Hi there, sorry for not writing for a while I was experiencing computer problems of a clear and dysfunctional nature. Now it’s back and so am I!
I thought I’d restart with a continuation of my kleptomaniac story. To make things easier, I’ll put it down with the beginning and the continuation in one post (there will be a part three, too). Enjoy:
Since he saw no actual logic to his compulsion to steal, he decided never to take anything useful, sensible, or desirable.
The hardest thing about it was avoiding those small, colorful cigarette lighters that always seem to offer themselves to the casual act of thievery. Instead, he had an assortment of old magazines “liberate” from various waiting rooms, one small empty vinegar dispenser, several dozen dessert forks, and a few light bulbs that did not fit any lamp in his house.
His friends, sister, former boss, and therapist called it kleptomania; he preferred thinking of himself as a modern day swashbuckler and scallywag. His booty could have been considered an impressive collection in the hands of an eccentric eighteenth century gentleman, but it seemed out of place in the possession of a twenty first century insurance salesman, and unemployed one as he was fired for stealing two boxes of light bulbs from the maintenance closet.
He saw nothing particularly wrong with taking those things he took. Those waiting rooms spread throughout the city could very much use an update in their selection of magazines; restaurants got those oil and vinegar dispenser at a dime a dozen at the cheapest wholesaler, and his former employer made ridiculous amounts of money for writing down people’s names in this list or that list, they could spare a ten Dollar box of 40 Watt light bulbs, even two.
So Robin made his weekly visits to the unemployment office, stealing toilet paper and paper clips more as souvenirs than even an appeasement of his almost officially diagnosed kleptomania. The weekly visits to his mother were much harder than the unemployment office. His mother was far stricter in pointing out the pitfalls of unemployment and his misadventures and failures or mistakes. He spent a lot more mental energy in defending his life choices and current status from his mother than from the might and indifference of the US government, or the Chicago municipal authorities, or Mrs. Lamb, his advisor at the unemployment office.
He did not take anything from his mother, though. No tokens or mementos were needed or wanted. He did take a shoe horn from his sister’s house the last time he was there, and a burst baseball from his friend John’s house. But there was something inherently frightening and unthinkable in stealing from his old, widowed mother. She was not the frail sort of old, nor the truly hard and frightening sort of woman, she was simply Mother. Mother, the disciplinarian, Mother, the giver of rewards, Mother, protector, Mother, avenger, Mother, the withholder of affection, Mother, the attentive ear, Mother, the spanking hand.
Weeks went on and mutated into months, which in turn aggregated themselves into a semblance of a year. Robin gave signs that he wanted to go into business on his own, but Mrs. Lamb advised against it, and so did his mother, sister, John, Steve, Allan, Beth, and his therapist. John, Steve, Allan, and Beth, his friends from Grimmley Insurance Inc., made attempts to cheer him up by telling his of the goings on in his former office, of the subtle, pointless intrigues, frustrations about Mr. Lye, the new floor manager, and the rapid loss of clients due to some bad publicity. They told him how much of a hero he still is in the office for his act of quiet, though useless, defiance in taking those light bulbs.
Robin listened half-heartedly, and manage to keep Beth from remembering to take her scarf on the way out, which he thought of as a successful scarf-robbery. He tucked the scarf away in a drawer, along with a pair of batman socks he took from his nephew’s room, and sat back down on his couch.
After a year or so of having only taken, but earning nothing, he felt less of an adventurous modern day scallywag and more of a free-loader. He started to feel guilty even for those magazines he took from his doctor’s office the week before. And as he sat and mulled over his acts of thievery and beginning to wonder if they were the acts of an eccentric gentleman of fortune or a degenerate loser with mental health issues, his doorbell rang.
Through the peephole, Robin saw Beth standing outside, looking through her purse and looking very confused, even through the distorting lens of the peephole. The lens made her brown hair look as if it cover most of her face, even though he knew she cut it to stay well above her eyes, which, through the peephole, looked like tiny beads and not their usual blue, almonds he secretly liked to stare at. The peephole also made Beth’s lips look strangely mannish, as they were transformed by the rules of optics into a thin line painted with a rather dashing shade between pink and red.
Robin saw her lift her arms and thought she is about to check the time on her watch, which he wanted to steal for over a month, but did not dare. Instead, she knocked on his door.
“Rob? I think I left my scarf in you apartment, can I come in and look for it? I’m late for work, so I’ll make it quick.” She said in a tone that might have been exasperated, might have been annoyed, might just have been stressed about an upcoming team meeting in conference room B about the sudden surge in justified claims and the payouts that are losing the company hundreds of thousands every month, or at least that is how Mr. Lye had put it.
