Patience Lost

(A short story written in the second person, by yours truly.)

You don’t realize when you wake up that it isn’t going to be another hum-drum-can’t-remember-what-you-had-for-breakfast day. You hit your snooze alarm with the same sharp annoyed motion. You drag yourself out of bed and into the bathroom, and stub your toe on the same chair leg because your clueless inconsiderate husband hasn’t pushed his chair in again. You experience the same stab of irritation as usual when you’re sitting on the toilet peeing and realize too late he has left you 2 squares of toilet paper. You burn your mouth on the same too-strong-slightly-burned coffee he has left for you every morning, and you experience the same rising anxiety trying to find your car keys quickly enough that you’ll escape rush hour traffic on the way to work. Your stomach has the same dropping sensation when you realize you haven’t remembered to fill the gas tank and you’ll have to stop on your way to work to avoid being stranded by the side of the road watching one oblivious motorist after another whiz by you talking on their cell phone and not caring about your predicament. No, the day is unfolding in just about the same way as usual, and you have no sense that all of this is leading somewhere very different than where it led yesterday.

You drive through town, grinding your teeth every time you have to stop for a pedestrian or risk a $200 ticket from one of the fat lackadaisical police officers that sit in their cars all morning eating donuts, wasting gas by running their AC and waiting to ruin someone’s day. At the end of Main Street you pull into the gas station, already mentally rehearsing the speech you will give your boss about why you’re late when you get to work. You decide to go into the convenience store for some coffee that doesn’t taste like the sludge you had at home, and you’re so busy tweaking that speech to your boss that you don’t notice how quiet it is. Your ears are trained to pick up sounds, so at first you don’t register the lack of them in the store. But after a while you look up and realize that every person in the store is staring at something and not moving a muscle.

Slowly, your cup of hazelnut coffee with Splenda and extra cream forgotten in your hand, you turn in the direction everyone is looking. At the counter is a man with a gun. He doesn’t stand out in any way. His hair is cut short and neatly styled. His clothes, which consist of a polo shirt and jeans, are clean. His battered Nikes are the only thing about him that seem less that put together. He looks like a college kid, out for a cup of coffee to help him get through his classes without falling asleep and drooling on his books. His face, however, does not match the rest of him. His features are arranged in an expression of abject terror. Even in this completely unexpected and shocking situation you find yourself in, your mind pauses to reflect on this. Why would the man with the gun be the one who looks afraid? The girl at the register looks scared too, but not to the degree that the young gunman does. You would have expected him to look angry, or triumphant, or maybe even bored if this isn’t his first convenience store holdup. But he is clearly terrified. 

You are so intrigued by this discrepancy between reality and your expectations, you begin slowly to approach. You become able to hear the man’s words.

“Just give me the money! It’s an emergency! I’ve never done anything like this before but there’s no other way!” the man is talking in a low urgent voice to the girl. The girl has showed the man what she has in her register, and clearly the man isn’t satisfied with this. “It isn’t enough! We need a lot more money than that!”

“I’m sorry sir we aren’t allowed to keep that much cash in the registers. Because of stuff like this I guess,” the girl looks at the man pleadingly.

Suddenly, you no longer feel intrigued by the situation. Suddenly you feel your patience drain out of you like dirty bathwater. You realize that you still have the cup of coffee in your hand. It is steaming up into your face and smells delicious. The vacuum left in your psyche after patience is gone is filled quickly with rage. You’ve experienced something like it while driving before, but this is magnified like those images of bugs looked at under a microscope. You can see every facet of this rage in your mind. In one smooth motion, you run toward the gunman and thrust your right hand forward. The coffee flies out of the cup in a shiny brown arc and hits the man squarely on the right side of his face. He has been so busy arguing with the woman he didn’t even register your approach, and as the hot liquid hits his face he screams and drops the gun on the floor.

Not yet satisfied that this man understands your fury, you then launch your body at him. You don’t care that you weigh 118 pounds and he looks to weigh nearly 200. You hit him with the force of every crappy thing that has happened to you every day of your adult life. The two of you drop to the floor and you feel your hands circle around his neck which is slick with sweat. You open your mouth and scream right into his face.

“You are making me late for work!!!”

Later, after the cops have arrived and questioned you, after the man has been taken away, after some of the people in the store have called you a hero, after you’ve called your boss and been given the day off, it occurs to you that maybe you should feel scared. But you’re surprised to discover that all you feel is relief, and the absence of the low dose of annoyance and anxiety that has been running through your emotional veins for years. 

Gratefully, you decide to spend the afternoon at Bloomingdale’s.

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