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How I Died Trying to Rob a Wawa While Wearing A Panda Mask in New Jersey Last Week

I had gone through the plan at least thirty-eight times in my head. Any more than that, and it either would have started to bore me, or else I’d start over analyzing the whole thing and getting nervous like I do every time I try to talk to that girl at the Starbucks on Route 10. I think her name’s Amy (I read it on her nametag. Is that creepy?). No. Thirty-three times. That was the optimal amount of times to run over a scenario before you’ve just got to get it done.

Thirty-three? Thirty-eight. Whatever. I wasn’t actually keeping track. I mean, come on. Who does that? Who keeps track of how many times they actually think about something? That’s why we always use big numbers, like a thousand. Easy, hyperbolic lie. People get the point. I don’t even think I can count to thirty-seven. Thirty-eight? Whatever.

I’ve thought about Amy six hundred and ninety-two times since March.

This makes six hundred and ninety-three.

It was now or never. Casually stroll into Wawa, with the gun and the mask in my pocket. Scope out the scene, make sure no one else is in the store. Idle by the Hot Pockets freezer until the coast is clear. Duck behind the rack in the potato chip aisle, out of sight of the cashier. Slip on the mask. My beautiful, beautiful Panda mask. Pull out the gun, but don’t arm it; you don’t actually want to hurt anyone. Leap out from behind the potato chip rack, rush the cashier, shove the gun in his face, probably held horizontally like in those movies because that just looks a lot cooler, demand in your deepest, meanest panda growl that he give you all the money—because really, who’s going to say no to a panda?—take the money after he gives it to you, run outside, start the car, pull the mask off, peel out of the parking lot, drive back to J & J, buy the biggest diamond ring you can afford with the cash, drive back down Route 10 all the way to the Starbucks in Denville, ask Amy to elope and run away (use of mask and gun only if necessary), live happily ever after, fin.

There were two things I failed to consider:

Well, okay three:

1. The bathroom. I forgot to check the bathroom, or even consider that there might be someone in bathroom. I didn’t know people actually used those bathrooms, except in Clerks.

2. That the person in the bathroom would also have a gun, and that his, unlike mine, would be armed.

3. That said person in said bathroom would be a professional panda poacher and incredibly impulsive. I never realized there was a market for panda pelts either. Who would want to kill something so cute and cuddly?

But before he saw the gun, before he even knew what was happening, he saw the panda mask, and Blam! Headshot. Our professional panda poacher is now the hero of Randolph, New Jersey, I’m a lonely corpse in a panda mask, and Amy’s making a caramel macchiato for someone else, completely unaware of the sacrifice I made for her in the name of love.

God I hate New Jersey.

The Morning After

When the daggers stabbed my eyes, I knew
the blinds had all concaved, allowing light to roll
around their curves and permeate
through the smallest cracks, dragging me
to consciousness. My dry lips
parted, peeled off duct tape
and breathed that putrid air,
thick with sweat and some other
taste that burned the whole way down,
down,

Down the hatch.

My natural response was to lick the outside
edges of my mouth, moisturize the desert skin around
it like I’d been told so many times
not to do. As my tongue drew circles
all within its reach, my eyes fell
towards the ground; my muscles weren’t
in shape to hold them up. I made a mental note
of all the labels, clothes that littered
the hardwood floor like debris from
a plane crash, still smoking, left for dead.

I tried to sit up and give
my spinning head perspective,
but my arm was pinned down
by the weight of the porcelain,
glass, smooth and hard, that screeched
like nails on chalkboards every time
I wrapped my arms around her curves.
I conceded, I exhaled a stale breathe,

held within my steaming cheeks so long
that it fermented, stained with the sweetness
of artificial fruits like chapstick smacked,
smeared, and shared from one mouth to
another. The shock hit me hard
once it reached my head, but
it was my gut that churned first.

My head spun quickly around the room
once I gave in to momentum, kept vertigo.
Go.
Going.

Gone.

I mumbled some excuse below
my breathe, found my underwear,
and limped to the bathroom to survey the marks
and battle wounds that I’d received the night before,
cleansed my palette, and finally crawled
back into that strange bed. Hard and small
though it may have been, it wasn’t
a couch, and I wasn’t alone.