Saturday, March 23, 2013

On the Illusion of Safety. . .

I made Matt go with me to Walmart yesterday afternoon and for the first time in a long time it had nothing to do with my agoraphobia. He didn't complain, he was happy to go with because he's worried about my safety. The rash of armed robberies in town has me pretty freaked out and though he would never admit to being freaked, he is, too. Mostly, though, I think it's because he works at night and I'm alone. He even asked me the other afternoon if my clip was loaded--I assured him it was--and made sure of where my gun was. Four armed robberies in as many days in a little town like this is an absolute crime spree. No one in town is prepared for it. One of the little flower shops in town even has their doors locked and patrons have to ring a bell to announce themselves to get inside.

So, on the way to Walmart we got to talking about why this thing has our whole community so worried, and why it has me so freaked out in particular. When we lived in Waco we wouldn't have thought twice about four robberies in four days, we'd have just gone about our business. It's a big enough town that the odds of being involved in a robbery were pretty low, it was a fact of life, and robberies in bigger cities are pretty common place. Here, though, where the whole community consists of 15,000 people, where everyone is lulled into a sense of security by the fact that small towns are generally safe places to live and work, this sort of criminal behavior becomes personal. They robbed two gas stations, a Cash America store, and the Dollar General that's less than a mile from where I live. I've been to all of those places, except the Cash America. I shop at the Dollar General sometimes. So when places you patron in a little town like this are robbed at gun point, it's a big deal.

And honestly, it has me feeling a little bit violated. When we lived in Waco, my agoraphobia wasn't quite as bad as it is here. Strange, I know, but I think small towns are the ultimate step in hiding from the world. Here, I can live in a small community and pretend that the big scary would doesn't really exist. I have a legitimate reason to stay home and shop online because we can't get a lot of things in town. It's hard for me to go anywhere alone, but I manage because it's a safe community where I'm never far from home. I patron the same establishments repeatedly, which cuts down on my fear just a smidge. Then something like this happens, armed robberies rock our "safe" little town, and the illusion is shaken. We see behind the curtain, that no place is truly safe, and a world built around the idea that it is becomes a lie we tell ourselves. At least, for me. I feel like I was lulled into a false sense of security, one which I was more than happy to believe, and that I wanted never to end. But lately, with the crime in town, it's impossible to feel safe.

Now, though, the SPD is saying that they've detained two suspects. Ironically, they were arrested getting gas at the first place they robbed. That's either bold or stupid, or they've got the wrong guys. Although, they have pictures of them, so I don't see how they could have the wrong guys. But, they're still not confirming that they've arrested the guys who hit all of those stores, which is just a sort of smokescreen. I won't feel safe again until these guys are behind bars, until it's confirmed, because they could still be out there. And I certainly won't be going anywhere alone until we have more confirmation. Now I'm wondering whether or not I'll ever feel completely safe here again. I'm sure, given time, the feelings will fade and the illusion will be soundly back in place, but it'll be fragile and easy to tear down next time.

And maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'm being dramatic, but that's how I feel. If Stephenville isn't safe, no place is. You'd think that would be something I would grasp completely, particularly since I'm a fan of true-crime shows, which always seem to showcase small towns that are rocked by gruesome murders, but I didn't, not until it became personal. Lets just say that from now on, when Matt insists on locking the front door, I'm not going to scoff or shake my head. I'm going to get up and lock the front door