Sometimes I don’t understand why I wake
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up. Sometimes I wake up because the sun comes
cascading into the window and it feels like the hand of God is slapping me in the face, pulling on my arm and telling me to get up and live. Sometimes I wake up sweating, with the clock showing an ungodly hour of four thirty and no matter how hard I try I can never get to sleep. It almost feels like the Devil is starring at me, showing me all my sins and punishing me or molding me to realize how terrible my life is and that I am doomed to be under his grasp for eternity. It’s usually days after bad nights like that one, that turns out to be bad for me. Mostly because I get up take a shower and have about five hours before I leave for work and by the time I get to work it appears to my co-workers that I never showered or shaved. However this day didn’t start with this, no this day started with God pulling on my arm and for once I wanted to get up. Unknown to me however this day would soon become my worse day ever.
The sun crept in through the blinds slowly. I opened up one eye then the other and looked at the clock, it read seven thirty, thirty minutes before my alarm would ring. I sighed heavily, today was the big day when I got to lead the morning board meeting. I was excited because that also meant I got to be the first one who would stand before a panel from corporate world headquarters that would be in charge of reconstructing lower offices. This panel already cut jobs in other districts and now it was our turn. So I guess the word isn’t excited, a better word would be uneasy or down right horrified. It was a beautiful morning as I looked out my window I could see over the city. Down below my eight story advantage point I could see people walking to work and living their own days. I yawned and got in the shower. So far everything was going routinely.
The phone rang just as I was putting on my socks. I rolled over on my bed it was eight-thirty and I wanted to make a stop at the bank across the street from the office so I needed to leave soon or I would be late. As I picked up the receiver the voice on the other line sounded rushed.
“Greg, its your mother” I didn’t even get a chance to say hello
“Mom, are you alright what’s wrong,” She usually called once a week sounding as if she had some terrible news when in fact the news she has is just gossip about who got what award and who is getting married.
“I am sorry to call you before work and make you worried but your Aunt Mary is in the hospital. She fell down pretty hard last night in the stairwell of her building and was knocked unconscious.” I began to breathe a little heavier. My aunt lived with us for awhile after running away from her husband who was beating her on a routine basis. She moved out right before I graduated high school. She taught me so much on how to live life. Unfortunately lessons that college and a few years stuck in a job I hate reversed.
“Is she ok? Did she bleed? Is she going to be ok?” I was nervous and I felt selfish because I was still more nervous about being on time and going to that meeting more than actually being nervous about my aunt’s condition.
“She is going to be ok I am going to the hospital now but Greg go along with your day and please come right after work I know your aunt would really appreciate.” She was calm but then again she was always calm, even the time when my brother had a seizure in the middle of dinner she didn’t start yelling she didn’t start crying, she just did what she had to do. Help her child.
“Please feel free to call to me if anything changes or if you need anything after this meeting I can leave.” I said in a rushed tone I could tell my mother caught the rush in my voice.
“ I am proud of you Greg, please don’t be in such a rush all the time or you’ll get into trouble. I will see you later honey.” She was wise.
“I love you to mom” I then hung up the phone and walked out the door of my tiny apartment. Its been a long day already and its only ten to nine. I can’t help but start to feel overwhelmed as I get in my car it’s off to another day at work.
The commute wasn’t hard just the usual nuisances, the crazy guy in the Escalade that thinks he owns the road. If that wasn’t bad enough the roadway that morning had three several large potholes, I know this because I hit all three. As I pulled into the parking lot my car bottomed out scrapping the bottom of my car causing people walking along the sidewalk to cringe and the construction workers working on a nearby building to turn and laugh. All I could do is breathe, life happens as my aunt used to say just breathe. I walked out of the parking garage and into the sun the bank was right across the street. For some reason today I felt boxed in more than any other day . I kept going over the meeting in my head, what I needed to say and I started to think more and more about my aunt. I just blocked it out of my mind and entered the bank. A smile crossed my face as I looked over and saw a teller that I went to high school with. She was pretty, her name was Katherine she had beautiful red hair that ever since high school caught my eye. We both ran in different groups but I always noticed her smile, her eyes and that hair. She was beautiful. I got in line and stood waiting. There were about ten people in the bank, a couple filling out a loan application at the manager’s desk and there were a few people filling out deposit slips, doing paperwork and waiting in line. I was lost in my own mind when Katherine called me over to her window. Closer to her you could see the imperfections in her face, with Katherine though they weren’t imperfections they were simply perfections. I wish every time I come to her window that I could slip her my number but in the end I can’t get over who we both were at one time in my life, I know I am missing out. That feeling always gets on my back and turns a bank transaction into rejection.
“Another day another dollar eh Greg.” She smiled and I immediately regret not liking preppy clothes and boy bands just so I could’ve talked to her while we went to school together.
