Wednesday, February 14, 2007

To The Scum Of The Earth That Robbed Me

Dear Scum-of-the-Earth,

Until our paths crossed on Sunday evening, I had been having a really spectacular weekend. I had gone out with friends on Friday and Saturday night and had had a great time. I'd made out with a cute boy on Friday night, and then met the same boy for brunch down in Soho on Sunday afternoon. I had enjoyed myself at brunch, and then had a delightful time walking around Soho with the boy window shopping and stopping at random chocolate shops. I know this is of no interest to you because you're a junkie who, until you stole my purse, probably didn't have any money to shop at chocolate stores in Soho. But, since you're not pointing a knife at me right now, I really don't care whether you're interested or not.

I had been to the fragrance shop on East 7th Street, between 2nd and 3rd, many times before, and I had always had a lovely time. The owner of the store and the women who work there are wonderful women, filled with positive, calming energy. The first time I went to the store, my little sister, Bean, and I discovered it together. She's pregnant now, and I'm about to be an Auntie. Since Sunday night, I've thought at least 1000 times how grateful I am that Bean wasn't with me on Sunday. The thought of you putting her in danger makes me nauseous, and it also makes me want to kill you. I would have done my best to kill you, even though you were holding that knife, if you had done anything threatening towards her.

Before I found the store on Sunday, I had been wandering around trying to remember it's address, talking on my cell phone and not paying terribly close attention to my surroundings. If I had paid close attention, I would have seen that it appeared to be a normal, chilly, sunny winter afternoon in the city. People were moving quickly through the streets, bundled up in great big puffy coats, scarves, and mittens. I didn't have my mittens on because I had been holding my phone, and my hand was red and chapped from the cold wind.

I had had an argument with my Dad about an hour before I met you. I was telling my Dad how happy I was, and how much fun I had been having the last couple of months. I also told him that I was excited about quitting my job and that I was looking forward to going on a trip for a couple of weeks. I got frustrated with him because he said that maybe I was having too much fun, and that I should settle down first and then go on a trip together with someone. You probably don't think that's annoying, because as you so eloquently conveyed, you care nothing for me, my personal safety, or the sanctity of my things, but I thought it was super annoying. Listening to him tell me that I should settle down made me feel like I had demon claws scratching down the surface of my eyeballs like nails on a chalkboard.

It was offensive and it made me angry. You don't know this, but just a few short months ago I got out of a bad relationship, where the boy in it didn't treat me well. He made me sad a lot of the time and prioritized everyone and everything else above me. Since the break-up, I've been awesome, though. I've been so strong. I've been letting myself heal, giving myself space to deal with my emotions, making positive changes in my life, and even dating. I have not been drinking too heavily, I have not been having destructive meaningless sex with boys, and I have not been trying to rush into another relationship just for the sake of having a relationship. My Dad should be proud of me for everything I am doing and for everything that I'm choosing not to do. And, when I'm fucking happy, he should be happy for me. He certainly should not crush down my happiness by telling me that I'm doing everything wrong, that I'll regret my life "passing me by" because of all the boyfriend-less-fun I'm having right now, and he sure as fuck should not do everything possible to remind me that there are negatives to being single and 32. Not when I'm so god-damned happy about it.

Newsflash: I know what it means to be a woman. I know that fertility rates go down after 35. I'm aware that, ideally, I would like to fall madly in love with someone and have a crop of babies with them; preferably beautiful little girls with long braids in their hair, but I'll also take boys, just as long as their healthy, happy, and open to feminism. But, guess what, try as I might, I can't just snap my fingers and make Mr. Amazing appear before my eyes. And, guess what - and this is what I think my Dad just doesn't quite get - even if I could, I wouldn't do that right now because I don't want a freaking boyfriend right now. I just got out of a fucking relationship. What is so god-damned wrong with having fun being an independent, happy woman?? Frankly, unless you're a cute, sweet boy-toy with no strings that doesn't make me cry, I'm just not that in to you at the moment.

After I got off the phone with my Dad, I called my brother but he wasn't at his computer, and then my mom so that she could look up the address of the fragrance shop. I was really proud of her because she looked it up on Google with no problem, and in just a few minutes I was only blocks away. During the ten minutes of our interaction, you didn't know this, but I have a lot of people in my life who love me, and who I love. I have a mom, a dad, two brothers, a little sister, an Aunt, cousins, and some of the most amazing friends, all of whom would have been hurt if you had hurt me. I'm about to have a nephew. You could have deprived him of one of the coolest Aunts ever, and for what? Because you wanted enough cash to get another hit? You're pathetic and you make me sick. You had a mom and dad once. What happened to them? Where were they and while you were threatening me with a knife and your partner was rifling through my purse?

