The police called and told me to come down to the station. They said they needed to ask a few more questions. This time I went there on my own.
They showed me my list of stolen items. They asked me to check the value of each thing. Then they told me to go into the next room.
I sat in the one available chair. Several police officers were there along with one man who said nothing and kept his head down. He didn’t look like a policeman, but I couldn’t imagine why else he would be there–except that the longer I sat next to him, less than three feet away, the more he looked like my thief.
The officers chatted with me, the only girl in a small room of six men. They didn’t speak English and they were amused by my Bulgarian. I kept looking at the man closest to me. It couldn’t be the man who’d stolen my backpack. I was imagining things. Getting paranoid.
After a while an officer stood and told me to follow him to another room. He shut the door behind us. “Was that him?” he asked me.
“Who?” I asked, knowing who he meant but very much wanting to be wrong.
“The man you sit next to. He is the man who took your bag?”
I bit the inside of my cheek. “Maybe,” I said. And now he knows I’ve turned him in…or I’m putting the wrong man in jail…or if I say it isn’t him they will arrest someone else…anyone else…I wish I hadn’t called the police…they all know where I live… “I think so. Yes.”
I was sent to one more room. My backpack was on the table in shreds. The man had taken a knife to it. My dirty clothes, my magazines, and my Christmas presents were gone. My makeup and clean clothes were there. The officer added up everything and asked if I thought the missing things and the backpack were worth more than $200. The total was close to $400. “No,” I said. “Just $100.”
The man, the officer said, was recently divorced and unemployed. He lived in the building next to mine. He had agreed to pay me back for my things–$20. a month. Lucky people in Bulgaria made $80 a month. My coworkers sometimes went 3 months without a paycheck.
“I’m going back to America in 6 months,” I said. Back to America. “I don’t want his money.”
“Look at your bag! No. You take money. He give us money. We call you. You come get money. Okay?”
“Yes,” I said.
“You like our country?” he said.
“Bulgaria is beautiful,” I said.
The police did call a few times with that money. Once in a while I saw my thief walking down the street, and I would cross to the other side.
I look at a scene in my novel and think–is that really what I think it is? Am I seeing my own writing accurately or has my imagination gone too far? Is a certain scene scary or ho-hum? Is this dialog funny or confusing? That scene made my stomach turn and that character made me laugh, but maybe I don’t know what I’m looking at.
How do you learn to trust yourself? Or does that come naturally to you?