Charnock Richard

By Vladimir Deng

  


I started stealing a few years back. Life was better then. I had purpose, work and money. I remember the first time well. My friend and I were driving to London for work matters. We took a toilet and smoke break at a service station in the north-west of England. It was late in the day, and I was feeling peckish, so I stopped in the shop for a few snacks for the journey. I saw chocolate bars at three times their normal price. An idea came to me, a temptation. I made the decision to take two of them. I looked around. One bored cashier, struggling to stay awake. A band of weary coach passengers marching towards the bathrooms. I lifted two bars of chocolate, put them in my coat pocket, and walked towards the car. Nobody spotted me, and even if they had, I doubt that they would have cared. My companion asked me how much I had paid for the chocolate. I told him what had happened. He laughed as I defended myself. I pointed to the extortionate asking prices. Three times the price, and yet I'm the thief! Those guys, definition of highway robbery! 


I could say that I was taking a stand against rip-off merchants, and there would be some truth in that. However, thievery aside, I am an honest person, and I am therefore forced to admit that the thrill of the act was my key motivating factor. Thieving sweets, the preserve of mischievous children, was something I had not done in my youth. I felt as though I was making up for lost experiences. Before arriving in London, we pulled into another service station. My friend asked me to go and get some soft drinks. Two cans of coke for free. Something about those drinks and sweets tasted sweeter than normal, a point I insisted on back then, and unless my memory is failing me, I still stand by now. My friend agreed, but I'm not sure if he would say the same today. I don't know if he even remembers the journey.


After that trip, I continued to steal. It was always the same, sweets and drinks from late-night corner shops. I must stress that I had no need to steal in those days, there were no financial worries or addictions to fund. I never stole anything of real value either, only cans and confectionery. I was never caught, although I always targeted shops with indifferent staff. Each time, the thrill returned. For me, it was a release, something to add a little spice to the day. 


That was then. Stealing takes on a different flavour when one does it out of necessity. In those days, I felt as though it was all going so well, and would keep going that way. Life, poor choices and situations beyond my control. Although some may disagree on that last point. We're all supposed to look after number one, so I'm told. Some of us, evidently, aren't that good at it. I'm skint these days, moving between under employed and unemployed. I try to keep on the right side of the law. I want to show the job centre folk that I'm determined in my work search. I want to prove to the neighbours, and to my old friends, and especially to that friend from the journey all those years ago, that I can get my life back on track. I would do anything to get back into that life, into that frame of mind, into those days when shoplifting was little more than my source of harmless fun.


I avoid stealing as much as I can. I mean, I don't do it for fun, or as a rule. It's all fear. Only on occasion, when I've spent all I have on trying to keep my life together, do I slip a treat into my coat pocket. It never tastes sweet. It's not cheap being poor. There's no thrill any more.


stealing, everyday rebellion, identity