For this prompt, I asked everyone to generate a list under the heading, “What Love Endures.” We generated some amazing lists, and each of us read phrases and words out loud, going around the room three times (which is what I usually do for list exercises). Some of my favorites are below.
phone calls at two a.m.
the terrible secret
a talk you need to have
Since I am revising a novel draft, I’ve been at a bit of a loss about what to write during the workshops, other than memoir pieces, which of course, are valid. But I miss writing fiction, so I occasionally play with writing a short story. What I wrote follows, and is the beginning of a piece I’d like to return to.
It’s hard to remember when I started stealing things.
Dr. Michaels has asked me to go back as far as I can remember. And the truth is, it goes back to some of my earliest memories. There are Super 8 films of me in my high chair next to my cousin, Alex, stealing bow tie pasta right off his tray. In Kindergarten, I stole mittens from Joe Malone in the coat closet at Loveland Elementary. And when I was eleven, I stole white strappy sandals from Mama’s closet, snipped the backs off, then cut large strips of medical tape to transform them into mules. I wore them for my private lip-synching sessions in my room: Olivia Newton-John’s part of “You’re the One that I Want,” over and over again. In high school, it was candy bars and cigarettes from 7-11, then it was clothes from JC Penny and Macy’s. I had tiny thread scissors that slipped right between the big white sensors clamped onto the clothes. I popped them right off.
I’ve never stolen a purse or a wallet, though I once grabbed someone’s suitcase from the airport carousel by mistake. I knew it wasn’t mine before I rolled it out to the curb, but I kept going anyway, the excitement of seeing what was inside rising in my chest like the promise of sex: lustful and secretive. The guy who the suitcase belonged to was about my size, so I really wanted to keep most of his clothes, but in the end I turned it in, sans one pair of red briefs.
Well, there was the car too. But just that once, and only for a joyride. The driver had run into the liquor store with the engine still running—a cherry red Barracuda with a diamond back window, AC/DC playing loud—and I wanted to know what a V-8 engine felt like on the freeway at 100 mph. I left it in the BART parking lot in Daly City; it wasn’t like I kept it or anything.
Dr. Michaels thinks it’s some repressed anger that’s driven me to steal all my life, some part of me that’s still an angry teen. But what excuse did I have in kindergarten that ultimately led Joey Malone to cry like a little baby?
“Where’d you get those mittens?” I remember my dad asking.
“I found them,” I lied. “Under a rock.”
And he believed me.