She was a neighbor, from an apartment building across the street.
She lives alone, and she had been lying in bed nearly asleep when she heard her back door open, and heavy footsteps on the floor. She didn't have time to reach for her glasses, but she squinted at her doorframe just as a large figure walked down her hall, past her bedroom. She called out "hello?" and didn't get a response. She instantly started to panic; her door had been locked, nobody else had a key, what the hell was somebody doing in her apartment at midnight?
So she bolted. She ran from her room, picked up a heavy object to defend herself (candleholder) and sprinted into the street, where she saw the bright light above my door and instinctually ran for it.
But what if I had been no better? What if it was "out of the frying pan and into the fire?" When I opened my door, we were facing each other at the bottom of a narrow, steep stairway, and I was taller and larger than her.
She looked like she needed to sit down, so I offered her a chair in the front room. I purposefully moved calmly and left my front door open, so she didn't feel trapped in the apartment with me. We called the cops, they came and checked her apartment. A friend of hers - who had a key to check on her plants if she was gone - had come in to crash for the evening, not realizing she was home. No harm, no foul, the cops talked to them both and got it straightened out.
But what about her perception of danger, and her trust in me based on a front door light? It made me think of a report on the local public radio about crime on campus (at a university of 15,000). They had interviews with female dorm residents, who described walking home late at night with keys in hand and cell phone dialed to 9-1. But there have only been a couple - like two or three - random attacks on campus in that situation. Almost all of the violent crime on campus happens between people who know each other, in dorm rooms or similar scenarios. Same thing with "rape myths" - most rapes occur between people who know each other, not in a dark alleyway with a stranger. But which scenario, which attack, do people prepare for?
And what about me? I never really think of "street crime." I left my light on simply to avoid fumbling with my keys.
I live in a town of about 30,000 and bike thefts usually happen in rashes, when some wayward urban youth bring up a van from a nearby big city and steal 100 bikes in one weekend then return and sell 'em. I know quite a few people who leave their cars and homes unlocked. But I've seen quite a few barfights here, and I know of at least one horrific murder in this town.
My wish is - aside from providing a narrative to be parodied - just to provoke your own thoughts on the perception of crime and danger versus the reality.