miejanI SAT ON the balcony off our upstairs bedroom, eyes closed, the only sense of time measured by the moving shadows of clouds overhead. Occasionally the scene turned bright on my eyelids and I felt the warmth of the sun on my face. I tried to relax, but ended up listening to my racing heartbeat and urged it to slow down to normal.

But what, really, is normal?

Just hours earlier, about ten in the morning, I sat in front of my computer in the other upper room of our townhome, just minding my own business. My cat, Sunti, more a loyal pup than a feline, slept on the back of the overstuffed recliner while I typed. Suddenly, he awoke and stiffly froze in fear. I looked out my office door toward the stairway leading up, and I heard quiet footsteps and saw a shadow of a head rising up the wall.

My mind instantly told me it wasn’t my wife, because she was in her car.

My mind instantly told me it wasn’t a potential renter looking at the place because the landlord hadn’t called to alert me.

Someone must have hit the silent alarm, because I jumped to my feet and all I saw was the back of a black teenager’s head as I turned and flew down the steps and yelled to high heaven and ran about 3/5 of a mile in 10 seconds, chasing the intruder out the front door and around the block.

A neighbor stopped mowing his lawn and told me he saw the guy run by him but didn’t think anything of it. In a thick Eastern European accent, he told me to get a gun because “they’ll rob you for only five bucks.”

I found the screen removed from a front window. I didn’t see anything out of place other than the lamp that had fallen over when he ran out in front of me. Turns out the kid stole my cheap pay-by-the-month cellphone. Nothing else was missing except some peace of mind.

In hindsight, I was surprised how fast I ran after the cat burglar. After all, just a week earlier while cleaning out the garage as I prepared to move back to the Twin Cities, a couple of bookshelves fell on my left big toe. It turned black and I was hobbling that past week — but it seemed to work well when I counted on it.

In hindsight, I spent too much time on the “what ifs.” What if the intruder hadn’t moved when I came running at him? What if he had a gun? What if I had a gun? Is the price of a life equal to a cellphone? I had been watching the Zimmerman trial online, and the jury began deliberating about three hours after I chased the intruder out of my home. I stood my ground, without a weapon, and it worked out all right.

I posted a few thoughts on Facebook and people wrote that they were glad I was okay — and I appreciated every comment. But I was left thinking about the nameless teen who had the guts to crawl through my window in broad daylight, not really knowing if anyone was home or not. And I wondered why someone would risk his life to steal what he probably hoped was an iPhone. Perhaps it was for the thrill of it all, but I’m guessing he was as fearful as I was when he was running out my front door. Maybe not.

As I sat on the balcony off our upstairs bedroom, I said a prayer that he would make better choices, that he would finish school and eventually tell his children to avoid a life of crime. I don’t know whether my sentiment was received, but for me, it felt better than pulling a trigger.

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