We only steal what we can’t afford.
We can’t afford anything.
One of those statements is a lie, and it doesn’t matter which one. We steal bread like a swarm of angry Jean Valjeans. We slip cell phones down our pants. Brandy fills a travel mug with rolled up pairs of underwear. Ken once walked out of a bar with two bottles of vodka. We take from the rich. We take from the beautiful. We take, and take and take.
We want to give. We talk about it at night, drinking vodka, eating bread. We want to be heroes. It’s our great failing. We’ve snuck into too many movies. Pirated too many television shows. It’s easy to be good when you have great hair. We don’t have great hair.
“One big score,” says Li. They had worked at Macy’s for two weeks. Long enough to figure out how to steal the machine that removes security tags. Li is already a hero to the rest of us, but it’s not enough for them. “Rob a vault, and then we like drop the money into a crowd.”
“And start a riot?”
“The people should riot.”
“Yeah, over systemic inequality. Not to grab $20 from somebody else who needs it just as bad.”
“They’d all get arrested, and the cops would confiscate it anyway.”
We all pretended to spit, when Brandy said “cops.”
We argue about direct action and ethical spending. But Prue is a sloppy drunk, and when Candy helps her to bed, we all give up for the night.
Ken and I take a walk. The reservoir isn’t far. He’s describing an anime he watched. I can’t tell if it’s a movie or a series. A lot seems to happen, but for all I know, that could just be the prologue. I never really know what Ken is talking about. It’s my favorite thing about him. He stops talking when we get to the reservoir, when the sound of frogs is briefly overwhelming. I realize that I don’t understand how drinking water works. Do they have to strain out the tadpoles? Shouldn’t they build a dome to protect the water so nothing awful falls in?
“I got a job,” Ken says.
“Don’t get me wrong. Life of crime, it’s a great resume line, but I’m tired. I don’t feel bad about stealing, I just don’t feel great about it anymore.”
I understand but I never did feel great. I never expected to be a hero. I’m not Robin Hood. Or the Godfather. I’m just hungry. Forever hungry, and I want it to stop. Not to feel full, but for a moment sated. Maybe this stolen bag of chips will do it. Or that Precious Moments figurine.
“Good for you, man. I’m not being sarcastic. That just makes it sound more sarcastic, doesn’t it?”
“I’m not a traitor?”
“We’re not a cause. But if it’ll make you feel better. We’ll steal from you too.”
I want to steal something right now. Take something from the frogs, from this park, from the city or maybe even from God itself. I pick up a small rock. It’s a start.