I had been in the fragrance shop for about a half hour before you and your partner came along. It was just chance that I was still there when you arrived. I might not have been there at 6:00 pm on a Sunday afternoon if I hadn't gone to brunch in Soho that day, if I had gone to only one chocolate store with River instead of two, or if I hadn't been feeling so happy and energized that day and been in such a mood to walk around the city, despite the cold. I had been chatting with the salesgirl about what scent to get, and then another customer came in and I let her go ahead of me. She was a small woman who loved the scent of roses. I was in no rush, so I browsed while the salesgirl helped the other woman. She left the store about two minutes before you arrived. I'm glad she wasn't there when you got there.

As you saw, probably from casing out the place prior to deciding to hold it up, the fragrance store is a tiny boutique filled with pretty things. The walk space in front of the door, between the wall and the cash register is only about two fee wide, and the store in its entirety is only about 12 feet deep. There's not a lot of room in there. Because of all the delicate perfume bottles and sparkly lights blocking the windows, it's hard to see into the store from the street if you're just passing by. But, you weren't passing by. You were there for a reason.

I was standing right in front of the door when you buzzed to be let inside. I had been leaning on the glass in front of the cash register, letting my eyes wander around the store as the salesgirl mixed up my scents. Your partner, the short one, passed by behind me and I glanced to my right at him. He seemed out of place in a fragrance shop. He was dressed in a big, black puffy jacket that looked a little shabby, and he looked poor. I told myself not to stereotype. I thought to myself that he was probably getting something little for his girlfriend. He was looking away, and he said "We don't want any trouble," just as the salesgirl said, "Can I help you?"

Then I heard you say, "We're not gonna kill you," and turned to look at you. You were standing right next to me, with your back against the door, blocking it, and you were holding a knife out in front of you pointed at me and the salesgirl. The knife wasn't that big; it only had about a three-inch blade, but you were still pointing it at me, and you had brought up the subject of my death. That wasn't nice of you. You were calm and serious, and your eyes looked flat and vacant to me. Your face was light-skinned and you were Hispanic, like your partner, and you looked gaunt and weathered. I feel like you had something rough on your face, like salt and pepper scruff or maybe a scar, but even 15 minutes after you were gone, I couldn't remember exactly what you looked like. I remember the emptiness of your eyes, I remember the knife, and I remember how big you were.

My first thought when I realized what was happening was "you've got to be kidding me," but I obviously didn't say that. Instead, I backed away slowly until I was out of range of the knife and kept my eye on you. When you told your partner to take my bag, I felt like crying, mainly because it had my digital camera in it and it had tons of pictures on it that I hadn't downloaded yet. I just bought that camera a few months ago! For a second, I thought about resisting. I thought about grabbing one of the perfume bottles and smashing it across your face. I calculated the few feet that separated us and considered what the chances were that you would be able to slash me with the knife before I could smash you in the face. Then I realized that my eyes were level with the middle of your chest. I was wearing 2 1/2 inch heels, which means that you were at least 6'4". Your arms were longer than mine, and you were too tall. You would have likely killed me, if I had lunged at you, so I didn't resist. I told myself not to be stupid and let your partner take my bag from me. It made me sad.

You're partner was a dick, by the way. He grabbed my purse and started rifling through it and obviously saw that there was a lot of stuff in there that wasn't worth anything to you, but he took it all anyway. I asked him a couple of times not to take my camera, but he just replied, "Sorry, mamie." Please tell him when you see him next that I'm not his fucking "mamie," and that he can go fuck himself.

I can understand that you took my cash and my digital camera (even though you could have left the memory card for me), and I can even understand that you took my wallet with all of my credit cards in it. But, I'm really fucking pissed that you took my entire bag. I liked my Kenneth Cole black bag with the silver buckles, and I really liked my cute little purple Hobo wallet. In addition, I can't fucking see long distance without my glasses. Do you have any idea of how expensive glasses are? Mine cost about $400, and you're not going to be able to sell them for anything. They were my first pair and they came in a really cute half purple and half yellow case. You're also not going to be able to get any money for my half-used bottle of origins eye cream, my lip-fusion lip gloss, my chocolate flavored lip gloss, my journal (that thank god I had been remiss in writing in since I started blogging, so ha!), or any of the other random things that I had thrown into my purse as I rushed to get ready to go meet River that day for brunch.

