I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day. I was just coming off a fourteen day stretch of twelve hour days, and had been looking forward to drawing my curtains and turning my house into a cave to shut out the world. The thought of hiding, of not having to interact with a single human being was all I could think about as I made the drive home. The rest of the world was on lockdown, and all I could think about was how nice it would be to be sheltered away from this mess. Working as a store manager was a thankless job at any time, but adding a global pandemic to the mix was like adding gas to a fire. We were out of everything, trying our hardest to keep the shelves stocked, but the panic buying was not ending. Day after day customers stampeded into the store, demanding we conjure toilet paper out of thin air so they could wipe their asses. I was truly baffled as to why so many people were more afraid of running out of toilet paper than the actual pandemic. I’d made the decision to limit quantities before the corporation had mandated it, and the amount of vitriol spewed at me was enough to make a grown man cry. Years in retail had made me immune to most of the Karens, but one after the other after the other was just wearing me down. It’s hard being a scapegoat, even when you’re dead inside.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day. I’d woken up that morning looking forward to a day of netflix and baths and trying to forget that I actually existed. The ping of my phone took away that fantasy, as I checked my text messages and saw that another two people had called off that day. It had been like this since the beginning of lockdown, call offs and no shows and people quitting. I could feel the burden of the store weighing down on my shoulders. I was doing everything I could to keep the store running, to be that sense of normalcy in lives that were becoming increasingly unrecognizable, but I could feel myself beginning to break a little. A person can only bend so far before they start to break.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day. I told myself that as I begrudgingly started my car and made the twenty minute drive to the store. I wasn’t doing this for the corporation I worked for. I knew that to them I was just a warm body that would easily be replaced if anything were to happen to me. It wasn’t loyalty to the job that drove me. It was the need to be there for the people of the neighborhood. So many businesses were shutting down due to lack of staff, and I was doing everything in my power not to be one of them. As I pulled into the darkened parking lot at six that morning, I noticed that some lights had been left on in the store. Odd, but not that worrisome. We were all so overwhelmed lately that things were bound to get overlooked. It didn’t even occur to me to be scared.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day. That’s the only thing that came into my head as I stared down the barrel of a gun the minute I walked into the store. Someone must have hidden somewhere in the store overnight. I was surprisingly calm as I raised both of my hands and took a step back. Years of computer based training on what to do during a robbery kicked in. I told myself this wasn’t real, it was just a drill. Like a secret shopper, but the robbery version. I was being tested. I knew that wasn’t true, but we all lie to ourselves when necessary.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day, and now this day might be my last. I waited for the adrenaline to kick in, to feel that fight or flight we hear so much about, but all I felt was numb. Numb fingers as I put in the code to the safe and started the time delay. Numb emotions as I stood there facing my captor, trying to humanize myself by talking about my nonexistent kids. Numb as I stared at his finger on the trigger and wondered where I went wrong in life.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day. If we’re being honest, I wasn’t even supposed to be at this job at all. I didn’t wake up one day and decide it was my life ambition to be the manager of a drugstore. It was something I just kind of fell into as life got in the way of my youthful ambitions.I sat there that day listening to the beeps of the safe as it counted down the time before it could be opened, and I promised myself that this was it. If I made it through this, I was done with retail. Life was too short to be this miserable.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day. This played on a loop in my mind as I grabbed the money out of the safe and filled a plastic shopping bag with it. The moment of truth was coming. I silently prayed to a god I wasn’t sure existed as I placed the final bills into the bag. Please, god, please let me live. I will try harder to live a life where I feel things. I will try harder to be alive. I will try again if you just let me live, please. I will try.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day, and as I watched the man run out the door into a waiting car, I vowed to myself that I would never be here again. I would never give so much of myself to a company that there wasn’t enough left of me to enjoy life. I would put myself first. I would start feeling things again.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day, and as I handed my keys over to the district manager and threw my name tag in the trash, I felt lighter. For the first time in years I felt hope. I didn’t know what the future would hold, but I knew I would never go back to living life half alive. It was time to discover who I really was.