Writing Prompt: Write about something that haunts you to this day
Falls ending. The freezer box cold is taking over, and the sandy winds swirl me through this dry city, with a memory as clear as mist. Dreaming awake through my days, I follow Chuck everywhere. Knowing I am one of her many strays. When we move, I find that time is out of our minds, with no scruples, or anything to hold us down except our feet, I feel so light. When we pause in our tracks we remember that life is transitory. Then we are back on a bus heading somewhere and the thought is gone. Every day we wander through this city like highlighters, where you have no choice but to look at us—and every day we blend into this town like rain on the sidewalk. If she wants, you won’t feel Chuck touch your hand and graze your pocket. Later you will find something gone. Recalling your day, you’ll be sure that it fell out somewhere.
On the off days I come home, when I can’t stand another day without new clothes, and a shower. Alone, I ask myself what I’m doing with her? Why I’m not in school, or working part time? How long can wandering last? Then I fall asleep, and at dawn, when I’m pulling on a new outfit, and a backpack over my shoulder of: extra clothes, bus tickets, spare change, water bottles, I remember. It wasn’t that I wasn’t living without her. It just wasn’t the life I wanted to live. And it’s as simple as that, because, when you start to live the way you want, the change is so shifting to your soul, that when you think about how you lived before, it really is like you didn’t do much more than exist.
We are meeting at a park, just a few blocks up from Portland State University. It’s hot today, for the first time in maybe four months. Rather it’s muggy. Sitting in the grass, in my long sleeved t-shirt dress I feel my underarms begin to get wet. Still the sky is a dusty grey; it could begin to rain at any moment. I take off my black suede boots, and let my bare toes dig in the grass.Chuck spent the night at her boyfriends. When I see her coming up the street, she’s dressed in an oversized brown carhart’s Jacket that covers her high-wasted shorts, making it look like underneath the jacket she’s completely naked.
“Hayoo!” She yells, waving.
“Howdy do!” I yell back.
She plops down beside me in a huff. Tossing down her backpack she rifles inside it, pulling out a long white joint.
“A gift from the angel himself. Adam Mills.” She hands the joint to me.
“For me?” I ask, putting a hand to my chest. She scoffs and rolls her eyes.
“No bitch for me, but I’m going to smoke it with you.” She tosses me her lighter. I put the joint between my lips, and roll my eyes. She doesn’t see. She moves her backpack behind her to use as a pillow for her head.
“How kind of you.”
“Yeah well I’m already high so…”
We lie in the grass, in the park that sits open in the middle of Downtown Portland. Smoking pot like we’re behind closed doors. No one glances at us. Or they glance briefly and smile to themselves, remembering their own lives. I close my eyes, with my head against my backpack. The heat falls on my face like warm velvet. Just as I begin to melt into the ground, I hear Chuck jolt forward, and my eyes are open again. Already she’s slugging her backpack over her shoulder, running a quick hand through her short black curls.
“Today we need to stop at goodwill so I can get some clothes, and take them to buffalo to sell. Then we can stop at the store and get some food. But not the chicken, I’m really sick of the chicken. We have to catch the train before three, so we can be in Troutdale before dark. If there’s time we can maybe stop at the sandy river for a bit. I want to take some pictures with my black and white, for photography.”
“Okay.” I pick up my backpack, and stand up beside her. “Can we get macaroni today?”
She shakes her finger at me, “You know what Williams? That sounds pretty good.”
We both grin.
I don’t steal, I used too, and frequently. There was a time when I could go to the mall, with no money in my pockets, and come back home with a brand new designer wardrobe. But I don’t now, and I’m not sure I remember how too either. When I was fifteen I was caught, at Macy’s Department store, shoplifting with my best friend. It wasn’t my fault. I was stealing, but I was caught because my friend was careless, and took more “True Religions” than their bag could carry. It was Dec 23rd, two days from Christmas, and my dad’s birthday. My heart dropped to my toes, when my Dad was the one that answered the police’s phone call. He was the one that came to pick me up from the Macy’s holding cell. I sat on a stool in the back of the room, and when he came into the room, he towered over me, and over the two standing cops. He glanced at me once, his face was completely even, and then he didn’t blink again in my direction. I started shaking, bawling, so hard into my hands, I wondered how frightened one truly had to be to have an actual panic attack. I hoped that when I lifted my hands off my face, somehow I’d be transported into my unsuspecting bedroom. I couldn’t fathom, after all my months of stealing more than hundreds of dollars worth of stuff, sly, with ease, like cat woman herself, I had been caught not by the police but by my father, on his birthday, two days away from Christmas. He was the only man, who had ever really scared me, who could really make me cry, just by grimacing. And this was the first time I ever saw my dad so furious, He didn’t smack me upside the head, he didn’t yell, he simply ignored my existence, and carried on with it for weeks.
Still I get tempted to steal again: when I see a beautiful red dress in the window of Nordstrom’s, or velvet platform wedges, in some bourgeois boutique. But mostly when I watch chuck walk out of a store with her arms full of food, grinning shamelessly, like the rotisserie chicken, and bottle of wine in her hands only came from the sample counter.
I stand beside Chuck at Goodwill, as she wheels a cart already overflowing with clothes, down the women’s sweater aisle. Most of these aren’t for Chuck’s own closet, most of these clothes she will sell back to a consignment store for cash, or store credit. Chuck claims I won’t get in trouble if I’m not the “actual person” shoplifting the items. I don’t know if that’s true or not. If a situation seems too shady I will still take a momentous step away from her, wait outside, or meet up with her at a park around the corner. “Stop being a little bitch.” She always says:
“You’ve been caught once. I’ve been caught twice. And gotten my ass beat over it by my dad.”
“Well I’m a coward.” I shrug, though it’s more than that. My family is by no means rich, nonetheless, we’ve always gotten by, and with a little more than what’s needed. Unlike Chuck, I’ve never opened up my fridge and found it completely empty. I’ve never gone hungry in my own house. Or had to steal clothes, because the only pair of jeans I have, came from 8th grade, and couldn’t go another day let alone survive an entire senior year. More than fun, there is necessity behind Chuck’s stealing. I do understand why she does it, and because I have no real reason to steal, I’d be a spoiled asshole to get caught. But I don’t tell Chuck this. I don’t like comparing my life with Chuck’s ever. Both us two black and white mixed girls born and raised in Portland Oregon, have much in common in the way that we were raised. Just the same we’ve grown up worlds apart, and it only takes a minute to realize who grew up with the cushier life.