April 13, 2009
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There isn’t much to recommend the balaclava; it’s painfully obvious and restricts vision. It isn’t hard for a security guard or jumpy teller to draw a pistol without you ever knowing: the rustling of the fabric and the press of the weave limits your world to two pinpricks of light. Breath condenses around the mouth, getting it wetter and heavier with each breath, your nose is useless, your skin collects lint, itching, as red and puffy as a newborn's ass. If the stress of robbing a bank doesn’t get you worked up, the mask does. Or so I’ve heard.

But for long term operations- that is to say, if you aren’t a terrorist or crack head and want the chance to spend your earnings, you need to be able to stand up to security footage. Despair is what separates me from your average Johnny 99'- most laid off laborers are really just after suicide by cop. I want very badly to live the rest of my life. Diligent little men with projectors and dossiers, pouring over grainy footage will examine me, trying to match my eyes, height, voice, mouth, saliva samples, filaments from my jacket, footprints, the make of my car, bits of hair, and sweat. All my friends will come forward at the first sign of a reward. I don’t plan on being caught, under a grey sky in a Connecticut branch of Wells Fargo, where the air conditioning doesn’t work, with an empty parking lot. I have a yearning, however unreasonable it may be, to not die on linoleum, so I fish the mask out of the glove compartment. Gloves on of course.

I pull the mask on, tight, flip out the sunglasses, check the gloves, tie my shoelaces again, and check my fly. Reaching down, I scoop my wallet, keys, and lighter out of my pockets. The man in the rear view mirror is a nobody in two dollar sunglasses and a denim jacket. I can't take him seriously. I should be taller, broader. I should have a louder voice. Should've gone with the leather jacket and boots- why am I in business shoes? Platform shoes next time, for sure. A lone copper hair protrudes from my mask- I pluck it.

Assuming that they’re cooperative, which is an enormous if in and of itself, I should be out within ten minutes. The hardest part is getting into the bank without anyone seeing you- the average American that sees a masked man approaching a bank will immediately understand what is happening.

I have a revolver, and I do not know its make or model. It’s heavy and dull, fits in the palm of my hand. I think there’s peanut butter in the grooves. I have never fired it. Presumably I was given the right bullets- they fit the chamber. I didn't dare practice shooting it; I couldn't stomach the thought of someone (Landlord? Mrs. Finch?) calling the cops for gunshots, and taking me down for unregistered firearm possession. On CSI one time, they tracked a guy down using fingerprints on bullet casings. Probably nonsense, but I wore gloves when I loaded it. I don’t want to fire it. I flip the safety off.

Stepping out of the car, head low I run down the pavement, hand in glove on gun in pocket. It's already so hot. Winter coats in June hot, boiler room hot. The mask sticks to my face. Three stores down, I don't think anybody sees me- no cars on main street; a bona fide miracle, Praise the Lord. It's a small bank- two tellers in a cardigan and button up shirt, bored and bespectacled. Ten old men and women in baggy jackets and robes, one security guard.

I throw the glass door open too wide, and it shatters on the wall in a spray, sending shudders up my arm. I have the gun out. Silence, then the teller shrieks like a pig, the security guard still gapes like a fish. I try once to shout, and find the mouth of the mask wet and heavy. Nobody moves, and I know they're mostly the elderly and fat.

"Eveybody on the floor!"

I meet an old woman's eye's and fire one ringing shot into the ceiling.

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