And, what about my keys? What kind of a sick fuck are you that you had to steal my fucking keys. We're you trying to terrify me further? We'll, you'll be disappointed to know that I changed the locks to my apartment late Sunday night, so even if you do crawl out of your drug-infested hole down in the East Village and scrape together enough of my cash to come all the way up to the Upper East Side you're not going to be able to get into my apartment. You would be able to check my mail - which I currently can't since you have the fucking mail key - but that's going to be fixed shortly, so don't get too excited.

The keys are replaceable. What's not replaceable is the Lego wizard key chain that I bought in Legoland ten years ago while visiting my relatives in Sweden, or the big orange tar heel bottle opener that my brother got me several years ago. I really loved that wizard, and I liked my bottle opener. And, what about my gym card? You were big, but you didn't look like the New York Sports Club type. You could have left that and saved me a little bit of the effort I've had to go through to replace everything that you took.

While your friend was going through my bag, I felt helpless, but very calm. All I could think of was my camera, and all of the pictures I hadn't downloaded. There were pictures of Bean's baby shower where she looked radiant and beautiful. While I was watching your friend handle my things, I could see you talking to the salesgirl, telling her to open up the register and give you the money. You were only four feet away, but I don't remember the sound of you speaking, except for a few bits and pieces. I was concentrating so hard on the knife, and on my stuff. I heard the salesgirl say, "Sir, I don't understand Spanish," which didn't make any sense to me because when you had come inside the first thing you did was tell us, in English, that you weren't going to kill us. The salesgirl told me later that you told her to give you her cell phone and she told you she didn't have one. Then you told her, "If I go back there and I find a phone, we're going to have a problem." That wasn't nice to threaten her like that. She was 5'5" and sweet, and you scared her badly. By the way, she did have a cell phone. It was in her pocket, and as soon as you and your asshole friend left, we used it to call the cops.

During the time that you were in the store, the only time I felt a flicker of fear was when you told us to go to the back of the store and get down on our knees. When you said that, it was the first time I thought that this might get ugly, that I might actually have to fight for my life. I was still calm. I knew I was going to fight, and I knew there was no way in hell I was going to the back of the store or getting down on my knees. I felt vulnerable enough as it was, thank you very much. Neither the salesgirl nor I moved to do what you had said, which was the first time we had resisted in any way. We acted like we didn't understand, moved farther away from you, and kept watching you.

When you and your friend moved to the door, I realized that you had wanted us to go to the back, not to kill us, but so that you and your friend could get a head start. When you pushed against the door and it wouldn't open, things could have gotten dangerous, because I don't think you realized that when you rob boutiques with buzzers, someone will have to buzz you out in order for you to escape. Maybe that will make you think twice about robbing little boutiques in the future. I'll tell you candidly that after this experience, I think the whole buzzer system is completely fucked up. When the salesgirl buzzed you and your friend in, we were all basically locked in there together. God forbid you had forced us to go the back and we had started to scuffle. God forbid I had tried to run away from you, had made it to the door with you behind me, and then couldn't get out because there was no one there to work the buzzer. These are some of the thoughts that are going through my head three days later thanks to you.

When you and your buddy ran out of the store, the salesgirl and I stayed frozen for a few seconds. You left the door swinging wide open, and by then it was dark so I couldn't see what was happening outside. I couldn't see where you were, and I was scared that you were going to come back. I didn't want to move because, though I don't remember you saying anything, you had made it clear that we were not supposed to call the cops. I didn't want to give you a reason to come back inside and hurt me.

After only a second though, I yelled to the salesgirl to call the cops, and she yelled at me to shut the door. I ran to the door and slammed it shut, shouting to the salesgirl, "Is it locked? Is it locked?" My body was suddenly shaking. I still had my cell phone in my coat pocket, and I got it out and looked at it for a second feeling dazed. I didn't know who to call because the salesgirl was calling the cops. I called River, because I had just seen him, and then I called my brother Frey. They were the closest big, strong boys that came to mind.

The cops arrived in a matter of minutes. They were on top of things, trying to get my information and all of the details of what had transpired. One of them made me tea. I tried to hold the cup but my hand was shaking too badly. I started to cry a couple of times. I remember Frey telling me over the phone that the important thing was that I was OK. I dutifully told the cops everything I could remember, while other cops talked to the salesgirl. She was freaking out and crying, and telling me how sorry she was. I kept telling her that it wasn't her fault. The cops put me in a squad car and searched the neighborhood. They know your type. They're pretty sure that you're a junkie from the area that was either living in one of the homeless shelters or the projects farther down on the East Side. Unfortunately, we didn't see you. Later, I walked with another cop around the neighborhood trying to find my purse that the cops were sure you ditched shortly after leaving the store, but again, we had no luck.