“Yeah I dunno, it’s a job I might be getting out of there soon, if this meeting doesn’t go well today I might be leaving a little earlier than I like.” In the smile she flashed me afterwards I could’ve sworn she was thinking “Damn I wish I liked flannel clothes, and alternative rock when I was in school with him.” I wish I could read minds.
“There you go, have a good day I am sure you’ll do fine” She flashed me one more smile and I began to walk away.
“Yeah you just want my money.” I flashed a smile as I exited the line she shrugged and began to help an elderly woman who was behind me. I had my hand on the door handle with my head down looking at the bank statement that Katherine just printed out for me when all of a sudden the door jolted towards me. I took my hand off the door and looked up to see the face of a masked man holding a gun to the window I took a step to the side, the masked man jolted the door open hitting me in the face crushing my nose against itself. My eyes blurred and I stumbled backwards. I could feel the blood start to trickle down my lips. I took a deep breath and could taste my own blood I open and closed my eyes. I tried to look around the bank but my vision blurred and I all I could see was grey. I could hear screams and shouts. As the obscured shapes turned to grey and the grey turned to darkness I could feel my face hit the floor. The last thing I heard was a gunshot and all I remember thinking was “Damn I am going to miss the meeting. This is the worse day ever.”
No sun creeping through the blinds woke me up, no horrific nightmare woke me. I soon realized however that sometimes nightmares don’t just happen as you sleep that they happen when you’re awake, and those are the kind you should wake up screaming about except, you can’t.
Slowly I opened both my eyes, my face especially my nose felt like an elephant decided to sit on my face. I could breathe I could still feel a slow stream of blood trickle down my nose. I could hear some crying, it was a collective crying like at a funeral it was calming in that sense because like a funeral I knew I wasn’t the only one pain. I began to open my eyes. It seemed as if my eyes were fighting my brain because they didn’t want see what was going on I now wish that my eyes won.
The sight was a scene from a movie. I took another big breath in as I looked around. I could just smell my blood at first than I began to smell gunpowder and what could only be described as death. I looked over and saw an old women sitting with her head down she was crying her head was bobbing up and down. Alongside her was an older balding man who sat in the same position however he had one of his hands gently on the older women’s back softly rubbing. With his other hand he held a woman who was crying hysterically into his chest. On the other side of the room I saw a body laying on the floor in a serene pose. I could hear some faint yelling from somewhere else. Past the body were four more people sitting down most of them with their heads bobbing, crying. I noticed the red hair of Katherine, I let out a sigh I knew at least she was safe and I was at ease. Without thinking I began to rise to my feet. I wasn’t exactly sure if the gunmen were still in the bank but I really didn’t care. I found my legs and stood. My legs were a little shaky however I kept my balance. I began to walk over to the bald headed man. As I did a voice shouted.
“Do you feel like dieing today?” The voice was gruff, dark and in all words evil, I slowly turned. As I did I found myself looking at the other corner of the bank where a man stood, about six feet tall with a broad yet skinny figure. A dark mask covered his face. He yelled at me again
“Do you feel like dieing?” I stared at him with an inquisitive look almost as if he was joking. I quickly snapped into reality when the man began to walk towards me raising a handgun. “SIT, over there on your ass with your head between your knees or you will quickly find yourself lying over there with stiffy.” He chuckled as he made a gesture over to the dead body which was lying on the floor. The body was the bank security guard he was laying face down. His white hair was stained with dark red. His khaki uniform was drenched in his own blood. I complied with the man who was yelling at me and sat facing the balding man. As I did the gunmen walked back to the corner of the room his heavy boots echoed against the white tile. I whispered over the tears of the distraught women to the small group.
“What Happened? How long has this been going on for?” I was full with questions I am sure the group didn’t want to answer them all.
“It’s been about a half an hour since they entered. There are four guys, one has a shotgun another has a rifle, and the last two just have a couple of handguns. You stood in their way and it gave the teller enough time to hit the silent alarm.” The man sounded cool and confident and as if he knew what he was talking about.
“You don’t seem to be scared.”
“I have been an ATF agent for about fifteen years now, five of them undercover I have been around more guns with a lot crazier people. They would’ve been gone by now but they got greedy for the safe, there were about three police cars outside in a matter of minuets. The guys got spooked and now it’s only a matter of time, just keep your head down and we will all be fine, No worries honey it will all be fine.” With that the man kissed the women’s head which was buried into his side.
“What about the security guard.”
