Petty Crimes of the Heart

When I was around seven, I became a criminal.

I started shoplifting from the neighborhood Safeway store. (It was more than just groceries then. It sort of had a bit of everything.)

My friend Vana and I did the stealing, together, at first. I don’t recall whose idea it was.

I think the first item we took was something really small and inexpensive, such as a candy. There was such  rush of danger to it. An adrenaline high.

I know I enjoyed the risky feeling of it. Of getting away with something. Of doing something wrong and not being caught.

There were a few more items, leading up to the very difficult-to-steal stationary set. It was a large box set, and the fact that I somehow managed to get away with it was more the real prize, I think, than the stationary itself. (It was grown up stationary, not even something I wanted.)

But the pièce de résistance was a gold ring. The ring probably cost $50, but it was harder to get to and it carried higher stakes if caught. I don’t even think Vana was in on this one. I was egging my own self on by this point. Pushing my own limits and capabilities.

I am still not sure why I felt compelled to turn to such lowly capers. We were not rich, but we were not in need. I had a room full of things. My needs were mostly met, at least materially.

I did not even enjoy any of the items I stole. I felt so guilty. I tried to thrown them down the storm drain, but could only throw away the first thing I took, the candy. The rest I stashed on the top shelf in the corner of my closet.

From that corner, those items taunted me daily. They called me “Robber.” “Stealer.” I was nauseous with fear most of the time. Fear of being found out. Fear of what my parents would think of me if they knew. That stash kept me up at night. It felt as if it was alive on that shelf. As if I was harboring a defenseless animal or something.

Finally one night, when I could not stand it anymore, I went into my parents bedroom and announced that “their daughter was a shoplifter.”

In a rush of shame and tears, I told the whole dirty story. As I had been up until that point an incredibly reserved and careful girl who made perfect grades and never rocked the boat, I have the feeling they felt that I had probably been under the influence of Vana, who they judged as wilder than I.

I led them to my stash and showed them the evidence of my sickness. Instead of being concerned for my sanity, looking back, I think they were somewhat impressed by what I had gotten away with stealing.

As punishment, my parents had me take the items back to the store and confess my sins. Luckily and unluckily, there were no repercussions from the store.

My parents seemed to feel that my real punishment was knowing their disappointment in me. And they were right in that. It just leveled me.

I still feel shame around it, even though I work at forgiving my child of seven for needing to take those things. She needed something. It wasn’t those things.

I say it was unlucky that there were no repercussions.

I think that my seven year-old was really lost. I think I was terribly lost. I think I needed help and attention but had no idea how to ask for it.

I didn’t get the help I didn’t know I needed then.

But I never stole again.


Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: caper

Split Decisions

Rose spit into the dirt, disgusted with herself, so mad she could barely see straight.

What jerks. She hadn’t been doing anything. Why did they hate her so?

She picked herself up off the lawn, peeling away the blades of grass that were stuck to her knees one by one, fingering the long dent-canals they left behind on her skin.

The kids had already moved on down the block, their laughter taunting her as they looked back, turning the corner.

She felt the hot flush of shame rush down the back of her neck and through her body, her fingers tingling, tears flooding her eyes.

She choked it all down and thought about what she could do. There was no where to go. No one to tell.

“This is just temporary, honey. You’ll see. In time, they’ll get to know you, you’ll find friends.” Her Mom tried, but she had no idea of the way things really were.

She folded her pain and confusion back into the loneliness that she carried with her always, and with lips pressed together with determination, she walked back home to the numbing relief and friendship to be found in oreos and chips. 

At least she had that.

#bullying #therootoftheproblem #foodisnotlove

Inspired by The Daily Post word prompt: temporary


This time, I was gonna get it right.

I waited in the bathroom stall

until the other girls were gone

and I silently prayed as hard as I could.

Please, God, make me be better.

Please, please, make me like Katie.

She is so perfect!

Her long, brown hair so straight

she can sit on the ends if she wants to.

She’s so thin and pleasant and neat.

Not like me – plump, awkward, shaggy-haired.

If I pray hard enough, it will happen:

I will become her. On the count of three.

One — Fingers crossed tight….

Two — When you wish upon a star…

Three — please please please please please…

Ok. Here I go. The new me. I am Katie Koening now!

I open the stall and look in the mirror.

I seem taller. I smile her smile and think Katie thoughts.

Head out into the hall, head held high,

floating on my hope.

I get to the classroom

and enter, waiting for heads to turn.

My heart dives back into my stomach.

No one notices a thing as I go to my desk.

I am just same old me.

God has failed me again.


Inspired by The Daily Post word prompt: better