I had just finished cooking a pot of spaghetti stew that was cooling atop my storage container.
That’s when I saw his silhouette trying to peer through my tinted windows and shades. He looked like an alien. I could see spaces between his gangly fingers before he cupped them together and pressed them against the glass. His head was long and oval. He moved from window to window, peering in each one.
Did he wish to be—like some dragon-slaying knight—the first to confront the infamous vandweller in his lair? Or did he just appreciate a good set of tinted windows?
Whether he spotted me or not, things, for my peeper, must have looked awfully strange. My laundry area by the front passenger seat was open to view, my windshield (on this balmy afternoon) had fogged up from the steam of my meal, and I don’t doubt that odors of broccoli and onion were leaking out of the windows I left ajar in great profusion.
Or maybe his interest was piqued by my thighs that—not having seen sunshine in years—might have had a phosphorescent glow that lit up the van like a candle in a jack-o-lantern.
If he could have seen me—sitting as still as a stone—he probably would have thought I was a Buddhist monk deep in meditation. But I was far from a state of Zen. My heart raced and sweat beaded on my forehead.
I felt vulnerable. For fear of being heard, I couldn’t move or cover myself up. I realized I left my doors unlocked. What would I do if he opened them? Should I slam my cooking knife into him or invite him in for a bowl of stew?
In all my days in the van—in a town renowned for bums and high crime rates—not once has anyone tried to break in.
I really would be a car-burglar’s worst nightmare. I doubt—upon breaking into a van—that the typical burglar has ever had a half-naked male with a chest as white as death thrash out from under covers with the fury of a mongoose defending his hole.
But this was no burglar. I'd be curious, too, if I saw what he saw.
I’m not sure whether he spotted me or not. Between my tinted windows, shades, and the black cloth I hang behind my two front seats, I have adequate privacy. But, if someone really wanted to see inside, they probably could.
As you can see, the shades leave a slight gap, and my sheet doesn’t entirely span from wall to wall. I’m usually in the van only at night, so this has never bothered me.
He walked away and got in his car. I lifted up my shade ever so slightly and while I didn’t catch a glimpse of him, I was relieved to see that he wasn’t campus security.
I had no say in the parking lot that was assigned to me. I worried that they might place me somewhere in the middle of campus where lots of people would be coming and going, which would make my secret a lot harder to keep. Instead, they put me on the outermost fringe of campus, where no person—as far as I know—has ever seen me enter or leave the van.
My parking lot is almost always empty but if someone is around I simply keep walking past the van or I’ll read under a nearby tree. In the mornings, when I get out and walk to class, I look out all the windows to make sure no one’s out there.