Someone pushed against a window below my bedroom in the night. Lying still, I listened for a pensive moment.
Loud music had been coming from the direction of campus before midnight. The music stopped a little later, and I turned off the light in my bedroom to hope for continued quiet and sleep. It was only a few minutes later when I heard steps come down the hill beside my house. These were not the quick rustling steps of a squirrel or the exploring steps of a raccoon. It was clearly a person who had a short, quiet stride, which I heard amplified in the dried leaves. The person stopped against my house, just below my bedroom, and pushed against a window.
I slipped from bed and tried first to look out, but it was impossible to see the area where the person stood. I dressed and found a flashlight, then slipped out a door on the opposite side of the house. From the top of the hill I shone the light along my house but could not see anyone. I walked down the hill to check among the shrubs and under the juniper that stands beside the house. There was no one. When I was back at the top of the hill, I heard a neighbor yell, “Get away from my house! Get away from my house!” I went quickly inside to call the police and then went to check on the neighbor.
My neighbor told me that the prowler had tried to come into his house through a door on a back deck. He pointed in the direction that the prowler had gone, and I walked toward my driveway.
“Here he is!” I hollered, and my neighbor and his visiting brother came running through the lilacs and plums along my drive.
The prowler sat on his butt under a mock orange at the edge of my driveway. With the lights of our flashlights on his face, the prowler sat—if I may use a hackneyed phrase—frozen like a deer in headlights. He was silent and unmoving—stoned. I called the police again to urge a quick arrival. The dispatcher began to question me. Were we restraining the prowler? No. What was he doing? Sitting motionless. He’s obviously very drunk or very high. Has he said anything? He’s mumbling now, but I understand only his swearing. Do we have guns? No. Could I describe the prowler? Male about 20 with short dark hair, about six feet tall, wearing a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans; the jeans are rolled-up at the ankles.
When the police arrived, one of the officers had the prowler stand and walk to the street. He staggered from side to side. The other officer questioned my neighbor and I. How did he try to get into our houses? Did we want to press charges? “He’s in no condition to take care of himself,” the officer said. “What we usually do with these kids is take them to the hospital for the night.”
There was Pac-10 football on campus yesterday. A day of drunkenness.
In the middle of the afternoon, soon after the football game had started and traffic had settled, I went out for errands. At the intersection with a major street that runs through campus, I saw two young women walking. Their arms were looped, but one was clearly providing support for the other, who stumbled and staggered with each step. As I watched, the drunk young woman ran from her partner into the lawn they were passing, where she bent over to vomit. Less than a block down the street, I saw another young woman fall face down in a flower bed. Her two companions leaned, hands on their knees, over her.
This spectacle of drunks, offering vomit and flattened flowers, is a common part of university communities, but it can also be more intrusive, as our midnight prowler demonstrated.