peeping tom


our old mall
Last summer I took my girls and grandmother to see a movie near one of my old apartments. The area had changed, and not for the better. My husband, Joe, and I only lived there a little while. He wasn’t even my husband then. We got married while we lived there, though obviously not in the apartment with its papasan chair and the security bar across half the sliding glass door. The apartment complex installed it after the peeping tom incident as a sort of half-assed but well meaning gesture. Joe had already been sleeping with an aluminum baseball bat on his side of the bed since I met him.

We were supposed to get a second level apartment overlooking the woods, but the rental office called and told us something came up. Would we be okay with a ground level unit overlooking the pool? I was disappointed losing the woods but they gave us an extra bedroom and knocked $20 off our rent and we signed the lease and moved in, joking that maybe it would be like living on the deck of the Love Boat. It was January then, and the pool and grounds were covered in snow.

The Blizzard of ’96 dumped 2 feet of snow and Joe dug his car out with a neighbor’s shovel so we could drive to the store to buy a shovel. He was from the midwest and still gets excited by snow. His eyes brighten and he gets a little color in his cheeks. As I recall, the store was out of shovels so we drove to another store that had shovels and board games. We bought trivial pursuit and monopoly and invited a neighbor over who was irritatingly better at both. I hate monopoly even when I don’t get my ass handed to me.  Still, it passed the time.

We hung a bird feeder just outside the sliding glass door so the cats would have something to look at. Joe went out one day to fill the feeder and noticed foot steps in the snow leading to the side of our building. There was a weird cut out area with a retaining wall behind it, a blind spot of privacy, and it was right next to our bedroom window. The foot steps stopped there.

We didn’t think much of it then. Maybe we assumed it was from maintenance guys. We kept the blinds down in our bedroom as a general rule, but it’s safe to say my attention to detail wasn’t great then. Spring came and the only action we saw outside was an upstairs neighbor who sometimes brought his cat down on a harness leash. The cat always got down low to the ground and refused to budge. The neighbor would scoop the cat up in his arms and carry it back upstairs and eventually stopped trying. Inside, the board games went on a shelf in the closet and we favored more outdoor activities like drinking in bars.

One night Joe and I got home late and I went into the bedroom to change. He was in the other room listening to music on the stereo. This part will sound funny, but I decided to try on an old fashioned pajama set his mother sent me in the mail. Why did she send me that? Did she send me other funny clothes? I only remember I was a little drunk and thought trying it on would be hilarious. It was mint green and had a short-sleeved button up jacket. There may have been fur trim on the collar but now it sounds like I’m making stuff up.

I was admiring myself in the mirror when I saw something shift by the window. The blinds were closed but they weren’t down all the way. This is what I meant by attention to detail. I’d left about a 2-inch gap between the bottom of the blind and the window sill. I bent down to look and saw someone looking back and I screamed.

Joe grabbed his baseball bat and ran outside. I could not go anywhere in my mint green pajama set with matching (possibly fur trimmed) jacket so I called the police. Joe ran up the hill with his bat and onto the street. There were two ways to go and he went left and saw a young guy walking alone in shorts and a wife-beater tee. Joe ran up with his bat and the guy stopped and threw his hands up like what the hell? The guy seemed a little out of breath and nervous, but Joe was a big guy with a bat. The cops happened by in a patrol car and got out with their  notepad, which is maybe something they don’t do anymore. They asked the guy in the wife-beater tee some questions and then they let him go. They told Joe and his bat to go back home and lock the doors and keep the blinds closed.

The rental office sent someone out the next day to install a security bar on the sliding glass door, which, for the record, wasn’t anywhere near the bedroom window. I put the stupid mint green pajama set back in its box, and it didn’t make the move when we broke our lease  to go south. It wasn’t the peeping tom that did it, but a better job and opportunity. The rental office threatened to sue, but they never did.

About a month before we moved out, we got married at an old mansion down the road. The night before the wedding, we threw a party for out of town guests. My sister was still in middle school and stayed with us that night, and I remember feeling protective of her. I drank, but not as much as I would have had she not been there. Joe and his friends drank freely and hopped the fence to the pool area and threw all the lounge chairs into the water. We all went to bed too late and the next morning I felt more hungover than I should have.

Our wedding day started out drizzly and gray. When we stood together by the purple flowering tree at the mansion and were married by mere words, the sun broke through a little. By the end of the reception, it was a perfectly sunny day. In a book someone gave me before the wedding, I read that the weather on your wedding day is supposed to forecast how your marriage will be. I know better now, that it doesn’t work like that. I also know the sunny parts are half due to luck and other things we don’t control, and the rest is up to us.





18 thoughts on “peeping tom

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  1. I agree with the weather forecast on your wedding day prediction. On my wedding day, it was pouring rain. I was upset and my Greek grandmother told me that rain was good luck. It stopped raining eventually and the sun did come out. Jim and I are married 35 years.
    I was at my sisters once and looked out her window in the evening. I saw someone on a ladder peering into a window of the house next-door. We called the police. I’m not sure what happened but thankfully that is the only peeping Tom incident that I’ve ever been a part of. By the way, the night I met Jim he was wearing a lime green leisure suit. This was the early 80s after all. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fantastic way to start my morning. Kristen, I feel like I know you so much better for some reason, though why a story about a peeping Tom would affect me that way I can’t say. I share your inattention to detail, back then and possibly still even now. Of course I live with someone with Bionic Man Powers of Observation, so that could be why I put down my own. In any event, thanks so much for sharing this gripping story!

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  3. That’s totally super. You build a really nice arc and suspense, and temper the darkness with a light-hearted voice. The imagery is really crisp, especially the scene with the mint green and the fur collar, nice touch. And was this the same pool as the one where you met that black guy you wrote about once? I don’t think so, for some reason…doesn’t add up if you were married or with Joe, about to get married. But I lived there in Philly that year so I know about the blizzard of 96 (I wrote about that one and you read it, dragging a dead Xmas tree down the steps of our loft and meeting a Puerto Rican in the alley way for a joint). Ah, so much life, so little time to write it all. Glad you did here though, it’s a gem. “Top notch,” as you say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Different pool and funny you mention the other because last week I started a post that took place around that (different focus). And I couldn’t get it off the ground and then read your awesome post about an old apartment and that was it. So thanks yet again. Yeah I remember that alley joint post…it is lovely.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very, very cool around. I almost sent you an email saying how much I really loved this story but now I don’t have to! Cheers, Bill

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy 31 years!
    I love wedding stories, and anniversary stories.
    We had very small rental house, we got for $100 a month.
    We filled it with old used furniture.
    Hubs got married in a blue leisure suit from Penny’s, me in a Gunny Sack dress from Penny’s.
    We got married the back yard of my parents house.
    Sunny, hot, my hair frizzed up so I put it in a bun.
    But it was cheap!
    My whole wedding cost only $500.00 dollars!!
    Marriage is sure interesting!
    That’s all I can say!
    PS – I missed this post, somehow!


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