The city that never sleeps, they call it. I have dreamt of living in New York for as long as I could remember. I wanted to be the next 'Carrie Bradshaw,' taking the city by storm with my sassy girlfriends, drinking martinis and writing a successful column in Cosmopolitan magazine. Although my life has not met my 'Sex in the City' expectations, I guess I really can't complain. I just moved to the big city, and I am in love. I live in a studio apartment in Queens- it's not Manhattan, but I'll get there someday.
My parents are currently giving me the silent treatment, though I guess I really can't blame them. The constantly told me how dangerous living in New York was, especially for a young woman on her own. Honestly, I think it was their way of trying to scare me into staying home. Thier words poured like gasoline on a lit flame- I packed up my life and moved a week after I turned 21.
I own an old Chevy truck, and when I say old, I mean rusted out, no hubcaps, and makes a loud screeching noise every time it starts. What can I say, you get what you pay for, and it was 300 bucks. I drove that pile of crap from Michigan to New York, to this day I can't believe it got me here. I'll admit, New York was quite a culture shock from living in a town with nothing but a blinking yellow light and soybean fields. My first day I saw a man dressed as a woman, a homeless woman chewing her toenails, and a guy passed out on a bench with his hand in his pants.
My apartment is on the corner of Washington and Sussex. I live in a building with 17 other noisy strangers, and a nice woman named Mrs. Sanders, who lives in 2b across the hall. Mrs. Sanders is the first person who I have can come close to calling a friend here. She is 67 years old, has three cats and an addiction to puzzles. She reminds me of my grandmother; I think that is why I have grown so fond of her.
I got a job as a barista at Central Perk, a coffee shop about five blocks away. I am by no means good at my job, but I can make a decent cup of coffee. This is where I met Daniel. Daniel was tall and slim with dark hair that was just a little too long and hung over his eyes. Daniel was different than other guys I had met, he was emotional and committed, he was confident in who he is. He came in every morning at 8:47 am like clockwork. He would stand by the counter and make small talk as I made his coffee- black with three sugars- and he always paid in exact change. There was no doubt that he was different, but he was the kind of different that captured your interest.
It had been two months of bad lattes and small talk. It was a Tuesday. I remember this because it was laundry day, and the only thing I had clean was a yellow sundress. I was busy cleaning the back counter when I heard the sensor on the door buzz with its usual melodramatic charm. Glancing at my watch, 8:47 on the dot. 'Good morning, Daniel!', I turned to look at him. 'Morning' he replied quietly. Something was off today, not the usual small talk; I just figured he had a rough night. I quickly brewed a fresh pot of Columbian roast, 'How is your morning going?' I asked, unsure if I even should. 'I've been better,' he quickly spat back at me. I snapped a lid on his coffee and walked to the register; he handed me two dollars and fifty-seven cents. I smiled, took the money and told him I hoped his day improved. At this point it was the usual 9 am Tuesday rush, the shop was full of conversation and the deep smell of fresh ground coffee beans. The cash register made that cha-ching noise, and the next customer came to the register. 'That man left a piece of paper' the lady stated, handing it to me. 'Oh, thank you,' I grabbed it and shoved it in my pocket. Figuring it was trash, but on the rare chance it was important, I could give it back to him tomorrow.
I finished waiting on the line of customers, and took the paper out of my pocket, and unfolded it-'12:01 pm, duck.' was written in pen across the small piece of paper. What an odd message, I shrugged it off, assuming it wasn't meant for me to begin with. I had bigger things to worry about anyway, at 5 pm today I had an interview with The Daily Tribune, a super small almost nonexistent newspaper on the lower east side of Queens. It definitely wasn't Cosmo, but it was a start. I looked around the coffee house, through the window, and across the busy street. The traffic was moving at snail speed as usual, and people were everywhere. That's when I saw him. Daniel was standing on the crowded sidewalk across the street, staring into Central Perk. He looked at me and nodded before getting into a yellow taxi cab. 'That was weird' I thought, then again, he was a bit different. I didn't know Daniel well, but I knew enough that his behavior this morning was well out of the ordinary.
