Now For an Unfunny Change of Pace

I’m coming out.

That deafening roar you just heard was 95% of everyone I’ve ever known shouting “I KNEW it!”

Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not coming out of THAT closet. My sexual preferences lie where they always have, mostly in myself.

I’m coming out of what might be a scarier closet. There are certainly more skeletons in this one. It’s a door that everyone wishes would stay firmly shut, but I’m going to open it, again.

I want to stand up today and introduce myself to you. I want you to meet the real Heather Heartless. Not just the bitchy angry one, not just the one that makes you laugh, but the one I keep hidden away.

My name is Heather and I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder… among other things.

On March 14, 2009, I looked out the window of the gas station where I was working and saw two men approaching on foot from the road. My very first thought, honest to God, is “They’re going to rob me.”

And they did.


No one asked for money. No one said “This is a stickup!” No one gave me a fucking clue as to what was about to happen.

This is the first time outside of therapy, the cops, and my mother that I have ever shared the details of that day.

Two men came in and bought $20.00 worth of gas for their green SUV. They went outside to pump their gas. Two other men (the men that came from the country on foot) entered the store and went around the back aisles, browsing. I rang up a regular customer and had to fight the urge to ask him to stay with me for just a few more moments. I rang up an elderly woman that ate her dinner in our café every Sunday with her sisters.

I stared at the panic button.

The two guys that bought gas came back in. I asked one why the paint on the hood of his vehicle looked different in one spot. I said it must be the rain. They bought a soda, a twenty ounce bottle of off brand fruit punch, and a Slim Jim. Two years later and I can still remember what they bought.

The other two had made their way around to the aisle leading up to the register, looking at our drink selection.

The one I was ringing up, his name was James, asked me if I was from the area. I said “Unfortunately.”

“Why ‘unfortunately’?”

I opened the drawer to make change. He looks down the aisle and nods, a fact I didn’t remember until I was in bed that night trying to forget.

“Well, I lived in St. Louis for a --------“

That’s when it happened.

For a minute I thought that the guy rounding the counter was going to hug me. I have no idea why that even popped into my head. I was going to tell him that he had to stay on the other side of the counter and I would get whatever blunt wrap he wanted. It just seemed to happen so slowly. He was coming towards me with his arm raised and I remember turning my head to smile quizzically, and then I remember fighting.

His arm wrapped around my neck, his hand on my head, and he was pulling me backwards. I looked up to see the other two watching and then running out of the store, pausing at the door to look again.

Parts of this had to be filled in by watching surveillance videos and trying to figure out where the weird bruises came from. I couldn’t remember what happened, not all of it anyway.

As he pulled me back, I grabbed on to the open drawer of the register to hold myself up. The video shows that I lost my footing and while I was being dragged, I pulled the register off the counter and made a grab to catch it. Again, I don’t know why. The register drawer slammed into my knee and closed before crashing to the floor. The other man ran to it.

My attacker was still jerking me backwards by my neck and all I could think was “I’m going to die. I’m going to die.” I felt the hand on my head start to push as the arm holding my neck pulled. He was trying to twist my head. He was trying to break my neck. I twisted with him as he jerked my head so that I could have at least a fighting chance. I have no idea what instinct made me do that, but it probably saved my life.

When he saw that murdering someone wasn’t as easy as it looked on TV, he began to choke me. I clawed and clawed at his arm sobbing, “DON’T! DON’T! NO! PLEASE DON’T!”

He just increased the pressure and screamed “GO TO SLEEP! GO TO SLEEP!”

The video shows me flailing my arms wildly as he continued to jerk my body side to side, his arm around my neck, that hand still on my head. The other man was pulling wires out of the register after he realized he couldn’t open it.

Pleading for my life had no effect on this person. I began to fight harder, growing more and more dizzy from my air passage being restricted. I started beating at his arms yelling “FUCK YOU! LET ME THE FUCK GO! FUCKING LET ME GO! I won’t look if you let me go. I swear to God I won’t look at your face if you just leave. JUST FUCKING LEAVE!”

He stopped fighting for a second and then threw me to the ground and ran.

I managed to get up after a few seconds of stumbling and punched the panic button I had wanted to push earlier. I grabbed the phone and dialed 911 as I ran out of the store to chase them.

They were running across a field with the entire register in their hands.

This was 4:15 in the afternoon and there were people in the parking lot.

They never noticed that anything had happened.

They wouldn’t have noticed if they had succeeded in killing me.

I looked at these people and screamed “They just fucking robbed me! Go after them!”

The two that bought the Slim Jim and fruit punch, the cowards that had deserted me, were standing there staring at me. They and the couple that had been pumping gas got into their vehicles and drove off to find the two robbers who were walking down a country road with the register. Several cars passed by and no one even stopped to ask why this was going on.

After having the 911 dispatcher LAUGH at me and having to call the store owner to apologize for being robbed (the mind works in weird ways), the customers returned but all four of them were in one vehicle. Apparently my robbers carjacked the two that had run. I felt terrible that I had begged them to give chase and I hugged one of them and apologized.

Twenty minutes later, a single police officer finally showed up to let me know that they had caught them a few miles up the road. He took down my name and address in front of the two that had been carjacked.

The boss’ daughter showed up to check on me, comfort me, and give me a ride to the police station to file a report. I was put in a room with the two from the store along with their girlfriends. I apologized again and told James that he could hit me for getting his car stolen, if he wanted. I also told him that I would kill those mother fuckers if I ever had the chance. Around that time a cop walks in and says “THAT’S her?! Ma’am, come with us, we didn’t know it was you that had been robbed.”

