Matters Of The Heart
It seems cliché to say that no one is promised tomorrow. But when you’ve stared down the barrel of a gun; it makes that statement more realistic than not.
I know firsthand the feeling of not knowing whether or not I was down to the last seconds of my life or at the beginning of my eternal rest. By the grace of God, a premature end to my life was not God’s plan; his plan was for me to share my story.
I will never forget the night that my dignity was stolen. The robbery is so vivid in my mind, it could have been yesterday. I was an excited nineteen year old, moving in to an apartment with my best friend. We’d signed the lease and gotten the keys earlier that day to apartment number 2242. She and I decided there was only one rule to live by; Party all night and sleep all day.
We were officially grown and our parent’s book of rules were not forwarded to our new address. I’d borrowed my grandmother’s pickup truck to move what seemed like endless trips back and forth of loading and unloading, but by eight o’clock p.m., the move was complete. I’d assured my grandmother that I’d put gas in her truck before returning it, so I stopped at the gas station on the way to her house. I was one of a few patrons at the gas station, but I was the only one parked at the pump that was located at the far end of the parking lot.
I walked up to the entrance of the store and there were a few hustlers asking for change. I hardly made eye contact, trying to keep any interaction that may occur to a minimum. I’d just given first and last month’s rent, I certainly didn’t have any money to be handing out.
Subsequent to paying for my gas, as I walked out, a lady asked me if I wanted to buy some food stamps. Trying to be polite, I simply said, “No thanks.” She asked me, “You sure?” I didn’t respond; I kept walking, picking up my pace. I was overcome with an uneasy feeling. There was an eerie silence and my intuition was telling me that I was being followed. Not exactly a desirable situation to be in while walking to a remote area of a parking lot, where I was parked all alone. I did, however, notice a car parked in the dark at the condemned gas station across the street as I hurried to the truck. It seemed like forever to get across the parking lot, but when I did, my fears were confirmed, she’d followed me. It was just the two of us.
“Do you want to buy some food stamps?” The lady, who was much larger than me, asked again. I thought, Oh my God. Mortified, I said nothing and lowered my head, with no sense of dignity. She said, “B****…” I looked up at her and as she continued, she raised a small silver hand gun to my face, “Give me your (expletive) money, or I’m going to blow your (expletive) head off.” Nervously, I reached into my pocket and gave her everything in it, which was fifteen dollars and some lint. She lowered the gun and looked at what robbing me had gained her. She ran across the street and got into the passenger side of that vehicle waiting in that dark parking lot. It drove away, as I sped away. Needless to say, I never pumped the gas.
I went directly to my parent’s house, where they called the police, a report was taken and a description given. I remember the officer asking, “Can you describe her?” Without composure, I answered, “Yes. She was a dark skinned woman, about five foot seven or eight, heavyset with an afro.” He wrote the report as I spoke and within minutes, he was gone.
A few days passed and the officer returned with a portfolio of mug shots of hundreds of black women for me to go through, in hopes that I would be able to identify her. I was sickened by the immense number of faces in that book. It didn’t matter what my perpetrator looked like, because I saw the face of every black woman. Each of those faces had a story. Each of those faces had brutalized or victimized someone. As I turned each page, for the first time during this whole ordeal, the fear left me and anger overcame me. How dare they? How selfish of these women to make a decision for someone else. Many people have died for a lot less than I was robbed for. What is a way of life for them is a nightmare for us. I am speaking for the victims of senseless crimes when I say to all criminals, you have no right. It is not up to you to determine if we will live in fear. We, the law abiding citizens of this country deserve to live in a peaceful society where we can safely raise our families.
As for the woman that robbed me, she was never caught for that particular crime, but I’m sure that her demons eventually caught up with her. No matter the reasoning behind her actions, she was an African American woman, robbing another African American woman. Although it took me a while, I also learned to forgive. If I saw her today and our eyes met, the way we met eyes the night she made a choice for the both of us, I would say to her, “Sister, if you haven’t already turned to God and turned your life around, seek his forgiveness. You frightened an impressionable young woman that night and it took me quite some time to live without fear. But, I released my fear into the wind and turned it over to God. I was set free and because of this and I forgive you.”
It has been sixteen years since the incident and it has had a powerful impact on my life. I am very conscious and observant of my surroundings and a little over protective of my children.
Today, I’m blessed and no longer fearful. I realize that in every aspect of life there is a degree of uncertainty. What serves as a reminder for me is the memory of night that I was robbed of my dignity, my newfound womanhood, fifteen dollars, and some lint.