Monday, January 26, 2009

The Only Thing I've Ever Stolen.

When I was in eighth grade, my friends and I went to the mall almost every weekend. There wasn't much else for a thirteen-year-old girl to do in Bristol, Tennessee, at least not in the early '80s.

We had a nice big Rite Aid in our mall, and it was a required stop on the teen mall train. There was a rack of magazines right inside the door, and each week a portion of my five-dollar allowance went towards one of those bubbly teen celebrity magazines, like Bop, Superteen, 16, Seventeen, etc. (I was a "Duranie", you see -- that's pop culture slang for "Duran Duran fanatic" -- and I couldn't miss a single issue of any of the aforementioned publications. Because Duran Duran was in all of them in those days. How else could I keep up with John's favorite colors [red and black] and Simon's nickname [Charlie] and Nick's favorite kind of weather [gray and rainy]?)

Boy, y'know, it's amazing. I could stretch a five-dollar bill from one end of the mall to the other in those days. I remember paying $1.25 to get into the movies. Then maybe $1.25 for the magazine. That still left half my money for hair styling products, a treat from Orange Julius, or a couple of 45 records.

Anyway, so one day my friend Charlene and I were walking through the Rite Aid, and suddenly a rack of mascara packets fell on top of me. It was one of those spinning racks, and some genius had placed it perilously high atop a tall display case. Bubble packets of pink-and-green mascara tubes on cardboard backs rained down on my head as the rack tipped over. A Rite Aid sales associate rushed over to put the rack upright and slide the packages back on their skinny aluminum display rods. Charlene bought herself a flatulent can of fluffy hair mousse. We went back to my house and played with our hair.

As I was about to remove my white blazer with the big patch pockets (almost identical to the one Duran Duran's John Taylor wore in their famous all-white photo session), I noticed one of the pockets was weightier than it should have been. I put my hand in, and pulled out a brand new package of mascara.

"Oh my god!" I shreiked. "Charlene, look! This must've fallen into my pocket when that rack fell over!"

"Woo-hoo!" she cheered. "Free mascara for you!"

But I was horrified. I held it tentatively in my hand, out away from my body, like it was a gun.

"I can't believe I walked out of Rite Aid with this in my pocket. What if somebody had stopped me! They could've arrested me for shoplifting! And I didn't even notice it was there!"

As odd as it may sound, I felt something akin to survivor's guilt. Or like a woman who'd murdered for the joy of it and who remained twenty years unsuspected and unpunished.

I couldn't even bring myself to use the thing.

"Here, take this," I said to Charlene. "You use it. Take it home with you."

As if by keeping it I'd be cursing myself to a peculiar sort of transparency that only the employees of Rite Aid could detect. I'd innocently step inside the doorway for a look at the latest Bop and a girl in the signature blue apron would point and scream,

"Thief! Mascara thief! I see it written on her brain!"

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