Ten years ago today, I thought my last few seconds in life arrived. Where Arlington Road dead ends into Briarcliff Place, just outside my rented condo at the time, me and two friends were making our way towards Highlands Avenue around 10:00 p.m. I remember it being a Thursday night because Yacht Rock played then. As we walked up Briarcliff Place, a guy carrying a black garbage bag with noticeably two hands started walking towards us from the road perpendicular (Arlington). As he got about 15 yards from us, we were in the middle of crossing the street towards his side, he ripped off the garbage bag and branded a sawed off shotgun while shouting “Get the fuck on the ground!”
And did we.
In the middle of this sleepy, cut-through street we laid on the concrete like I imagine someone in war would after being captured. We spread out all our limbs. Wildly, another gunman on the other side of the road came up behind us. I looked over at my friends, arms-length away, and watched as one of the gunman jammed his weapon in the back of our heads. I figured it was over; a loud pop would be the last thing I’d hear.
It never came. We gave them our phones and wallets and they were off.
Weeks later it came out in the news we were on the front end of a rash of robberies around the neighborhood. Tragically 6 weeks later, the same guys murdered a resident only a few streets over (AJC article).
Fast forward ten years, that evening comes up in my mind more often than not especially when I drive down the road a few times a year — which I did today. I reflect how that night, on that road, could have been the date after my dash (1985 -). While the scars are there, going back to that evening re-ignites the neurons and reminds me: we are perishable. Ironically the proximity to a potential death is an impregnable reminder of how I should live. If I’m around people I don’t enjoy, then I can distance from them. If I’m working on things uninteresting and not valuable, I don’t have to waste the time. If society is forcing me into a box, I don’t have to let it.
Ten years ago tonight is a day I use as a reminder that we are all here for a brief time. Our human condition is temporary. This knowledge keeps a magnanimous, long-term, and meaningful perspective on life. We all will have a date after the dash.