I gave my statement to a detective that I later overheard saying “We could get them for ‘this, this, and this’, but let’s not make it anymore trouble than it has to be.”

This is where I found out that all four of them had been in on it together.

James and Derrick, the two from the green SUV had dropped off Jose and Mario down the road and were probably going to pick them up after it was over. They did this so they wouldn’t be connected to the crime. James asked me questions to distract me and then nodded his head at the other two to let them know the register was open, except I fucked that up when I dragged it with me and it closed.

They were never carjacked and were never charged with filing a false police report. James had been charged with robbery with a deadly weapon and was currently awaiting trial.

The cops then sent me out into the lobby where I was cornered by the family of the boy that had tried to kill me. They wanted to know who I was, where it happened, what happened, what was going on with their baby. When I told them I didn’t think it was a good idea for me to be talking to them, they became rude and offensive. I had to ask the receptionist to take me into the back to get away from them.

Jose, the boy who robbed me, was 17 at the time and was given 100 days in juvenile detention and three years of probation, minus time served… for strong arm robbery and assault by strangulation, both of which are felonies. They never charged him with attempted murder because they couldn’t prove intent.

Mario, the stealer of the register, had seven felonies under his belt before this happened, including possession of weapons of mass destruction. He served less than a year in prison after a plea deal and was released on the one year anniversary of the robbery.

James, of the many robberies, had his sentence lessened in order to get him to plead out on his other robbery charge. Two years of probation for him.

Derrick, who was pretty much just there for the hell of it, was sentenced to two or three years probation also. I’ve not found any other criminal activity on his record… yet.

I was never contacted by the victim’s advocate. I had to call them repeatedly just to be sent a pamphlet informing me of my “rights”.

I was never given my right to testify.

I was never given my right to be told of their sentencing until five months later when I called them again.

I was never given my right to speak to the sentencing judge before he sentenced them.

I was never given my right to compensation because losing your job doesn’t count towards lost wages. Also because I didn’t have any medical bills because I couldn’t afford to go to anything but free counseling after I lost my job.

I wasn’t fired, guys. I quit. I had to.

I went back the next morning and worked in the café as a waitress because I couldn’t afford to lose the hours and I had to prove to myself that I could be there. All day long no one talked of anything but the robbery and pointed and stared at me as I walked by. The boss’ daughter finally had to tell the customers to stop asking me about it because it was killing me. The gas station was down for three days because we had to wait on a new register to be installed and get the gas company to reinstall all of our software after fixing our pumps. When you rip the cords out of a register, it fucks EVERYTHING up.

I worked at that store for nine days straight after the robbery, and then I just couldn’t anymore. I jumped every time someone came in. Every time a young black man entered the store, I froze. Every time I saw someone in a hoodie, I shrunk into myself.

I called the cops almost every day for one reason or another. I was too scared to stay there anymore. I rarely go into that place at all, even two years later. I hate it in there.

My boss was kind enough to tell the unemployment office that she had laid me off so I could draw unemployment. I did that for the better part of two years because I couldn’t face the possibility of that happening again.

Running a register is a part of my job now and I still get nervous when the drawer is open.

The very worst part of all of it is that most people believed that I was doing all of that to myself. I was making it up, dwelling on it, making it worse for myself. I couldn’t talk about it and when I started to, their eyes would glaze over. Someone actually tried to dump their problems on me five days later and when I said “I was just robbed, I don’t think this situation compares. It’s not that serious”, he said “That was like a week ago, get over it.”

Someone tried to MURDER me five days ago. No, I don’t think I’ll be fucking getting over it.

People don’t think it was that serious. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I kind of wish that they knew exactly what it felt like to know that you’re about to die. To know what it feels like to have some stranger try to murder you for a couple hundred dollars. To know that there is nothing you can do to stop it. To know how it feels when everyone tells you that it’s no big deal, they didn’t do anything to you; suck it up, move on, just fucking get over it. To know that they don’t give one single fucking damn about you at all.

It’s better now, but it’s not gone. It probably will never be completely gone. There are things I can’t do, places I can’t go, and people that give me flashbacks that paralyze me with fear. It’s not really any fun and if I could quit being this way, I would.

I will never again know what it’s like to not constantly be afraid of everything.

There, that damned closet had too much shit in it. It needed cleaning.

To everyone that is uncomfortable after reading this, good luck with putting it all back in again. I’m sorry that you can’t deal with my feelings and shit, but whatever. I guarantee it makes me a lot more uncomfortable than it does you.

I’m sorry that you only like me when I’m funny. I’m sorry to all of my Facebook friends that it’s awkward when I express any emotion that isn’t hilariously violent rage.

I’m sorry that you’re such little people.

That being said, I'm extremely thankful to the community that I've been brought into by blogging, reading blogs, and tweeting.  You guys are seriously amazing with the unflagging support you give to me and to each other.

I want to thank all of you for being just as fucked up as I am and even funnier about it.

I also want to give an epic thank you to Noa Gavin for letting me know that I will always have support when I decide to share my load and to Elizabeth Kennett who let me know that funny or not, you'll love me anyways.  You guys gave me the balls to do this.  Now I just hope I can honor The League and not take it down tomorrow.

And of course the biggest thanks goes to my mama, because she's my mama and she's awesome.

I did manage to get some jokes out of the situation though.  I mean, who else would be in the middle of trying not to be dead and thinking "You're doing it wrong...."?


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