Vulnerability

Vulnerability

I dream of machetes. I dream of men threatening me, friends killing me, enemies hugging me, and they all have one thing in common. They all hold the machete. Everything fades when it appears, the flat of the blade painted black and decorated with three large holes, contrasting with the gleaming silver of the sharpened edge. It wasn’t fair, I tell myself.

The clock had read 11:23pm. Seven minutes until I walked out the door, safe from harm. I pretended to work, staring at a piece of paper but not really seeing it. I was just counting down the moments until I could go home.

The man entered through the side door. He was behind the desk before I even felt a shift in the air. I turned towards him and my eyes were drawn to the machete. It lay inches from my stomach, lifeless, a tool specifically designed to kill with ease.

He said that he would kill me, the man holding the machete. I pictured it being raised up, to slice down into my shoulder. Would it stop at the bone, I wondered, or would it slice right through me, leaving two parts of one whole. Would he run after he killed me, leaving my body lying in a pool of blood that painted the carpet red?

He had said something else, after the threat. What had he said? Money. He wanted money. My eyes flicked to the drawers. That was where we kept the money. But I had taken it away, the manager putting it in a safe I couldn’t access. I couldn’t give him what he wanted.

The machete streaked towards my face, a punishment for my hesitation and slammed into the desk, shards of wood splintering up. The laminate was torn, leaving an ugly gash in the desk. The image blurred, and time slowed down.

I found myself in the storeroom, holding the door closed because it wouldn’t lock. I don’t quite remember how I got here, but the man is not here. He is somewhere though, and I do not know where. On the other side of the building, or on the other side of the door perhaps. All is silent though.

Relief is coupled with guilt, as I realise I left my manager to face him alone. Guilt at having saved my own life and condemning his. The image of the machete flickered before my eyes, reminding me of the danger my manager faced.

You don’t know how you’ll react when threatened with death. You picture yourself as the hero, knocking the man unconscious with a fire extinguisher or distracting him so others can get away. You picture yourself crumbling, tears streaking down your face and bile at the back of your throat.

In the end, it’s just instinct. They tell you afterwards that you did all the right things, that you’re a champion, that it could have ended much worse.   It’s all just instinct though. Instinct doesn’t allow for choices.

The police caught up with the man a few weeks later and he led them on a merry chase through the city, which ended with his car wrapped around a pole.

The newspapers released his name. I found out his age, place of residence and what high school he went to. I even found his Facebook page.

It didn’t help, though. I had thought putting a name to the man, trying to understand why he did what he did would lessen the fear. That it would allow me to regain control of my life. It didn’t.

I look at a picture of him and see an ordinary boy. Someone’s son, someone’s brother. He smiles out at me as though we are best friends, this boy who ruined my life. He isn’t the drug-crazed lunatic I was expecting. He’s just ordinary. Like me.

Just as vulnerable as I am, a person caught in a world where one is forced to hurt another in order to survive.

Someone tells me that he fell in with the wrong crowd. He had to get money or they would hurt him. He had to protect himself. So he hurt me instead.

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