“Getting yourself attacked is a public service?”

Here is a snippet from near the beginning of Fait Accompli.

***

“Claudia, come out here and talk to me!” I heard from outside while bolting down my cereal. It was my downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Epstein.

“Good morning, Mrs. Ep,” I said on my living room balcony, peering over the railing to see Mrs. Ep on her patio below.

“Did you get another Extra in your room last night?” she demanded.

“Sorry, did my kihap wake you up?”

“That’s not the point!” she retorted. “Claudia, honey, you have got to stop letting these creeps into your apartment, one of them could really hurt you!”

“These idiots?” I scoffed. “I can take ‘em in my sleep.”

“Just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean you won’t be overpowered!”

“All due respect, Mrs. Ep, I don’t think that’ll happen.”

“What are you trying to prove, Claudia? Everyone knows you’re the best martial artist in the city, now quit leaving the window open!”

“I’m not trying to prove anything; I think of it as a public service.”

“Getting yourself attacked is a public service?”

“If I open the window, the Extras go for me, and I can deal with them. If I close the window, then all the windows look the same, and they could break into anyone’s apartment. Yours, for instance.”

“Don’t you go using those scare tactics on me! That idea is ridiculous and you know it.”

“Okay, fine, you’re safe, but most DOs don’t know how to defend themselves.” I referred to the Dual Opportunities program, which encouraged immigration by young women to make up the shortage in my generation.

“Are there any DOs who can afford to live alone in this building?”

“It’s a big neighborhood and I don’t make any assumptions.”

“For God’s sake, just close the window!”

“I don’t like running the air conditioning.”

“First it’s a public service, then it’s the air conditioning? Either way it’s bogus.”

“Fine, I’ll close the window, and then the next morning we’ll hear about some poor college girl or DO getting raped in a home invasion.”

“You cannot protect the whole city, Claudia! There’s not enough of you!”

“I think there’s enough of me for Capitol Hill,” I retorted and turned on my heel back to the living room. I heard Mrs. Epstein mutter something about getting carried away in a body bag. There was no withdrawing politely from any argument with her, and I would eventually need to show up at work.

That night was probably the tenth time I fought off an assailant in my room in the two years I’d lived in the building. What I didn’t know at the time was that it would be the last, and no one could have predicted why.