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It was about 5 p.m. on an October afternoon. I was early for work so I decided to hang out at the coffee shop downstairs. A friend of mine was working so I decided to chat with him. He wanted to step outside for a cigarette so I followed. I was trying to quit so I thought this would be a good test of willpower if I could refuse a cigarette. I refused and chewed gum.
We began to talk about high university tuition fees in Canada amongst many other things. He told me he was from Syria which I didn’t know and then told me he lived in London for some time. His stories were amazing. He had come to Canada with nothing and had to start from scratch. Can you imagine starting your life over from scratch in a new country? New language? New culture? I can’t imagine its difficulties and challenges but I admired his persistence and drive to succeed. He had been accepted to Concordia University, he was going to study…ummm…the business I think he told me.
We were huddled under the coffee shop’s sign because it was pouring rain outside (I didn’t want my hair to get wet but the company was good so I stayed) when all of a sudden this blond curly haired, blue-eyed homeless man came running up to us asking if he could hang out under the sign with us for shelter. We reluctantly accepted.
The man was speaking loudly, yelling almost and getting closer to me (I don’t like when people are too close to me) so I moved closer to my friend. The man was talking about the money he was making a day, a week, and in a year. My friend and I were wondering why he was homeless and asking us for change if he made so much money but, like some homeless, mental issues, drugs, and alcohol are an issue so we just played along. He asked for again for a change and unfortunately, we both paid with plastic so we told him we didn’t have any. This, this is the moment that will be forever etched in my memory.
He pulled a gun on us.
I nearly shit my pants.
My friend grabbed me and moved me behind him (a heroic move I must say) and after an exchange of words between the two (I don’t know what was said I was so fucking scared, I thought I was going to get shot in the stomach on Maisonneuve Street downtown Montreal). We ran inside and locked the doors to the coffee shop. My heart was beating out of my chest. I felt like throwing up (my worst fear, throwing up). I was on the verge of having a panic attack. I sat down in the back of the coffee shop and began breathing exercises. This was the only way I knew how to calm myself down a tiny bit. So I was breathing. Breathing. In and out. Breathing. In and out. Breathing didn’t fucking help, I thought I was about to die!
My friend managed to call the police. I, still frightened, sat there as pale as a ghost about to yack. Worst of all, I needed to go to work in one hour to teach Chinese students some English. I was clearly in no shape to go to work but, duty called. I needed to come to my senses. I had half an hour to so. I sat there, shaken up pretty badly.
After the whole fiasco was over, I had to return to my table and pack up my things. Everyone was looking at me as if I head 5 heads growing out of my neck… I hated that feeling so I threw everything in my black Italian leather bag I got while on my trip to Florence and ran out of the coffee shop quickly and went straight to work.
I looked around to see if the psycho was still around but he was nowhere to be seen. I didn’t feel very safe going to work that night, especially knowing that I would be alone in the classroom with only one student. What if something happened to us, I would have to be the “brave adult” but fuck, I probably would have been more scared then the kid. I couldn’t think about these things. I sat down, took my teaching material out of my bag and pretended as if nothing had happened.
After teaching for a few hours (the longest hours of my life!) I quickly walked in the dark to the metro station which was not very far from the building I worked in. Ran downstairs where it was light and hopped on the Metro. My boyfriend was waiting for me at the exit when I got to my stop and he accompanied me to his home.
That night, any noise would frighten me. I couldn't sleep and every time I closed my eyes I saw that psycho's face. Traumatized, I always run home when it's dark and I'm done working late.
Needless to say, today was the day I nearly got shot by a homeless man.