The rest of that night I was detached and disoriented, but on top of things. I looked at mug shots, filled out paperwork, cancelled all my credit cards, and arranged with my room mate to have the locks to our apartment changed that night. I kept thinking that it could have been worse and that the important thing was that the salesgirl and I were OK.

The next day, Monday, I felt fine, but very disconnected from what had happened. I also felt exhausted. I emailed my friends to let them know what had happened and where, to remind them to be cautious. I'd lived in this city for over two years with nothing like this happening to me or my friends; I had gotten very comfortable and felt very safe. My friends start calling and emailing me back right away, wanting to know how I was doing, and I told them all the same thing: I'm OK, I'm shaken up, but it could have been a lot worse. I must have told thirty people on Monday that it could have been a lot worse.

On Tuesday, I went to an interview at a law firm. Unlike you, who believes in stealing, I have a work ethic, and I've been working at a job that I hate for over 2 years. However, in January, I started looking for a different position, and because I'm smart, educated, confident, and about 100,000 other things that you're not, I quickly discovered that I had options. By the way, since we're on the subject of our differing backgrounds, I'd like to point out how ironic it is that you chose to rob me. I'm a liberal. I actually buy into all that shit you hear about the sociological causes of crime. I feel sympathy for people like you who were maybe abused growing up, who might be addicted to drugs, who, for whatever reason, have not had the privileges and opportunities that I've had in my life. I should say, I felt sympathy for people like you, because now, not so much. I'm aware that I'm stereotyping, but guess what, I don't fucking care.

Poverty, drugs, and a lack of choices are not excuses to take what's not yours. There are good people and there are bad people, and you're a bad one. I don't care if you're poor. I don't care if you're addicted, and I don't care if you were abused as a child. You are a fucked up individual how had no right to do what you did on Sunday. You had no right to rob a store, to take my purse, or two threaten two people smaller than you with a knife. You probably aren't aware of this, but you're going to have really, really bad karma for what you did, and I'm glad. Maybe that will make me have bad karma, for being so unforgiving of you at the moment, but right now I don't give a shit. You are dangerous, you are violent, you do not abide by the laws of a civil society, you could have seriously hurt me or the salegirl, and I hope the cops nail your fucking ass. This whole experience makes me realize once again how I could never be a public defender. Public defenders play an important role in our justice system, but it's not the role I'm meant to play.

In terms of how I'm doing now, the last two days have been rough. After my interview yesterday, I went to the bank and changed all of my accounts. Good luck using those cards, Asshole. In between my interview and going to the bank, I stopped at a Starbuck's to get a coffee. I've been in Starbuck's probably thousands of times in my life, and before yesterday I've never been afraid in a single one. Yesterday, though, I felt anxious the minute I stepped inside the store. I looked at everyone in the store for a few seconds, staring many of them in the eye until they looked away. I'm sure I looked mean, but what they don't understand is that I have no intention of having more pieces of me stolen away. There was one man in particular, a shortish, heavyset Hispanic man in workclothes and a thick coat, that made me nervous. He was standing right behind me in line, and I kept looking at him. When I ordered my coffee, I stood on an angle so that I could watch him. I have no intention of letting another psycho with a knife or gun sneak up behind me.

The sense of anxiety and hypervigiliance stayed with me throughout the day. It was hard walking through the crowds, and it was very difficult to take the subway. People made me nervous when they walked up quickly behind me, as every single New Yorker does in their rush to get to where they need to go. It's winter and everyone in the city, including me, are wearing big puffy black coats. A few times, I saw men that matched your build and stopped dead in the street to watch them, trying to see if they were you, or if they were up to something bad. One guy stopped suddenly in front of me on the sideway and I nearly jumped out of my skin. On the subway, I started feeling nauseos because I was standing next to a big guy who kept looking at me. By the end of the ride, I was pushed up as close to the glass as I could get. My entire body was clenched tightly, ready to punch him in the face if he made a move against me.

I don't like this. I don't like that because of you, I felt scared walking around the city yesterday. I don't like that I'm watching myself act like a stereotypical trauma victim. Yesterday, when I started crying in Grand Central, the rational part of my brain was telling me that I had been in shock and that the experience was finally hitting me. The logical part of me was saying that it would be ok, and that I would feel better as soon as I processed the experience. But, the other part of me, the part of me that's actually somewhat traumatized - if I can even say that word - doesn't give a shit about rationality or logic. That part just feels scared, upset, and wants someone to come hold me while I lie curled up in my bed crying.

