I’ve been waiting all my life
I’ve been waiting for some real good porn Something with meaning
I’d like to make my shame count for something
Car Seat Headrest – Not What I Needed
When I was young enough for it to be sad I got caught shoplifting. I had been shoplifting since a lot earlier, but had stopped after the time my mom caught me. She made me cry. I had stolen a pack of gum that first time. I did it at an Ace Hardware in Wisconsin. I was shocked that these things can happen when no one is looking. I told my mom thinking she’d be impressed by my deft sleight of hand and I was reminded of the extreme hardship of the American small business owner.
When I got a little older I started stealing food, trading cards, spray paint, and anything else I could get my hands on from Multinational Corporation.
A few years later I was hanging out in my friend’s garage, the one that touches my dick in a different way (one that I like and wish he’d use that word), and he’s showing me a yard sign he stole. He has everything he stole hanging up in his man cave in his parent’s garage. His dad doesn’t need a man cave. He has a wife and multiple kids and a meaningful role in the community. Signs from the school, my friend’s part time job, traffic cones, posters of naked women, posters of scantily clad women holding beer, and all other assorted detritus sat around a couch, CRT television, and Nintendo Gamecube. We’re like, sixteen maybe? I drove to his house. I drove him around. I had stopped stealing.
So a few years before that I’m stealing from Multinational Corporation. This is before I go to Catholic high school. This is before I smoke laced weed out of every piece my friend’s friend owned. His friend drove us to Reggie’s pizza which is actually a gas station which is actually a joke about reggie weed, which it was not and that is what John Dough said upon inspection. The bong was broken though. It would be years before I smoked a bong. Everything but. That’s why I started smoking again. We were freestyle rapping, like kids without permits do. My knees kept bending. I didn’t recognize that I wasn’t standing straight. John Dough kept saying, what’s up with your legs? Then I got scared. He drove me home and said he was on acid too. My original plan that night was to listen to Gorillaz. I got home and ran screaming into my bed. I thought my bed was the only place free from Hell’s flames. My mother found me screaming and let me know she thought whatever was happening there was enough punishment. She went back to the party she was at. It was enough punishment. Not for long.
Whoops. I’m telling glory stories. Snap the band on your wrist. Center. Name five things in the room. So a few years before that I’m stealing from Multinational Corporation. The whole crew was stealing shit to egg each other on. I took a risky grab. Male thongs. It’s not only an article of clothing for women. It has a pouch that your nuts still spill from. Even shriveled HRT nuts spill out of these things. But there are thongs for men, just like there’s Uggs for men, just like there’s a lot of things for men. Did you know in Australia thong means sandals? A thong isn’t just a part of post-9/11 fashion. There’s more to life than the whale tail, and even if it was all whale tail men can partake in the trend too.
Whoops. I took the men’s thongs. I was working my way up to the big ticket item. Men’s Uggs. This is before high school, right? Still sad. It’s risky. For a big strong man that has recently hit puberty it’d be embarrassing to get caught. All my friends steal their shit and go. I’m still walking around. There’s a guy who’s been on me the whole time. I’m thinking what the fuck is up with this pedophile? He’s watching me everywhere. He’s tailing me like it’s his job. Jesus fucking christ this guy is gonna attack me! So I’m running from this sicko to get outside and he grabs me. I fucking knew it! He says loss prevention and then I realize Walmart has plainclothes pigs. Goddamn brownshirts everywhere. I think oh shit I need to scream or say he has his dick out, but I stop. I let it happen. I could wrench my hand. I’m done. I’m tired. Now I know I could have sued Multinational Corporation and won because he grabbed me like that. I don’t want to see my friends outside.
He takes me to a back room and I’m quiet. I say I’m a minor. After that I stay quiet until I don’t know and then my mom is there. It’s my first offense. I was stealing less than ten dollars of merchandise so I can get off scot free. If I get caught again I will be sued. All systems use the same database. If I get caught elsewhere I will be sued.
When I’m in my mom’s car she’s listening to XRT and a song I’ve never heard is playing. Her engine roars up in the silence and she turns up the music. There’s some twinkling guitars and a calm monotonous bassline. I like it a lot.
They told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn’t listen Never thought I’d get caught and wind up in prison Chalk it up to youth but young age I ain’t dissing
I guess I just had to get it outta my system
I’m crying. Hard. My mom isn’t. I’m afraid god is real and I’m having another one of those moments of divine providence. God is a My Morning Jacket fan? God is in the radio? I’m afraid this shit happens so much that god’s always watching me. I should be so lucky. Snot is running down my face. I’m wiping with my polo. My mom says thongs. I say men’s thongs mom there’s thongs for men and it doesn’t mean anything more than that.