“Poor guy comes running out with his gun drawn just as that guys walk in. He never had a chance while two of the gunmen told people where to go a third jumped the counter and the forth guy there.” He made a slow natural gesture to the man standing in the corner. “He was just standing there waiting for him and as the guard comes out of the back room he gets behind him and shoots the guard about three times. Just keep your head down and do what you’re told and there will be no death today.” I looked down at the floor and I could begin to hear the sounds of choppers first faintly than soon they were like noisy buzzards flying over a dead carcass.
After an hour or so of sitting listening to the crying of others silence fell over the bank. The only sounds were the constant beat of the helicopter and the extra emergency vehicles that arrived. In the past hour over twenty emergency vehicles pulled into the parking lot. Some shouting could be heard outside there seemed to be a lot of confusion out there. There was no confusion inside the bank everybody knew exactly what was happening and the future became bleak as another hour passed. The silence was suddenly broken as yelling broke out from deep within the offices of the bank. I could hear their yelps and their boots on the ground as they ran down the hallway and into the lobby. A man called over to the man sitting in the corner. All four robbers now talked in hush tones, I couldn’t make out any of what they were saying. I looked over to the other group of people and met eyes with Katherine. Her mascara was running down her face. She didn’t smile at me, and I didn’t smile back we just starred. Our eyes were diverted when one of men who carried a shotgun stepped into the middle of the lobby and cleared his throat.
“I want everyone to stand up now and go stand against the counter.” He didn’t yell just simply spoke. He didn’t need to yell his words were like swords themselves cold, and cutting. “Now please.” We stood up I gave my hand to the old women and she took it and stood with my help. Katherine and the group of people she was with came over, the balding ATF agent stood behind me; he was taller and broader than me. His balding head was no inclination of his strength he was big and powerful. He held his wife close, she looked younger she was blonde and had a gentle curve in her body. I was comforted by the fact someone knew the drill. Like being at church I just did whatever he did and didn’t ask questions.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, today has been an amazing day for us.” In my brain I was shocked the robber was actually boasting. “Not only did we make lots of money we have made front page headlines, we are news people.” His arrogance got under my skin. He knew what he wanted to say he plotted his words eloquently. In another situation I would have taken him for an excellent public speaker and if he made some right choices he probably wouldn’t need to rob a bank to be famous. “Now for us to enjoy our fame we need your corporation.” He began to pace up and down in front of the huddled group. I looked over and noticed Katherine standing a few people away. It was comforting to see her. “Unfortunately we must use you, fine people. See you are our only tickets out of here. I can promise you one thing and one thing only, If I need to.” He stopped in mid sentence and gazed over the group and frowned looking at each person in the eye. We met eyes. His eyes were a deep green. He knew what he was doing and he was doing it well. “If I need to, I will not hesitate to kill any of you. Now that that is cleared up if you need to go to the bathroom now is the time, and if you need to pray to whomever you pray to do it now, and remember your lives rest in the hands of wit of those men out there. If we don’t walk out of here, no one walks out of there.” With that the wife of the agent began to cry loudly, she was joined by another round of weeping of different hostages. All four men formed up together and walked to the other side of the room. I looked over at the agent. He saw the fear in my eyes.
“They should be negotiating our release soon, till then no hero stuff; fear has a habit of making good men die young.” I nodded and looked around trying to catch the eye of Katherine again. With no success my eyes went to the floor. I was tired, I was hungry and most of all I missed my meeting.
Over the next hour the phone to the bank rang once. It was answered by the man who addressed the group earlier. I overheard the men talking they call him Alpha. Since the phone rang Alpha has been sitting in the corner. He was rocking back and forth in his chair, talking into the phone as if he was having a conversation with his mother, at times laughing as if recalling childhood memories. As Alpha negotiated his place in the history books, the other three began to take people to the bathroom. All four men became more relaxed and since taken off their masks. All of them look the same three of them are white one is Hispanic all of them ugly. Just as it came time for the ATF agent along with his wife to be led to the bathroom, Alpha began to yell. It was the first time I ever heard someone roar.
“YOU WILL GET THE CAR HERE OR I WILL KILL IN FACT, I WILL KILL RIGHT NOW!” for a second he was calmed by the voice on the other end however a few seconds later yelled out. “NOT SOON ENOUGH.” With that Alpha took a pistol from his belt line aimed at the group. The group gasped my heart began to beat fast as I watched the scene in slow motion. He pulled the trigger, once and then again. Two bullets were fired from the gun one whizzing by the group shattering a window to the left and the other one striking the older women who was propping herself up closer to where Alpha was negotiating. She began to scream as she slowly slinked down to the floor. She gripped her side as blood began to bubble. I reached for her and grabbed her close I could feel her spirit leaving her. She began to talk to me. Her skin grew cold.