Today was a tiny bit better. I spent most of the day in my bed, crying in the morning, and then sleeping in the afternoon. I'm not worried about myself because I know that I'm just processing what happened and that I have to give myself space to do that - even if I do end up looking to myself like a stereotypical trauma victim. I'm not sure if I'm going to go to work tomorrow, but I'm going to see my therapist. I don't want to be outside at night, so I'm going to a morning appointment.

Here's what I don't understand: You didn't do anything to me. You threatened my life, you pointed a knife at me, you stole everything of value that I had on me, and you made me feel scared, but you didn't do anything to me, at least not physically. Nothing really happened. You didn't physically hurt me. You didn't even touch me. So why am I upset? I could understand anger because you are a fucking asshole, you made me feel scared, and you took all my stuff, but I can't understand feeling afraid when I walk into a store, or worried that someone else is going to do the same thing that you did. It seems to my judgmental mind like I'm having a somewhat illogical reaction to all of this. Logically, I know that your are abnormal, and that most people are not like you. Most people I see on the streets of New York are not planning to hold up a store or steal someone's purse. But, nonetheless, you've made me afraid.

I feel scared. I don't want to walk on the sidewalk and have to wonder about the person walking behind me. I don't want to have to eye the escape routes in a store before going into them, and I don't want to know that I would be trapped in a store that had a buzzer on the door if another pair of men one day decided to rob it while I was inside.

I don't think I have anything else to say to you at the moment. I think you are a worthless human being, and I'm really angry that you stole my stuff and made me feel afraid. You're a total fucking asshole for taking my camera and for robbing me of my pictures, and you're a total dick for taking my glasses. I mean, who robs someone of their glasses? Could you be more of a of pathetic bully if you tried? I have no doubt that you already have a miserable life, and from the looks of things, you deserve it. I hope that the cops catch you, and throw your ass in jail. I really hope that they catch you before you try to pull something like this again. You made the wrong choice when you decided to rob that store and me, and you will suffer for it. Even if you don't believe in Karma, I do.


P.S. Thank you to the universe for protecting me and the salesgirl. Even though these dicks have made me afraid, temporarily, I am extremely grateful that we were not hurt and I know that I will feel better eventually. I also know that in time I will get over being pissed and sad that my purse and all of my cute little belongings are probably lying in some snow-covered ditch right now. ASSHOLES. Thank you also for the NYPD. They did a great job and they were all quite sweet and attentive.


gravelly said...

Buttercup, I am so sorry for what you went and are going through. But remember, you are strong and I know you will work through this. All what you have gone through these last months has tested your strength and you have been awesome. You are an extraordinary woman and you will more than survive, I am sure. Let your friends and family surround you with love.

Gypsy said...

Holy crap, Buttercup! I'm so sorry. I wondered where you were, but my god. That's terrible! Those bastards. :( I hope you're feeling more on even ground soon. Take care of yourself.

InterstellarLass said...

I'm so, so sorry that you had to have this happen to you. Those bastards are going to roast in a special hell one day. That's Karma and they deserve it. I'm very proud of how you handled yourself, and you will recover from this. The post-traumatic issues that you're having are normal, and they will go away. I was robbed once too, at gunpoint, with my baby in my arms, on my own doorstep. For a month after, I called when I got home and had someone at the door before I would even get out of my car. When someone takes away your power and uses fear to dominate and take something from you, it's a very difficult thing to deal with. {{{{HUGS}}}} You are strong, and you will overcome this as well.

Buttercup said...

Mom - Of course I will survive. It's just a series of emotions and responses that I'm going through as I process it.

Gypsy - I'm feeling slightly more on even ground. I went to the office for the first time this week and did not feel too afraid on the subway, so that's a good sign.

Lass - HOLY SHIT! I can't imagine being robbed at gunpoint (knifepoint was scary enough) and with your baby in your arms! That's awful!

Anonymous said...

I'm *so* sorry for what happened but I'm really glad you are okay. Your feelings are totally natural but you can't let them win. You are better than they are!

Starshine said...

Thinking about you! Glad you wrote this letter. It's so much for you to process.

Sparky Duck said...

Im just very glad you are ok and that you stayed smart and did not wig out, probably what I would have done. sending hugs your way

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hey, buttercup. I stopped over for your TT and HAD to read this. It's beautiful. You are a strong and smart woman. I'm impressed as hell.

Take care of yourself. Hang in there.

Ellen said...

Read about this @sparky duck's site and sending hugs and best wishes. You are all the stronger for having survived this and I am sure everyone who loves you is relieved things were not worse.

Anonymous said...

Buttercup - The CEO of New York Sports Clubs asked me to write and tell you how sorry he was to read your story. NYSC will be happy to replace your keytag and give you an additional 2 months free at the clubs. Call 212-246-6700 and ask for Jenny.