Two weeks ago, my fiancé and I were mugged at gunpoint. We were walking the three blocks over from his street parking spot to our apartment. Near the end of the second block, two young men were walking together toward us, heading in the opposite direction. I thought nothing of them until they split up just as our paths converged. That’s odd, I thought—half a second before one of them bumped into my partner, told him to hand over all his cash, and pulled out a gun. “I’m not kidding around,” he added, poking it into my partner’s waist.
We didn’t have any cash, so we handed over our smartphones and his wallet. The two then took off running down the street. We scurried home, clutching each other as we fought the urge to race as quickly as our hearts. Once safely indoors, we called the local police department on my fiancé’s work phone.
I have been living in this town for five years. When I first told people about the move, they asked, “Is that where the ____ is? Isn’t that the hood? Is it safe to walk around?” More recently, someone noted, “Didn’t someone get shot and killed there a couple years ago?” I knew more or less what I was getting into, but the location was ideal and the apartment perfect. I loved that there were good restaurants, fun bars, beautiful parks, a gym, and a reasonably priced grocery store all within walking distance. Once we started dating, it didn’t take long for my partner to fall in love with the community, too. We would go for long walks, attend events, and support local businesses. We always felt perfectly safe, and figured the reputation stemmed from upper-middle-class paranoia. We were proud to call this town home, and often encouraged friends and family to visit.
Now, we are afraid to walk outside even in daylight. I sold my car so he could take my allotted resident parking spot and stop parking three blocks away. He gets chills when he looks out our window, where we can almost see the very spot where he was nearly shot in the stomach. We have some clues that the perpetrators were not even from here, that this misfortune could have befallen us anywhere—but logic does little to suppress visceral fear and anxiety. We want nothing more with community activities, nights out on the town, or inviting anyone here.
I hate that one night was all it took to destroy years of happiness and goodwill. I hate that the gun robbed us of any fighting chance—because, had it not been present, we literally would have fought. I hate that we weren’t carrying any cash and had to forfeit possessions worth exponentially more. I hate that the perpetrators were stupid youths who immediately tried to use my fiancé’s (already frozen) credit card on Uber and Nike sneakers; who won’t be able to do anything with an iCloud-locked iPhone, anyway, except cost my fiancé a thousand dollars; who should be getting a fucking education instead of hurting decent people who used to be on their side. I hate that it’s apparently not so easy for Uber just to tell us what device attempted to add this credit card, or for Nike to fetch an IP address from their logs. I hate that some gun lovers think we would have been better off if we had been armed ourselves, as if we could have pulled out our own gun, aimed, and shot faster than he could have pulled the trigger on his. I hate that some naïve progressives believe marginalized groups need to be armed against oppressive police and government forces, because those arms are only getting used against fellow community members like us. I hate the still ongoing regrets and second-guessing: Could we have redirected the gun or knocked it out of his hand? Could I have gotten away with only giving them the 2005 Thinkpad I was carrying in my tote, which was a locked and insured client laptop? What if we had hurried home a mere ten minutes sooner? Why hadn’t I sold my car two days prior, as planned?
Someone told me, “The fact that you are both alive and unharmed means you handled everything in that situation perfectly.” On a logical level, I accept this. I am overwhelmingly relieved that they did not shoot my partner, that we still have each other, that the phones are all they managed to take. But logic does little to suppress the questions and the anger, too.