Can a 21 year old have a heart attack?
I keep replaying it over in my head. The sound of him kicking wide the doors, a man covered in all black emerging so quickly from the dark behind him. Looking not at his face, but down the barrel of the gun he had meticulously aimed at my forehead. Is this real?
It’s something I had been thinking more than usual about a couple weeks prior. Working at 430AM when the sky is still strikingly black, you think ‘what if?’ But of course, like all other things, it would never happen to you… right?
His deafening voice drowns out my thoughts and I scream.
In that moment I was stripped of any courage I thought I’d gained throughout my life. I was weak, and my life was in this mans hands.
My knees drop to the floor and his drop with me. He’s so close I can nearly feel his breath. I glance at his masked face, see his pourous, colossal nose, his lighter eyes, and I quickly direct my focus to the floor hoping he didn’t notice. I was burying my back into the wall hoping if I tried hard enough, I could disappear into it. Hoping I could make myself invisible. There was no comfort, no way to protect myself in that moment. I had never before felt so helpless and so weak in my entire life.
As my coworker was unlocking the tills, hands trembling, voice shaking and filling his bag with a sorry amount of cash, I kept focused on the floor. The alarm was blaring, lights flashing. My breath was billowing out of my mouth, my chest heaving in and out. What if this wasn’t enough? What if he wanted more and we couldn’t give it? What if he got angry and used that weapon to do more than strip us of any sense of security and innocence we thought we had?
I wish I knew the man. I wish I could offer him the few hundred dollars he got in exchange for my sanity back.
I was reading the comments on the news post, people making insensitive jokes about the situation. “White girls when they’re desperate.” “Maybe you should’ve made his salted caramel mocha right.” I get it. It’s easy to not feel the weight of situations like this, especially when no one was injured. It’s easy to not think of the two trembling girls inside wondering if their very lives were going to come to an end that morning, and the days, weeks, months that were ahead of them. How the sound of every loud door has made my insides twist since. How a goofy game of laser tag my boyfriend and I sometimes played is now a thing of the past.
I laid in bed last night as a severe pain in my chest traveled to my shoulders, down to the pit of my stomach, and back again. Hours spent rithing in pain as my body tried to cope with the pure terror I felt that morning. Trying to cope with the anxiety I get just thinking of being back in that place, doing that job, wondering how long it will take me to find the courage to step inside again, the dark morning still behind me.
After the incedent, we were told that following these situations come emotions that look a lot like grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression… acceptance. Instead of going through those one by one, it’s felt more to me like flip flopping between all five, and at times, feeling all of them at once.
What I do know is out of these situations, the light always emerges. Out of it come the people who offer their sympathy and shoulders to cry on. People who genuinely love you and wish it could have been them. People who gather outside of your work in a prayer circle and offer up blessings and requests of peace. There are always those who support and hold and care. And I’m forever thankful for those who have reached out and offered their hands.