The following story is true, it's from when I was about 16 and working part time at the arcade in this Mall out in the suburbs. It was a real turning point in my life. I'm thinking of it today because they are bringing the wrecking ball to that same mall this year. (Mom, you may wan to skip this one)
I am going to die. The robber knocked me down and now I will feel a bullet rip into me and then I am going to bleed to death in the back room on the floor of this crap ass shop making minimum wage. I feel no bullet; I feel nothing but my feet out from under me and the hard floor against my back. I keep my eyes closed in hopes that he just takes the money and leaves or perhaps I’ll wake up from this dream. I feel him climb on top of me and put his giant hands around my neck. He starts to squeeze and my eyes shoot open, this is no longer a game of cops and robbers I am participating in, it is a struggle for my life.
I see him now for the first time very clearly, he is 6’2” about 190lbs, he has strawberry blond hair ladened with dirt and grease. His chin is almost non-existent; it slopes into his neck at an angle that brings the word “goony” to mind. I am searching for a weakness, a bruise and cut, a limp arm anything I can use against him and I see none. He has dirt rings under his chin as a child who hasn’t bathed in a week would have. He has a far away look in his eyes; it’s what perhaps scares me the most and finally causes me to react. I grab his hands and pull at his fingers tightening around my neck. He says in a slow soothing tone “Shhhh, shhhh, relax.” Screw that! I will not relax!
The adrenaline kicks in and I’m not sure how it happens but I have managed to completely change places with this goon. I am now on top of his chest with my knees, our hands around each other’s necks and his wild eyes are looking around for the gun he dropped. This is not working, my hands are too small, and I don’t have the strength to choke a full grown man. I remember my father’s words and lash out at his eyes and he yells “ouch!” it almost seems comical. We roll around like cats reaching, scratching, howling, at some point I get a clear shot at his groin and I take it, it seems to only fuel the wild look in his eyes. I believe that I am fighting with insanity embodied, and it won’t end until one of us is dead.
Every muscle is aching and we are both just sitting on the floor panting now, there is blood and sweat and urine everywhere and an odd smell fills the air around me. I think this is what panic, adrenaline and insanity smells like. It’s sweet and metallic and oddly calming and caused me to hesitate long enough that he’s remembered the gun. He raises it to my face inches away and squeezes the trigger, nothing. The trigger doesn’t move. He looks surprised and stunned and I use that moment to bat the gun out of his hands with my tightened palm. Now we are rolling around on the floor again and he is trying to push my face into the toilet. I will not drown, I will not die, I refuse.
We are exhausted again, I am bleeding a lot now and he is sitting next to me panting. I look straight at him and say “Just stop it. I am going to wash up now and you are going to get the money and leave.” He backs off I shut the bathroom door and splash cold water on my face and look closely at my cuts. I consider locking the bathroom door and staying there. It’s a flimsy door and he has a host of tools and a gun at his disposal as well as his weight, I’m sure it’s not a good defense and I come out of the bathroom composed. He greets me by trying to push a knife into my ribs, it glances off without piercing my thick cotton sweater and again he looks stunned and surprised. I am tired of this fight and I say to him “Just knock it off!” He recoils at my scolding, my confidence wins. I continue “If I don’t close the front of the shop soon, security is going to wonder why and come back here to see what’s going on.” Where is security anyway, it’s clearly quarter after ten and the shop front is obviously not closed, why haven’t they noticed and where are they?
He finds his gun again and my line of cajoling is not working, think quickly. “Do you hear me? You are going to get caught! Worse yet, my Dad will catch you. He is waiting out front to pick me up and if I don’t get out there, he’s going to come in looking for me. Let me tell you guy, he’s one big biker dude and when he sees what you did to me he’s going to kill you with his bare hands and don’t think he can’t, he’s the one that taught me to fight. You've got to go!” I start shoving money into the goon's stocking hat and for the first time he looks a little panicked. I keep repeating “You gotta go! And you gotta go fast!” He leaves and I am safe.
At the hospital the nurses gather around with the police to hear the whole story. The police man writes furiously asking me to repeat certain details. Among gasps and wide eyes the consensus is that I’m a lucky girl to survive and fend off an attempted stabbing, strangling and drowning and who knows how his gun jammed at just the right moment. They agree privately I must have an angel who watches over me. I believe in angels sometimes but I believe in coincidences all the time.
In the following weeks my cuts and bruises heal but something else has changed. I am increasingly impatient with my friends’ incessant whining about this boy or that hair-do and whenever there’s a squabble that involves what ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ I have no tolerance for the frivolity. I often fight the urge to smack my friends in the back of the head and remind them of the value of their lives. I am viewing the world through fresh eyes, though also guarded ones as they haven’t caught my assailant… yet.
After weeks of me being scared to stand in front of windows and the local news paper publishing my home address, the police got him. There was no trial, he confessed. I always wanted to ask him why he did it.