This morning at 1:30am the Cyberpunk Apocalypse writer's collective was rudely awakened. Outside, car doors sounded like popcorn. On an otherwise quiet street it was enough to get me out of bed. I looked out my open window, to see a fleet of police vehicles that went off in both directions farther than my view would allow. "Sara, there are like a hundred cops outside."
A flashlight beam hit my face and someone loudly pronounced, "There's someone in the attic."
There was rapping on the door before I picked up my shirt. I heard the police open my side gate and walk into my back yard, as I rushed to the second floor, and by the time I was halfway down the living room steps one of the writers-in-residence was talking through the back door with her boyfriend as the officers scanned our compost and ripe squash with one hand on their hips. "The owner of the house lives here," she said.
Coming up behind her I spoke above their conversation, "I own the property. I'm Dan. What's up?"
"Uh," said the one with glasses. The surprise that the three officers displayed may have been sincere.
Whatever the police were expecting to find, it wasn't a 22 year-old homeowner in khakis and a button-down shirt.
"Do you have any documentation?"
"I have the deed upstairs," I said. "Stay there, I'll be right back."
Sara was up now--everyone was up--as I scurried around looking for my deed. I grabbed my wallet so I could show them I.D. and I went back downstairs.
The one with glasses was waiting while the other two looked under the porch and around the yard one last time. They told me to just go out front, where I guess they had told the other guys to wait because they hadn't knocked my door down.
When I stepped out the front my roommate and her boyfriend were right behind to witness the line of cop cars and SUVs that stretched from 54th to 55th street bumper to bumper. There were around ten cops standing out front plus the three who came around the side. Some of the ones who had gotten out of their cars seemed to have gotten back in now that there wasn't going to be much of a show. I gave one man the deed and pulled out my drivers license while a few shotgun barrels were lowered, and the one with glasses pointed out that I had dropped my library card.
They said that there must have been "a mix up." One guy said, "We must have scared a year off your life," a couple of times in a row. Flashlights still going everywhere.
I agreed that it was startling, and asked them again "What's up?"
"What alleged charges? I mean--" My roommate put more formally.
"Well," said an officer. "You know the G20's coming..." He nodded--like that was enough.
"Yeah," I nodded in agreement--cringing for whatever reason.
He said that we must have gotten "on a list."
When my roommate asked how? why?
Someone shrugged, someone else asked "Do you talk to your neighbors?"
"People coming in and out," said another.
"People that live here," my roommate responded as I repacked my deed, license and library card.
"A neighbor probably said something."
"A neighbor said something tonight?"
They seemed to indicate that was the case, but in a way, without any verbal confirmation, that made me feel like they weren't telling us the truth, or they couldn't, or they just wanted to end the conversation as soon as possible.
I went inside, and with a great slamming of car doors they left. A caravan of cops longer than the one in the Columbus Day parade.
If you've been reading this blog then you probably know that I've been out of town--working fourteen hour days as a traveling poster salesman to raise money for the writer's space. A space I hope will do good for Pittsburgh by anybody's standards. Someplace that encourages creative thought and the building of a stronger and more diverse writing community in our amazing city.
Originally I wasn't supposed to get back in town until today--right around now.
And if I hadn't changed to an earlier flight I would be returning to a ransacked home. Perhaps my doors would have been boarded up, and my roommates would be on the streets or in jail because they couldn't prove that they have the owner's permission to be here.
And that's not the way it's supposed to work. That's not right, and that's not legal.
The Cyberpunk Apocalypse is not just my home, it is my life. Even though nothing came from our nighttime visitors except startled nerves and a loss of sleep, I can't help but feel absolutely violated. That those men, all dressed the same, would come onto my property--uninvited, in those numbers, pointing those guns, as if to say, "We could take everything. Your home, your life, your life's work--we could take everything that you are trying so hard to build. Just because."
But, this is the world we are living in. This is the right-now. There's no denying it. As Apache helicopters swoop over our heads and out-of-towner cops eye us suspiciously, and we eye each other suspiciously--I feel that a dark period has been forced upon our city which has been favored with relatively clear skies in this hard year.
I think if we can get through this week without tearing ourselves apart--we will be stronger for it.
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