WE ARE Narcissus

I have tried to write my story many times and have never been able to get far. I always go over my words again and again, editing and polishing and getting caught in the obsessive intricateness of arranging lyrical phrases. I am hoping that writing this online and posting as I go will keep me pressing forward.


11. Klepto

o my god, i am heartily sorry for having offended you, and i detest all my sins, because of your just punishments, but most of all because they offend you, my god, who are all good and deserving of all my love. i firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. except for where this involves cussing and sexual innuendoes and taking thy name in vane, because i have every intention of doing these things a whole hell of a lot more. o my god, i have guzzled bottles of vodka and rum and gin and sake and red wine and beer and more vodka, and i am sorry for this. because i always black out when i drink and don't remember a thing afterward, and the next day everybody's mad at me for puking all over the back seat of their car, which i also never remember doing. o my god, i have treated my body like trash and broken my mother's heart (if she did in fact have one to begin with) and i have stolen and gossiped and i have told a lie that is bigger than the sun and the stars and the galaxy, that baffles and defies even an omnipotent power to forgive.


o my god, i have forgotten the good things, the bright lights that were never enough to bring illumination to the deep, dark crevices in my little girl soul. but the point is sometimes people did try for me. there was a letter i still remember though i didn't manage to preserve it, written by my mom from the tooth fairy to me. answering my questions: "what is your favorite animal?" she told me she liked wolves, just like i did, because they have such nice big long white teeth. i asked the easter bunny what color his fur was, and he replied "brown." i almost scribbled down on one note to him, "is god pleased with me?" by the words stuck in my throat. and anyway, but that time the magic was starting to fade for me. i'd noticed the strange phenomenon, that the easter baskets lived on a top shelf of my mom's closet all year long, then somehow managed to be filched from this spot, filled and hidden by the easter bunny without waking my parents.


o my god, i have stolen things for no good reason. sometimes i stole things i didn't even want. not that i got any sort of rush out of it, but looking at something that cost eleven dollars and knowing i didn't have that money was a confirmation to myself that i was worth nothing. when i just took the whatever-it-was, i could then berate myself, my "conscience" slavering, flecks of spittle flying out of its intangible gullet into my face as they spat out the truth i already knew, that i was infinitely worse than any prostitute.


on the tale end of my eighteenth year, i ended up in rehab. one day our supervisors took us loonies on a special lunch outing that nobody enjoyed for obvious reason, then lead us through a tiny downtown shopping center on a post meal stroll. i don't remember who suggested we go into the knitting store, but while there i found myself examining tiny glass knitting needle ornaments. it should be noted, at this point, that i do not nor did i ever own knitting needles, and i neither knew how to knit nor had any interest in learning. the ornaments were in the shape of tiny animals. i think i remember a dog and a penguin.


i found out later that the shop owner did in fact witness me push the little plastic wrapped packages up into my sleeves, then attempt to walk away as if nothing of the sort had occurred. the packets were priced at eleven dollars each.


i don't know why i got so lucky, or why that woman decided not to call me out, but i left the shop unmolested. we continued our walk, and i felt the leaden weight of those ornaments in my sleeve dragged me down to hell with every step. but we were walking a loop. so when we arrived back at the knitting shop, i broke away from the rest of the loonies, and i went inside and returned the objects i'd pilfered, tearfully confessing my crime. "i'm sorry. i don't know why i did it."


i wouldn't say i've stolen a lot of things in my life. the act of stealing itself is pretty dramatic, however, so every time i did it felt huge and earth shattering, like being diagnosed with a terminal illness. the first time, that i remember, it was a matchbox car. my grandma kept in her house a pool of communal toys, arranged in bins by the fireplace, so that even though no children lived there anymore, her grandchildren would always find amusement readily at hand upon visiting. among these toys were many matchbox cars, but there was one in particular that was a bluish green color  i can only describe as retro, with a phenix bursting into crackling red and orange flame emblazoned across the hood. i don't know what kind of car it was, but i called it the "firebird." 


my grandma was kind enough to help me find places to hide that car, so that i'd know right where to look for it every time i came to her house. i was paranoid that another kid would lose it or make off with it, that i'd show up one day and not be able to find it. in my mind, i equated having something of my very own with being somebody, as though by selecting a toy that i liked best out of a pile of toys i was establishing for myself an identity. so one day, during a visit to my grandparents' home, i was walking by the corner of the room where my family had all piled up our bags, and i let the firebird slip from my fingers and fall into the open mouth of a carmel colored plastic grocery bag in which i'd brought my valuables. there was no one around, but still, in the interest of being nonchalant i didn't even look down to make sure the car was safely hidden among my stuff.


i never saw that matchbox car again. i have no real idea what happened to it. after a little time had passed, i chose a new toy out of the pile near the fireplace to represent me. i found special hiding places for it so i'd always know where to look, and this time i didn't try to steal it. the toy, a lean, muscular, snarling black plastic dog with a docked tail, was eventually given to me to keep by my grandma. i still have that plastic dog. i keep it in a box of special things in my room. if my grandma knew what i'd tried to do with the car she never gave any intimation.


that was one of my big sins as a little kid. that, and the time i looked at a life sized beige crucifix which featured a boney jesus arching up off the wood in agony, and the thought popped into my head, totally inexplicably, "i hate you."


stealing didn't become a big thing for me until i was out on my own. until i needed to feed my habit.


that was when i learned to enter a grocery store or gas station concession stand wearing a backpack or a purse or just a bit sweater, and stroll around aimlessly for long enough to become part of the scenery. and for long enough to identify the blind spots of the security cameras, typically behind shelves or in far back corners. every nerve in my body quivered violently as i ducked into one of these secluded nooks and stuffed everything i could into my bag or under my shirt. then i didn't just flee the store, but walked right up to the checkout counter and purchased with real money something small that i actually could afford. just to try to look less suspicious, leaving with a legitimate receipt and grocery bags clinking around my wrists like bangles. sometimes i didn't even ever leave the store with any merchandise, but openly took what i wanted as if i had every intention of buying it, then locked myself with my spoils in the restroom. squatted behind a toilet timed the noisy bits of my using to coincide with the gurgle and whoosh as somebody flushed. in a short amount of time i would walk out and there would be nothing left to show that i hadn't entered the restroom empty handed.


o my god, i have stolen hundreds of dollars worth of candy, chips, soda, pastries, and most of all ice cream.

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