It was 1997. We lived on the second floor of a three story apartment building. The front door of the building was squeezed between a Chinese Restaurant on the left and a Japanese Restaurant on the right. You could walk onto the roof of the Japanese Restaurant and easily gain access to our bedroom via three large bay windows. These windows were like 100 years old and didn’t lock. That’s what you get for $375 a month in 1997. With the exception of the Fortune Teller across the hall (whose customers constantly rang our doorbell looking for a reading), we were the only other tenants in the building.
At the time, I was between jobs. Brenda was working as an Office Manager at an accounting firm. She usually came and went by herself. When I wasn’t looking for a job, all I did was write, work out, and practice kung fu. I rarely left the apartment during the week, except to go to the kung fu school. So to someone watching, it would appear that Brenda was single.
One morning she wakes me up. I hear fear in her voice.
“Somebody’s knocking on the window,” she says.
I listen. It’s quiet for a few seconds, and then…
A series of light taps on the bedroom window. I go to the window, peek through the curtain, and see a guy standing there, waiting to see what happens.
I yank the curtain back. The guy appears flustered, caught off guard. Like a shirtless black dude with a machete was the last thing he expected to see. He immediately starts apologizing and says some bullshit about looking for his sister.
“I thought she lived here,” he says.
I tell him that he’s got the wrong apartment.
I thought that if he was telling the truth, then he might be talking about the biracial girl who lived at the corner. I mentioned her. He said, “Yes. That’s her.”
I told him that she lived at the corner and that sneaking around outside people’s windows was a good way to get himself killed. I watched him walk to the edge of the roof, down the stairs, and out of the alley into the connecting parking lot. Brenda was in bed, watching all this unfold, but he never saw her.
Brenda is in the shower about half an hour later. I remember walking into the kitchen and seeing movement on the fire escape outside the kitchen window. I walk up to the window and look out.
It’s the same fucking guy!
This time he’s sneaking up the fire escape. At this point, he doesn’t know that I can see him. So I watch.
He’s checking out the windows on the side of our apartment. You can access them directly from the fire escape, by the way.
I open the kitchen window. The noise startles him. I lean out and say, “Are you fucking serious, man?!”
Without saying a word, he turns and hurries down the fire escape.
Brenda goes to work. Around 10am I go out for a cup of coffee. We lived on 20th and Chestnut Street, which is crowded with human traffic at 10am on a weekday.
It’s a nice day. I walk outside and look around. Waves of people hurrying past in both directions. I happen to look across the street and see the same fucking guy staring up at the second floor windows of our building, like he’s studying the place, trying to figure out a way in. He eventually sees me standing in the doorway looking at him and disappears into the crowd.
Now, at the time, I had no idea who this guy was and the whole thing eventually just became some creepy anecdote of city living.
A few years later, we’re sitting on the couch watching TV when the regular programming is interrupted by a “Special Report.” It’s about the infamous Center City Rapist. They’ve finally caught the guy. They run footage of the police escorting the guy, in handcuffs, into a squad car. We instantly recognize him.
“Holy Shit! It’s him!”
It was a definite goosebumps moment. Big time.
As we learned the details of the rapist’s modus operandi, we realized that he had been stalking Brenda and didn’t realize that we were together.