now I was going to try to get help. It was a casting director on the other end. The scene played out like a Hollywood movie. I tried giving her clues that not everything was copacetic in our little apartment. She finally asked, “are you okay?” I replied, “no!” He still had a hold of my neck. I think she asked if she could do anything or if I needed help and I said, “yes.” He made me hang up the phone.
I think he realized it was time for him to go. He told me to join the other girls and count to one hundred while he escaped. Later, when the police came they said, “You mean there were all of you girls and one of him and you didn’t do anything?” Well, maybe if I had had some self-defense training I could have knocked him out but I really didn’t want to see the barrel of gun. I was a naive teen living in a dangerous area of LA. To me, I was doing everything I could to keep all of us including our dog alive.
Later, I spoke to the casting director and told her what happened. She was shocked. She had been ready to call the police.
Years later, one of the first lessons I taught my children was to always know who’s on the other side of the door before they open it. Looking back, I realize how life has a way of opening my eyes and scaring me out of my comfort zone as if it’s saying, “live Krista…live!” Through the good and the challenging there is always a lesson.
For example, a week after we were robbed a neighbor directly across the hall told me that the man had knocked on her door too and she didn’t answer. She had heard our dog barking and barking yet she did nothing. Her noninvolvement taught me the importance of helping my neighbors.
I was also given insight into a young man. The experience made me open my eyes at a young age to another’s life. He certainly wasn’t enjoying robbing us. He was as scared as I was. What made him make such a choice? How had my life differed from his? I saw him as a person and not as a monster I needed to fear. I suppose in many ways this incident gave me the courage to accept that things will happen in my life and I can choose whether to live each day in fear or love.
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
― John Lennon
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