Until Saturday, I had never been robbed or assaulted. Then I had my purse stolen at gunpoint.
The days since have been an ongoing mindfuck.
Sydney and I were on our way to a party at a local dungeon. We arrived in the early afternoon and were strolling up the street in the sunshine. Just a few houses down from where we parked a PT Cruiser pulled over.
A man got out of the passenger side and told us to hand over our bags. I stared slack-jawed before realizing he was holding a shiny silver gun in front of him. He told us not to scream, and repeated the instructions. We quickly handed over our purses. He got back in the car and it drove off.
It took less than a minute.
We walked to an auto parts store on the corner and used their phone to call to the police and my partner. The staff were incredible. They gave us water, a place to sit, and listened to us shakily try to process everything.
That's when my guilt started to kick in.
I shouldn't have gotten us there early. I should have known to stay in the car. I should have turned us around when I saw how sketchy the area was. And I should have gotten the license plate number off the car.
That litany hasn't stopped yet. When I got home, I checked the email and found out I had messed up the time -- the party didn't start until 7:00. We weren't even supposed to be there for several hours.
We didn't have many details to offer the police. Sydney noticed the man pointing a gun at us wore socks with flip flops, which led me to laugh hysterically in the middle of giving our report.
Then the officer asked, "What are you doing going to a party in the hood anyway?"
I wondered how his perception of us would change if I said we were going to a dungeon for a party with a bunch of sex workers. I didn't want to find out. I just wanted to go home.
That night we drank a bottle of whiskey and watched hours of "Too Cute!" on Animal Planet.
I apparently got up in the middle of the night to deliver a drunken monologue to Sydney, which I assume was about how much I love her, how sorry I was, and how I was selfishly grateful she was there with me.
As far as traumatic nights go, it could have been much worse. And the next day it was.
We woke up to the news that Sydney's family's dog died. And in the middle of our shock and grief, I started getting into arguments.
The first was with my stepdad, who excruciatingly detailed what I should have done to avoid being mugged, and warned that my reckless behavior might prevent me from finding future happiness. I ended up on the floor sobbing into Sydney's arms feeling completely broken as a person.
After that, I saw a message my friend who works at the dungeon had sent the night before, hours after the robbery, asking me not be public about the incident's proximity to the dungeon. She didn't want people to feel the space was unsafe. Though she had texted my partner earlier to make sure I was OK, this was the only message anyone from the party I was supposed to be at had personally sent to me. And I was livid.
I like to think that in a better headspace I would have been more understanding. I know it absolutely terrifies my stepdad that he can't keep me safe from everything bad in the world. I know that running a business is damnably difficult and reputations can mean everything.
I know they care about me and didn't mean to be hurtful. But I just don't have the emotional energy to be generous right now. There's a heady mix of fear, anger, shock and guilt in my system.
Some of the effects are immediate. I'm jumpy around passing cars and men on the street. I fall asleep with a low voice telling me not to scream ringing in my ears. I can't stop thinking of how much worse it could have been, or how much worse it could still get.
I've also been confronting my fear of my own helplessness, fury at the systems that marry violence to poverty, and overblown frustration with the seemingly endless inconveniences (California requires a visit to the DMV to get a replacement license!)
The guilt I mentioned earlier has only multiplied. If I was a more organized person I wouldn't have mixed up the time. If I were more compassionate I wouldn't be so angry with my family and friends. If I were braver I would have used the whistle on my keychain. AND I feel guilty for feeling that way -- because I should know better.
As I said, this has been a total mindfuck.
We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We could have made any number of different decisions. But we didn't. And no amount of regret or self-laceration can change that.
Thankfully, I have a wonderful community of people reaching out and helping me hold things relatively together. The supportive and loving messages have far outweighed the negative ones.
Things are gradually getting back to normal. My stepdad and I tearfully made up. Sydney returned home to her cats. And thanks to the wonders of technology, my phone was recovered from a secondhand store.
We'll continue replacing the material things we lost. And eventually we'll regain our senses of confidence and safety.
All Sydney and I can do now is be there for each other while we work through the trauma, including the anger at losing our Angry Birds high scores.