A Cure to Kleptomania: My Special Hobo

December 4, 2007
By Elisha Votruba, Stafford, VA

I rolled the nail polish around in my hands indecisively. It wasn’t a question of “would I?” It was a question of “when will the store clerk stop looking?” My purse was already filled with random goodies that I had collected from around the store. They were small, paltry items in which I had no real use for.
I didn’t need the fingernail clippers. That’s what God gave us teeth and the ability to nibble for. I could go my entire life without having blue mascara. And, seeing as I was only twelve years old, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing with the box of lubricated contraceptives. I considered giving them to my older brother as an early birthday present.
I turned my back to the security camera as I ever-so-discretely peeled the price tag off of the small bottle of cement-gray polish. It had to have been one of the ugliest colors I had ever seen. Yet in either my purse or my stash at home I already had every other color imaginable. Nail polish was easy to finger, and the lack of room in my bag would have objected to the loofah that I had been eyeing with interest.
At that point I was thankful that the store clerk was some lackadaisical teenager that was completely preoccupied with texting on his cell phone beneath the counter. Otherwise he would have noticed my forever-expanding knapsack.
At times I felt like I was just asking to get caught. I had become so good at my trade, my hands so skilled in the art of theft, that it was getting boring. That left me flustered. I didn’t steal from a lack of money. I stole because I was addicted to the small thrill that accompanied the steal. It was like a mental orgasm. Its satisfaction would gush over me like cool water, each droplet trickling down my back and soothing the tense muscles of anxiety knotted in my shoulders.
My bag shifted and the coconut scented candle bruised my hip, causing me to grimace. I re-shouldered the bag and grunted from the heavy load. I was a kleptomaniac; there was no doubt in my mind. The addiction was consuming. There was no store that was immune to my ninja-like hands. The local grocery store had lost countless candy bars to my merciless greed. Gas station attendants had scratched their heads in curiosity as to where the three boxes of doughnuts went. Convenient stores must have lost at least a thousand dollars worth of merchandise to my selfish needs.
I was ready to make my exit. That’s when a pair of strong hands placed themselves on my shoulders.
Oh Lord, I thought to myself. This is it. I’ve been caught. Stupid nail polish.
I turned hesitantly. I was ready to face the cashier, or even a police officer. Would he use handcuffs or those plastic wrist-binding death traps? Would he read me my Miranda rights? Would I be shoved into the backseat of the police cruiser?
It would probably smell of drunken vomit and marijuana, small reminders of those who had been there before me.
I am not a criminal!
The bag weighing down my shoulder disagreed.
I didn’t mean to, I swear. I could just hear myself begging him to understand. I was just putting it there until I got a basket! I have money, see! See!
I turned, slowly, my body slumped in defeat. What would my parents think?
At first I didn’t think I’d be able to meet the officer in the eyes. I was too ashamed. But when I stared at a pair of worn sneakers and frayed jeans, I realized that my foe was not of the law enforcement nature. I stepped back to take in the man. My eyes bulged and the jaws in my muscle went slack.
I was unprepared for the man that had touched me. He had to have been six and a half feet tall, rocking slowly from worn shoe to worn shoe. His face was buried beneath his thick scruff of a beard. His mess of shoulder length hair that was knotted into a mane of filth stuck out in odd directions. He wore a winter hat filled with holes and a worn brown trench coat that ended at his knees.
I emitted a started squeak when I met his eyes, or rather, the veiny whites stretching away from the bridge of his nose. He stared at the cartiledge of his ears, left and right, a freakish deformity that made my skin crawl. Then I saw his warm and childishly eager-to-please smile and felt a reluctant throb of passion in my heart.
“You’re a beautiful girl, such an angel,” he spoke with an obvious mental retardation. He pulled me close and buried my face against his chest. I was suffocating in the musty scent of dirt and rain. He smelled like a stray dog that had gotten caught in a storm while eating out of the trash.
There was something so pathetically endearing about him that I couldn’t help but hug in return.
“You’re an angel, such a beautiful angel, and God loves you, you beautiful girl. Never forget that God loves you,” he kept repeating himself, whispering the words into the top of my head as he petted my hair and held me tight.
I can’t describe the euphoric sensation of being loved by a hobo. It was unconditional, unfounded. He didn’t care that I was a criminal. He loved me. According to him, God—in his questionable existence—loved me. Despite my flaws, despite the seed of evil that was planted firmly in my belly, I was loved.
He let me go and was still smiling. He petted my head one last time, the rough fabric of his gloves chafing my ears. Then, as quickly as he had shown up in the convenient store, he turned on his heels and departed. He disappeared through the doors. The only sign of his presence was the jingle of the door, slowly fading just as he had.
I was left breathless in his wake.
I did the only thing that was left for me to do.
I dropped my knapsack on the floor. I abandoned my culpable thievery and trotted out the door.
The air had never smelled so sweet, I had never felt so alive, and I wasn’t even tempted to look over my shoulder at what I had left behind.

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