I was just drifting off to sleep when I heard the slightest scratch at my front door.
Instantly my body jolted awake and I lay frozen under the covers in my dark bedroom, straining to decipher the source of the suspicious noise without making any myself, even though the panicked thumping of my heart was in danger of waking up my entire apartment complex.
A few moments later I heard it again, a sound that might possibly be chalked up to a strong wind but just as easily could have been the noise of someone quietly testing the door handle and then pulling their hand back in shock as it unexpectedly creaked.
With a well-practised mind, I quickly went over the checklist I keep tucked away in my head for times like this when a rogue noise shakes me awake.
Was my front door locked? Yes, I’d triple checked it before I went to sleep and the chair I drag across it each night as an extra precaution was firmly tucked under the handle.
Were my house keys in my room with me? I quietly slid my hand out from under the covers and felt them safely in their usual place, on my bedside table sitting next to my fully charged phone.
Quickly I ran through everything else on my secret pre-sleep checklist- the windows were closed, the bedroom door was also locked tight – and only then did I feel my shoulders begin to unclench and my tense fingers slowly loosen their iron-clad grip on the blankets.
I'm sure that to many people looking in on my life from the outside, these sleep precautions might seem a little extreme. I'm also well aware they bring shame to the whole 'independent woman living alone' image I'm trying to cultivate. Over the years I've had more than a few people raise their eyebrows at me in surprise whenever I let slip about my fondness for a chair pushed across a door, there's just no way to sugar coat that particular quirk.
However, for many women who live alone, these are the constant thoughts and plans that spiral through your mind on a daily basis, with the same frequency as reminding yourself to buy fresh milk on your way home from work. It's a source of emotional labour that stays with you, even within the walls of your own home.
This fear of doors being forced open and strange faces lurking through dark windows is a common yet somewhat shameful state of mind many women live with, in my experience.
Shameful because statistically, being tucked up alone in your own bed is one of the safest places in this world you could ever be.