For a moment, it was peaceful. Almost like someone pressed the pause button on my life to go get his popcorn from the microwave. Ah, this is the good part. And he just whistled his safe little tush into the kitchen while I sat there.
In a university-marked sprinter.
With a gun to my head.
I was numb from the crown of my head to the edge of my toes. Slow motion.
I saw the street light in front of me, blurry from the distance, but there nonetheless. It was far, but still so close. People were so goddamn close.
For a moment, I was stuck in a parallel universe where I could see everything around me as if I were watching from above. I’ve heard that’s what happens when you die. You have to watch the last few minutes of your life over, and I think that scares me more than the thought of death in itself.
But there he was, standing on his tippy toes to reach his left arm up toward my head.
And there I was, looking straight ahead. No way was I planning on making eye contact. Then they have to kill you. If you see a face, they won’t let you live. Right?
There are still scars on my thighs today from digging my nails into them while I used every ounce of self-control to not look to my left. Nostrils flared. Heat. Rising. My face was getting so unbelievably hot. Don’t. Cry. Not now.
I was winded from the cloud of anxiety that filled the air around me. My eyes flashed everywhere but in his direction.
I could tell you he was black.
I could tell you he was wearing a black sweatshirt.
I could tell you he had a gun.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what his face looked like, but I sure could tell you how deep his voice pierced into my mind when he spoke.
The only coherent thought I could think was “What?”
“Give me your fucking money,” he spoke into my ear. Those words pounded my chest, like standing next to a 6-foot speaker during a bass sound check. And as if the speed of sound wasn’t enough weight to push me down, he shoved the barrel of his gun toward my face; just close enough to brush against my cheek. I could feel it as I slowly leaned my head away from him, clenching my lips together.
This isn’t real, I remember thinking. I couldn’t get shot. I wouldn’t die.
I shook like I had hypothermia as I tried to reach around the front seat to find my wallet. I only half unzipped the main slot before he snatched two folded up 20-dollar bills from the inside of it.
Every muscle in my body tightened, but my eyes grew wider. I reached for my debit cards but was stopped when he slammed the end of his weapon against the car door. “I don’t want that shit,” he snapped at me.
He stood there.
He just stood there.
Please just let this end.
He slammed his weapon against the car door and I jerked. Our eyes met for the first time.
They were the darkest shade of brown that I have ever seen and they just looked so angry. He looked so drained. Disappointed. The hair under his hood was divided into thick, black dreadlocks and his body was built. Thick, messy eyebrows. He looked like a painting.
Examining my face like I was his.
For that single moment, everything around us seemed to stop in its tracks; the horns stopped honking, the cars stopped passing, the stoplight disappeared. For that single moment, his eyes softened.
He took three steps back.
“Merry Christmas,” he said.
And that’s why I like to think that he needed the money more than I did.