Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.
- Lucy Fitzpatrick (also, maybe Buddha).
Flesh was a strange color for nail polish.
I understood black (for the Goths) and even gray to a certain extent, but flesh? You were just painting your nails the same color they already were. It was like dying your hair red when you were a ginger.
I stared at the selection of colors in the cosmetics section of the local department store, trying to resist the urge to pick up that oh-so-tempting shade of canary yellow and shove it in my handbag. You don’t need it. You don’t need it. You don’t need it. Material objects are transitory. The joy they bring is momentary and hollow . . . Strangely, my mantra wasn’t working right then.
So, you’ve probably already guessed my secret. I had an addiction . . . or maybe a compulsion was the better word.
I was a thief. A shoplifter. And the mere sight of consumer items small enough to conceal within the confines of a purse or a coat pocket gave me twitchy fingers like you wouldn’t believe.
It was abhorrent, I knew that, and I struggled daily with my guilt. In fact, I’d been doing so well in my attempts to quit. To be a better person. Six months ago I’d moved to New York to begin a new job as a celebrity photographer/blogger/YouTuber, and I resolved to stop. It was my chance for a fresh start. I hadn’t stolen a single thing in all that time. Yes, the Big Apple remained untouched by my habit for five-finger discounts. And yet, there I stood, just itching to steal that flipping ridiculous bottle of nail polish.
I knew the reason why, and her name began with a J. That would be Jackie Fitzpatrick, my mother, and provider of inferiority complexes everywhere. It was summer and I’d come home to Dublin for a visit, see my brother and his fiancée, meet up with some friends. The problem was, I’d committed to staying at Mam’s for the duration. I was only back a day before she started in with the usual comments.
When are you ever going to meet a man and settle down?
Those baggy jeans do nothing for your figure.
Going out with you when you’re dressed like that is embarrassing.
No man is going to want to marry a girl with so many opinions.
Have you considered coming with me for a Brazilian wax? Men love it when you’re smooth. (I’d blushed like a maniac after that one.)
Would you please do something different with your hair? Looking at all those colors is giving me a headache.
So yeah, even though it was wrong on so many levels, stealing was that hit of relief I needed in order to deal with my mother’s constant criticism. In fact, I’d come by it rather by accident. One day I’d been on the phone to her while in a deli, she’d been berating me for something, and I’d been so stressed that I’d walked out before paying. An odd relief hit me when I realized I’d stolen, even if it was inadvertently. After that the compulsion grew and grew, until it was completely out of control . . . it was getting out of control again.
My need for relief won out over my feelings of guilt. I snagged the bottle, dropped it discreetly into my bag and turned to leave. I’d just stepped away from the aisle toward the exit when a voice called, “Hey! Wait.”
My heart began to race and heat flooded my cheeks. I’d been caught. It wouldn’t be the first time, but still, it didn’t get any less embarrassing or anxiety inducing to be found stealing. Nothing else for it, I turned and was met with a pair of eager brown eyes. Those eyes belonged to a young guy, about my age, and also an employee of the shop. I waited for the expected spiel. He was going to ask me to step back inside so he could search my bag, and then the humiliation and shame would follow. I most definitely deserved it.
“Lucy? Lucy Fitzpatrick?” he asked hesitantly.
I glanced from side to side. How did he know my name? “Uh, yeah.”
He smiled. “I’m Ben, Ben O’Connor. We went to school together, remember? I used to sit by you in History.”
Now that I looked at him properly, I did remember. I think I asked to borrow his pencil sharpener once. It was a surprise I could recall him, because normally I had a memory like a sieve. I actually had to use tricks sometimes in order to recall people’s names. For instance, when I first met my new friend in New York, Broderick, I kept envisioning him in a brown hat with helicopter wings and a long trench coat. That way my brain could make the connection to Inspector Gadget being played in the movie by Matthew Broderick, hence my new friend’s name was Broderick.
“Oh yeah,” I smiled, while on the inside I was crapping myself. Had he seen me taking the nail polish? “I remember now. It’s been a while. How are you doing these days?”