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Five Minutes

If there is one thing I’m good at it’s making bad decisions. And when I was about 20 years old my special talent nearly cost me my life.

My bad choices led me to the worst jobs for the worst reasons, they had led me into dangerous situations populated with equally dangerous people. I was building a checkered past and not certain how I would break out of that pattern when fate casually walked through the door in the form of two well armed young men.

It took five minutes for them to rob us.

When it was over, I fled first to my apartment but, discovering they had used my stolen keys, I fled again, finding refuge in the basement of a friend’s apartment.  I hid there for over a month.

For that month, my only window to the outside world was their large-screen TV, and I consumed a steady diet of news letting my fear consume and embalm me.  The cocoon became a crypt, and when I emerged I had not evolved but grown the beginnings of a sarcophagus around my soul.  Now, I couldn’t be alone or in a crowd.  I moved constantly and changed jobs just as frequently, painting my new shell in the increasingly garish colors of my bad decisions.

Ultimately, I left my home for a new city, hoping to escape bad memories and the results of my bad choices, but my shell went with me.

In the city, I needed a roommate. My aunt, an expert on these things, guided me, locating a promising ad instantly. At first it seemed like a bad find; the ad had been placed by two men, but she assured me this was common in the city and, as the man on the phone sounded like he wasn’t  “an ax murderer “, she urged me to see the apartment.

Then next day I met with with the self-described goofy-looking goon.  This giant was definitely goofy, but he was also the most incurably friendly person I have ever met.  I took the apartment that day, and my shell began to crack.

It was weeks before I became aware of the fissure.  But as the goofy-looking goon and I quickly became friends, I noticed that, despite his own recent loss, he never seemed to retreat from the world.  He greeted everyone – corporate VPs or janitors – with the same good-natured cheerfulness, and as he was wrapping the world in a bear-hug, he took my hand and yanked me back into it.

To be sure, I still have the occasional flashback, but fear no longer owns me.  And, even though I sympathize with the urge to retreat in the face of the horrors the world inflicts on us all, burying myself alive didn’t make me safer, it just made me alone.