Somehow, I managed to get through high school, though I will tell you I spent the majority of my senior year on the homebound program, where a teacher visited me twice a week and left me with homework. Incidentally, if you're in my graduating class, that's where I was. I didn't drop out, I didn't have a baby. I actually graduated the same time you did. But, due to some rumors and lack of follow through, I'm not in the yearbook. Just so you know.
Shortly after graduation, we moved from the 3 bd house we were renting to a 2 bd apt. When I was 19, I applied for and got a job at a local movie theater. Free movies. Oh, yeah. I loved it.
But I promised to tell you about one of the days I almost died. So here it is. By the time I was 20, I'd been working at the theater for almost 2 years (I was a month shy of 21) and I was married to Bryan. We'd recently started trying to have a baby. I was majorly burned out working at the movie theater and had put in my 2 weeks' notice.
One Friday afternoon, as I was sitting in the box office alone selling tickets, a man walked up to the window. HI, I said.
Hi, he said.
Then he pulled the gun out of his pocket, and pointed it through the opening in the window where money and tickets pass through.
He calmly asked for all the money. I looked into his eyes. Dead calm. Intent.
I picked up the entire cash tray out of the drawer and slid it toward him. He pulled the meager amount out and stuffed it into his pocket.
Then he told me to sit on the floor and count to ten. In any other circumstance, I'd have laughed at the suggestion. But, a gun pointed at your chest is an amazing equalizer.
I got to about three before logic told me he wasn't waiting around to test my counting skills. I peeked over the counter and he was gone. So I grabbed my radio to call my supervisor upstairs.
"Michelle," I said. "We've just been robbed."
I started to crack. "I've been robbed."
"I'll be right there."
That's when I started to cry.
In the moments that followed, some of the things management was grateful for was the fact that they had just done a cash drop, so what was in the drawer was less than $100. Take that, slimeball. The other thing they were happy about was that I was the one in the box office. I was the one it happened to, not one of the kids who worked there.
That's rather a backward compliment, don't you think?
I pulled myself together long enough to talk to the police and give a detailed description of the man. Think George from Seinfeld, with a few differences. Bryan was driving trucks back then, so he couldn't rush to my side to comfort me. My mom came and took me home, and stayed with me until Bryan got home.
In the days that followed, I did return to my job and work the box office the last week. I hated being home alone. And I got angry. Really, really angry at this man, because he stole something from me far more valuable than the money he got.
He took my sense of security, my feeling of safety.