At this point, the morning rush was over, although the coffee house was still packed with the usuals. There was a couple sitting at a window booth enjoying one of the classical renaissance art books, while in the booth adjacent, a woman was calming her upset child. It wasn't that we were overly busy but busy enough to make my shift fly by. 'MADISON, you ok? You like- zoned out' my coworker, Casey said, pushing past me to grab a carton of milk. 'Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry, I am just kinda out of it today, I guess', "yeah, I'd say so" she giggled back. 'I have this interview at The Daily Tribune today, and I'm actually really nervous about it...' At that moment, there was a loud popping noise, it sounded like a tire blew outside the shop, everyone went silent for a moment, then went back to their conversations. At that moment the front window of the coffee shop shattered, spraying glass everywhere. I turned to Casey and wanted to scream, but the noise just wouldn't come out. I grabbed her and pulled her to the floor. The air was filled with confusion. Screams from customers trying to take cover as the gunshots continued to echo to no avail, the sound of glass shattering to the floor, and that woman's baby crying. I couldn't even tell you where the bullets were coming from- it seemed like every direction. Bullet holes are sprayed across all the walls like violent confetti, destroying everything they touch. I was one of the lucky few that were behind the counter. Casey was rocking back and forth next to me, her head in her hands, repeating 'I don't want to die' over and over again. I crawled to the end of the counter and peeked around the corner. The lady who handed me the note was lying on the cold tile floor, facing me. We locked eyes a pool of blood formed under her; a single tear rolled down her cheek; she was gone. My parent's words echoed through my brain. 'Maybe New York is too dangerous, you never hear of mass shootings back home…' More gunshots snapped me back into reality. I will never forget the sounds bullets make when they penetrate innocent flesh. Why was this happening? Why here? There was one final gunshot, and silence fell. Frozen in fear, I couldn't convince myself to move. Casey was holding her knees rocking back and forth. Her face was cut from the broken glass, but physically she was ok. I finally convinced myself to stand up after what seemed like years of hiding. I tried to use the counter to pull myself up but cut my hand on a broken syrup bottle. I stood up behind the counter. The floor was covered in broken glass, spilled coffee, and blood. There were four bodies on the floor, and one in a chair- one of which was the mother. She sacrificed herself for that innocent baby. The baby was still crying when I picked him up, I held him and wiped the blood from his face. The sidewalk was decorated in blood splatter. I wanted to cry, but I couldn't stop staring. I can still hear the screams every time my eyes close.
It seemed like years before the police arrived, blaring sirens and attempting to clear the streets. I went over to Casey and grabbed her hand. 'I know this is horrible but were ok, Ok? Let's get out of here' Casey shook her head vigorously, the tears began rolling down her face again. 'Casey, I'm going to get you out of here. Do you trust me?' she nodded. I made her promise to keep her eyes closed until we got outside. I lead her around the bodies, trying to avoid stepping in the puddles that had formed. I finally got her outside where we were swarmed by emergency medical personnel and too many people asking questions. Everyone was running around and yelling, and the media was snapping pictures of whatever they could. I was lead to an ambulance, where I was asked a million questions while they bandaged my hand, and tended to the baby. I sat and watched the chaos; there were people everywhere. Casey's family was there, comforting her. I was alone; I had no one. I sat in the middle of the chaos in disbelief of what had just happened. The entire thing lasted 2 and a half minutes. In 150 seconds, five people lost their lives, a baby was left motherless, and the rest of us emotionally damaged. Across the street, leaning against an alleyway was Daniel. We locked eyes, tears rolling down my face. He lit a cigarette and took a long draw. With that, he shook his head at me with disdain and tapped his wrist. It was 12:07.