Robin opened the door and Beth hurried back inside. She looked in all the places any woman who has a passing interest in forgetting a scarf or other item at a man’s house in order to have a reason to come back might leave said object, but found nothing, which confirmed to Beth that her passing interest in Robin has passed, and that she did not unconsciously forget her scarf in order to get to see him again, alone.
Robin pretended to help Beth by not actively steering her away from the drawer in the living room closet, which held her scarf, but he said nothing about the scarf’s location. He was, in fact, rather confused by Beth’s break from the unspoken rule of never mentioning an item lost in the presence of Robin, neither directly nor indirectly accusing him of the disappearance of said item, or of coming around to his home unannounced. He thought of it as an excuse to get to talk to him alone.
“What color was it?” He asked, knowing full well it was a dark gray with spots of blue.
“Gray with some blue on it. Are you sure it isn’t behind the couch or anything.” That was how Beth had begun her relationship with her last boyfriend, by leaving her coat behind the sofa, making it look like it had fallen.
“I’m sure, but I’ll check again.” Robin said and made searching noises after breaking visual contact.
Of course he ‘found’ nothing, and reported so in as disappointed voice as he could. Beth expressed her displeasure at losing the scarf, again ignoring the unspoken rule of avoiding such topics around Robin, and left the apartment after convincing herself that she had simply forgotten her scarf in the office and just completely wasted her and Robin’s time.
Robin, on the other hand, was far more perplexed. He was not afraid of being caught of thievery, as this had happened many times in the past, and with his almost official diagnosis as a kleptomaniac, it meant that he needed help, not punishment. No, he was perplexed by having stolen something desirable and important for the first time, having stolen something someone missed. No one missed the toilet paper or the light bulbs, but Beth would like her scarf back, and her very mention of the topic to Robin was proof that she had no idea he had taken it.
He took the scarf out of the drawer and looked at it. It had seemed so small and unimportant before, now it was some harbinger of doom, or at least more embarrassment than he was used to. It had seemed like some generic, characterless thing women use to ornament their necks when it is too cold for cleavages. It had looked like something you get at a Dollar shop in a packet of five. He read the label for confirmation. “Made in Guatemala”. Cheap make, or exotic? Hard to tell. It did not look particularly exotic, but Robin knew nothing of the culture of Guatemala, so how would he know, maybe gray and blue are the colors of some Guatemalan saint, and Beth did go to Guatemala for vacation a few months before, so… maybe.
He tried to make up his mind about his next course of action. He could wait a few days and see maybe she forgot about the scarf, proving that she was simply missing a layer of something slightly warmer than the ambient Chicago air to cover her neck, not the scarf itself. Or, alternatively, he could return it, use the social opening left for him by her assumption it had fallen somewhere and eluded their sight. He could also sneak it back into her possession.
Unstealing things, as it were, was not a common practice of Robin’s, but one he was forced to exercise every so often. It required much less dexterity, both physical and social, to perform than stealing the object in the first place, but it, sometimes, needed to be done.
One particular day, Robin attempted, absentmindedly, to appropriate a little discarded looking pin from the floor of a fast-food restaurant he had frequented when he had money to spend. It was a tiny thing that barely registered into his mind before it pricked his finger, but before it could be safely secured in his jacket pocket, he noticed a small child looking for something. The child looked upset, at the brink of crying when Robin took a look at the thing in his hand and saw that the pin, which apparently was what he had just picked up, bore an uncanny, and probably intentional, similarity to the child’s cap. The little ladybug pin would look quite dashing pinned to that ladybug cap that little girl is wearing, some inner part of Robin said, in a sarcastic, ironic, irritating and insufferably correct voice.
So Robin stood up, approached the, by now, weeping child and gave her the pin, only to have the child’s tears replaced by boundless joy and a mother’s disconcertingly professional cross examination as to the circumstances that lead to the pin finding its way to Robin’s possession. He kept asserting that he had found it on the floor and immediately associated the child’s distress with this lost item, which was near enough to the truth to pass a polygraph test, which the mother seemed inclined to demand before letting the whole thing go and delivering the, now, demanded portion of chicken nuggets to the child.
Robin has learned much that day. People expect to lose things, and once they have resigned themselves to this loss, being reunited with those things is somehow worse and more discomforting than the original loss. He began imagining the scenarios of returning Beth’s scarf to her and could not help but having one scenario, which he decided was more a concession to his increasingly chastised masculinity, lead to the bedroom.
Most other scenarios led to Beth suspended all friendship privileges, one also had her confirm to everyone that Robin was nothing more than a common thief, and not at all a harmless, overall friendly, and fun kleptomaniac.
But he could not keep it. There was something utterly dissatisfying to him to have taken something that someone wanted, even if they did not really mind so much. No, it was not about their relationships to their things, whoever they were and whatever their things were. No. It was about his relationship with himself. He had made a promise. He was only to take things that were not only mundane, but clearly seen as the refuse of every other member of society.