The Kleptomaniac You

Winter is the best time. Wear a long coat. Common wisdom has it that heavy coats are best, but you should know better. Suppose you steal something big—do you want to try to put it under an already bulky coat?
    As a child, you stole bubblegum from the grocery store, and the occasional Star Wars action figure. Sometimes you would share the bounty with your brother, usually when you felt bad about it, wondering if you should tell him.
    But by junior high all that was gone. You went to the store at lunch time with your friends and stole chewing tobacco, Dorito’s, and cigarettes. Always a tobacco product, because you weren’t old enough to buy those. There was a heroism to it then. It was the spoils of war, you were the generous victor. In those days a stolen pack of menthols felt good just sitting in your pocket—you didn’t even have to smoke to enjoy that.
    In high school you stopped for a while. You had quit smoking, and of course it was impossible to steal alcohol. You stood by and watched your friends move on to get five-finger discounts at K-Mart and the mall. But why steal what you can buy? You told yourself that there was no thrill to it—that the stealing was worthwhile just for its own sake. You still deny that it is.
    Denial, they tell us, is the first sign of a real problem. So stop denying. You love to steal—even after all these years. Sometime sheer instinct compels you to grab a pack of gum and put it in your coat pocket, only to be embarrassed at the cash register when you pull it out to pay for it. You miss it; you still feel that itch. So put on your long coat and step out.

Drive around for a while, and try to decide on a place. Avoid the stores where high-schoolers get their kicks. Recall your best friend getting busted with The Doors’ Greatest Hits outside Sam Goody. Those places have cameras and candywrapper cops. Besides, you had it right—why steal what you can buy?
    Feel your stomach turn a little, and decide to get some food. Go somewhere where you won’t be bothered—McDonald’s or Arby’s, somewhere low-maintenance. Go inside to eat, and to collect yourself. Get a couple of burgers and a shake, and find a secluded table where you can think about this.
    Eat slowly and methodically. Feel your nerve begin to leave you; think about going home and watching the game. While dumping your tray, notice the straw dispenser. It’s authentic—it even has the golden arches on the top. It’s an American original, the kind that can’t be bought. Ignore the girl cleaning a table right next to you. Slip that dispenser under your coat and get out the door in one quick move. Cross the parking lot like a pregnant woman, holding the prize at your midsection.
Don’t miss the little things! Notice how cold the air is against the sweat on your hands. Notice how no one suspects a thing. Notice how hungry you are suddenly, even though you just ate. Hop into your car and set the loot on the passenger seat. Be prepared, though—when it leaves your hands, the steel will leave your nerves. Feel that shudder pass in a wave over your thighs, your gut and your shoulders. Wish you had had the foresight to use the restroom inside. As it passes, look over and wonder what the hell you’re ever going to do with a straw dispenser.