I remember being 13 and coming home from school to find my bedroom window forced open. I didn’t have to be a genius to know that someone had broken in. But I still found myself studying that unexpected opening, as if some unseen clue might reveal itself now that I, the room’s occupant, had returned.
The refrigerator in the kitchen was wide open. The gallon of my favorite lime drink was laying on the floor but sealed, proof that the thief had stopped for a bit of a refreshment on his way out. The TV and VCR were gone and my dog, who normally could be heard barking in another state, was locked in a room where someone he knew had placed him, looking like he’d just gotten up from a nap.
I wasn’t afraid and I knew what to do. I leashed the dog, went up the block with him and found a cop. The cop got on the horn and there was a wagon full of backup ten minutes later. I knew the place was empty but the cops did their whole gun-out-check-every-nook and-cranny-act until they came to the same conclusion.
They dusted for prints but never found anything. It was a quick in and out job. Crack money, or rent money. But not much else.
I’ve tended to view thievery as a kind or art, a complex puzzle. How do you find you way through a closed door, or a room without windows to get what you want? How do you get in and out undetected, without leaving a trace?
It was a Rubik’s cube that infected my taste in everything from movies and music to clothing (There’s nothing like stealing something choice off a thrift store rack and getting it for next to nothing). It got under my skin, and eventually into my work.
My childhood home was burglarized three different times. What they took was never recovered. No suspects. No witnesses. Were we out in the ‘burbs somewhere I might had wondered if we’d been hit by a ghost. The truth, however, was far more simple. It was most likely someone we knew.
I’ve always carried a short list of culprits in my head. Enough of the dudes I came up with in neighborhood had caught cases or been in and out of juvie. All of FFC knew me and my dog. But when it came to narrowing the list I never wanted to point a finger.
We had insurance. Life went back to normal. Why bother? Isn’t that usually what happens with us and ‘things’? Once they’re gone we give up the revenge plot and just let them go.
As I leave the towering inferno that my life became for most of my 30s behind, I’m trying to dismiss blame and suspects as much as I can. Over the course of living and learning the truth has come out about many a buried thing. As I tried to get to the bottom of myself, to rebuild, the dogs of curiosity and circumstance unearthed secrets and lies from prior seasons.
Other cogs in the machine sabotaged my own. Jealous girls remade the world to keep me from various other Juliets. Betrayal erupted from once peaceful soil seemingly without reason, then with more motives than I could count. Not unlike those cops more than 20 years, I came to understand that any further investigations would be too little, too late.
These days I myself have become a thief of sorts myself: copying and pasting fragments from the lives of others into my own collage, a document of past/present/future that seeks to explain what it’s was all about from my POV. And I’m reacquiring a future someone put in their pocket when they thought I wasn’t looking.
This time it’s not about things returned. It’s about a return to possibilities. If it’s for me to have I’ll have it again. I’ll tear down locks and steels walls to crack the case and make the switch and walk away with the name-engraved prize. This time I won’t wait for anyone to swoop in and save me. This time I’ll find justice on my own.