I had an addiction.
With six cavities at the age of eight and a sweet tooth that never subsided, I was setting myself up for a diabetic future. My parents knew this better than anyone -- candy and baked goods were off limits for me. There was never anything sweet at home, and if there was it would be hidden out of my reach. So, on that particular Friday evening, I was feeling pretty deprived.
Eating out was a rare occurrence. My family strictly believed that nothing was better than a home cooked meal, so the chances of heading out to dinner were slim to none. That day was an exception -- my sister’s fifteenth birthday. She had, much to my mother’s dismay, specifically requested a restaurant. Siam Square, a Thai restaurant she had visited once with her friends.
“Sure you can eat all that?” my dad asked, as a plate heaped with fried rice was set in front of me. Soft piano music and gorgeous paintings filled the small restaurant. I stared at the large portion of rice, pineapple, cashews, vegetables, and beef. Shortly before my dad had asked I had absolutely no interest in attempting such a feat, but now it sounded like a challenge. So, as my parents and my only (and favorite, as we liked to joke) sibling engaged in the normal, boring birthday small talk, I worked my way through the entire plate of fried rice -- vegetables and all. When I got up, I was so full I couldn’t walk properly.
Stuffed and groggy, I followed my family as they went to the counter to pay. It took a ridiculously long time for them to find a particular card, then it took even more time to process the card. It was a boring, time-consuming process and I would much rather be examining the glowing blue fish tank. There was a reason I came along, of course -- the bowl. There it was, filled with red and white stripes of pure sugar. Mints weren’t a favorite, but I couldn’t keep my mouth from watering. It was candy.
Timing, I had learned, was everything. The cashier, a boy with dark brown hair, took my father’s card to swipe. In that little corner, with his eyes focused on the machine, the bowl was in his blind spot. There was one more obstacle -- my parents. They were talking with each other, not paying attention to their surroundings. My sister was on her phone, probably texting someone. The coast was clear. So I went for it.
On my tiptoes, I reached into the bowl. I was going to grab a few -- maybe three or four -- but no, that didn’t feel like enough. So I went all out, grabbing an entire handful. In a split second, my hand went from the counter to my pockets. It was a perfectly executed, smooth, and quick motion. Nobody should’ve noticed. Except, I did not anticipate the plastic wrappers to crinkle like an explosion in my hands.
I didn’t even have the heart to look up. I could feel the eyes burning into me, and my pocketed hands were sweating.
“Wait here a moment.”
An unfamiliar voice, so I looked up. The cashier. He walked out from behind the counter and into a room with an “employees only” sign. I knew I had done it by then. There was some kind of limit to how many you could take, an unspoken rule among restaurants. I was going to be taken to candy stealer’s jail. My mother shot me a death glare, motioning towards my pockets. I immediately put the offending candy back.
The cashier emerged from the room, my heart beat increasing with each step he took. What was he holding? Why was it so enormous? Some kind of punishment? He was right in front of me now. Smiling, he handed me the item.
A bulk bag of mints.