“You son must tell the children I love them, Tell them its ok. Please Son, Please Son.” She pleaded with me, grasping onto my shirt. Blood was now flowing from her wound and she began to shake. She grew quite and her grip on my shirt began to loosen. She looked up at me and smiled and took a short breath and said
“You look like my grandson.” With that the old women died just within moments of being shot. I put her slowly on the ground and the two gunmen came over and dragged her off to where the guard was laying. The Hispanic robber did the sign of the cross on her head and muttered something that was between him, the women’s spirit and God. I returned to my feet my hands still with the fresh blood from the old women. I stared at my hands in disbelief. I began to grow angry my hands began to shake and I hit the counter hard leaving two bloody handprints. I shot a glare over to the two men who had their backs to us. Alpha returned to normal and was even laughing. I was at my breaking point.
“I have to do something; they will kill all of us.” Those were the words whispered by the ATF agent to his wife. I knew something was in the works. The only three people standing now were the ATF agent his wife and I. All others were sitting down most of them crying a few just staring into space. Katherine was staring. Again one of the robbers escorted people to the bathroom. It was the ATF agent’s turn. My body tensed as he walked by and his wife dropped to the ground. I knew the end was near. The ATF agent winked at me as he passed and nodded. As the two men walked towards the bathrooms the agent walked strongly. The wife grabbed my hand and brought me down through her tears she spoke softly.
“My husband asked me to tell you this; a brave person doesn’t let fear kill.” Her eyes began to tear again and I realized that the end was about to happen. As I stood up again the Hispanic robber came up to me and began to take me to the Bathroom. We walked gingerly across the lobby. He kept an hand on me. He was nervous and so was I, I couldn’t help but shake knowing something was going to happen and I was apart of it. I glanced over to Alpha his face had a mole on his right cheek. His chin was well defined and his nose was pointed. I loathed him.
As the robber and I were a few feet from the door we heard a sudden gun shot, the robber looked towards alpha however I knew where it came from. The crowd across the lobby began to scream and dive for cover. My escort was confused and in the confusion the agent busted out of the bathroom with gun in hand. With all my might I elbowed my captor as the agent ran towards a gunman who was taking aim from across the room. I heard a few more shots as I got the upper hand on my escort. With repeated hits of my fists which were now vindicating the women’s blood that they were stained with. The man grew tired and felled backwards I took, the Gun he was carrying and shot him in the stomach he laid on the floor squirming and moaning. The agent now was in a fire fight with the man that killed the guard. I watched as the agent took shot after shot at the man. I knew he was almost out of ammo. I could hear a flurry of activity outside people shouting. I began to run forward and aimed the gun at gunman at the far side of the room. As I did I saw out of the corner of my eye Alpha coming out from behind the cover he had taken. In his hand was the same pistol he used to kill the old women. I began to run towards him. Alpha took aim at the agent who did not see him. I jumped and looked Alpha square in the eye as he pulled the trigger. I felt heat sear my insides I fell to the floor as my eyes closed I saw the agent turn and fire.
I was seventeen again sitting at my house, working on some math homework. It was bright. Across the table from me sat my aunt. I starred at her. On her face she bore the bruises of an abusive husband. On her arms she bore the scars of loves false tales. She looked up at me. I remembered this scene.
“Greg, can I help you?” Her words echoed as I spoke up.
“Aunt Mary, why didn’t you fight back? Why didn’t you hurt him as much as he hurt you? My voice echoed and the scene began to dim.
“Sometimes Greg you fight back in the only way you can at the time. In the end the punishment will be handed out, He will have his day. I because I couldn’t fight then, I am fighting now. Sometimes Greg the best way to fight back is to show the future what’s right and what’s wrong.” She stood up and walked over to me the scene changed. she was visibly older as she approached. I looked down to see my hands covered in blood as they held my stomach tight. She continued with the speech she gave to me earlier in life. “Greg from my scars and bruises you see wrong. And all I can hope is that one day these will remind you to fight and stand up for what is right.” She began to fade even more as blood poured from my wounds. I looked into her eyes and I began to cry
“Mary did I do right?” Black began to slowly make its way and everything became dark as the blackness spread across this childhood memory. As complete darkness surrounded me I could only hear
“Yes Greg you did right”
I suddenly awoke, I looked around. I am not in my bed. I look around the room I see flowers, balloons and IV bags along with a bag of blood. I follow the tubes down to my body and continuously look around. Around me I see the smiling face of my mother, a doctor and the smiling face of the agent from the bank. My mother and my aunt began to cry. The agent was the first to speak.
“You go back to sleep kid, you did lots of hero stuff today, you were very brave and I thank you for my life.” With that he patted my leg and left. I drifted softly back to sleep.
I know why I wake up now. I know that when the nightmares I have wake me up the devil isn’t staring and planning for me. I know that when the sunlight creeps across my face and wakes me up its not God getting me up. I know this because that day proved evil can strike on the sunniest of days.