It’s a shame. It’s freshman year. The timeline isn’t adding up. I figured that out looking up the release date of the single. Maybe it is divine providence. I heard that day one? It doesn’t matter. I have to account for this. I’m doing something honest and earnest. I’m calling attention to it in a way that casts doubt on everything here. I am at Catholic school. I’ll finish my one semester and snap early in two. We’re the worst aren’t we? Sinning on end knowing god will one day forgive us.
I got a used laptop and learned you can steal anywhere, anytime. This is middle school. This is when I went out once with the boy with the white dreads (dreamy). He taught me first. His older brother taught him the trade. I think he knew Gerogerigegege in sixth or seventh grade. Fucking wild. We saw the Fast and Furious reboot. My friend showed us how to totally break open the school laptops and get past every firewall. She went on to transition too. If you’re out there, text me. Then we just have to use private mode on Firefox.
I get caught stealing shit twice. I’m stealing everything. I don’t care about the letters. Rips of movies that just got sent to the members of the Academy, screener copies. Porn. Music. Not Metallica, they’ll catch you. South Park let me know. Ska music. Punk rock. Discography. I learned that word from torrent sites. Why not have an entire band’s discography at my fingertips? Who knows when I’ll go deeper. I am stealing nonstop and I am listening to the song “Drive It Like You Stole It” by The Glitch Mob while doing it. I stole that too. I’m actually probably listening to “We Can Make The World Stop.” A song I believe is exclusively about me. I stop pirating though. The Service Provider threatens a service shutdown. I’ve fleeced the occasional credit card outside of the family. I’m living large. This only works when each of your neighbors never does a detailed read of their statements. I started thinking about credit cards when I found out three guys I knew had a MyFreeCams premium account and they’d all watch this sexy granny together. TommiLemon999 or something. She’d play with toys half as large as her. She made money hand over rubber fist. If you know the lore, this is back when the top streamer was doing public library shows.
There’s one video I can’t get. The teaser is maybe a minute long. This was just before everything was too easy to get for a little while. Time Abreast with Alex Chance and Felicia Clover. The lead actor is actually good looking. His (stage) name is Romeo. No shit. I bet I could get two chicks at the same time if I was named Romeo.
A few weeks later my mom is walking down the stairs. She yells have you been stealing? We’re alone, but that doesn’t matter with shame. I proudly proclaim no. I’ve become a skilled boldfaced liar. So you have nothing to say about “Time Abreast”? Yes I do. Please don’t continue. Alex Chance. And. Please mom, I admit it. Time Abreast Alex Chance and Felicia Clover and what is the mp x 4? What is this? Please don’t say it again. I’ve admitted that I stole it. I knew you did. Saying it is how I get to have fun with this for the rest of my life. And she has. She’ll continue to for the rest of her life. I gotta get ahead of it. Own it to the public. She was on the phone with me recently. I was complaining about getting fucked over. She told me about a grudge she has held for thirty-five years. Holy shit dude. Runs in the family.
So I stop stealing movies and all that. It severely limits me. Theft is important for the preservation of art. I go straight for real. Just me and my endless rage.
I’m sitting at my mom’s table and if I had been caught stealing I’d be old enough for it to be something that’s disappointing, but not anger inducing. It would create a sense of resignation or even failure. I don’t remember how old I am. I have been through extensive treatment including the extreme options. I’m liable to be very wrong at this point.
The phone rings twice. She doesn’t answer the first time. It’s because things are okay and we are chatting. Or I’m assuming that because she didn’t answer the first time. Or I’m making that up, but it feels like I’m remembering it. It was night. For sure.
She goes to pick up the phone when it keeps ringing. It’s dinner time so it must be important. I was hoping to ask for Lou Malnati’s. She walks back into the room where I’m sitting. The room we’re in is a combination kitchen and dining area. I don’t remember it before the renovation, but it was always a kitchen and a table. My mind is so fucked.
She’s giving me daggers. I’m scared. She’s on the phone. She’s saying there’s no need for litigation. She’s saying a lot of things. Then she’s saying that’s literally impossible. Then she says don’t condescend to me, it did not happen today. Then she’s giving me daggers. Then she’s breathing hard and listening intently. She says she’s right next to me. Then she’s looking at me again and finally she tells them to put her on hold and pull up the exact details. She’s on hold and she looks right at me and she tells me I’m on camera stealing TVs. She says Multinational Corporation has already drafted a suit. This is plausible to her. I get it. I’m not getting pizza. She gets off hold. She breathes out. It was literally impossible.
I’m stealing TVs on screen in Florida. I’m 55 years old. I’m bald, closer to plausible. I’m on camera and audio saying I (legal name) will steal every TV in Florida. Plausible from me. The wrong person got pinged with a second entry in the database from my thong adventure. It’s impressive none of the other ones got caught. One website says there’s 150 of us in the USA alone. I wonder who explained the mixup on his end.
Gwen Hilton is a writer in Chicago. You can purchase her novella Sent to the Silkworm House from Expat Press.
image: MM Kaufman