Monday, March 30, 2009

The Purse Thief

Category: Issue 14

I fell in love with his photo-fit eyes, and knew then I had to make him mine.  I would have preferred they picked a better mouth, but that’s okay, because the eyes are perfect.  All black and grainy, yet they stare right down into you, like looking into dead subway tunnels where no trains will ever ride again.  You could walk down them for days and hear nothing but the clammy drip of walls and staccato replies to your own footsteps.  I snipped the picture out neatly and blue-tacked him by the sink so he can watch while I brush my teeth in the mornings.  It starts the day right, knowing that he’s there.

They said he got seventeen handbags in the past fortnight, which is prolific, to say the least.  It makes me wonder what I’ve done in the past two weeks.  In honesty?  Not much.  I’m probably wasting my time, trying to make £1000 a week working from home, sending those stupid envelopes off to God knows where.  But this is good.  Now I have a new project; I’m going to make him fall in love with me.  And when he does, I’ll keep his secret safe.  Of course, he’ll have to stop the thefts then, I won’t have him touching other women’s bags.  But then he won’t need to; he’ll have me.  It’s going to be a beautiful life.

The bag I’ve bought is perfect for the job.  Beautiful, but quirky, with its cracked green leather like hotel lobby couches.  The strap is long enough to fall off my shoulder when he grabs it, but not so long it’ll tangle or trouble him when he runs.  And there’s ample space inside for everything I need. 

He looks old-fashioned, I’m sure he wants a classic lady. It’s essential to get the details right.  You’d be surprised; it’s so easy to fall out of love with someone.  It takes so little.  I grind the Harlot Red lipstick down on the back of my hand until it’s perfectly smooth.  In my mother’s make-up drawer, the lipsticks were always worn into vicious pointy hooks.  It’s little wonder their marriage ended in divorce and recriminations.  She never tried hard enough to make it right. 

I also tuck in an old polka-dot silk scarf, write a line from Byron on the back of a bus ticket and zip it in the side pocket.  A vial of Dior goes in the front, it smells like kissing in sepia tones, and he’s definitely the sepia type.  Some small change from foreign countries; I am well travelled, and nostalgic.  How could he resist?

Of course, the diary is the most important part.  I start optimistic, in a fountain pen scrawl;

If found, please contact 01223 873659

I’m sure he would never respond to biro. 

The rest of the night is spent filling in appointments; film times, dinner dates and, in an act of brilliance, my menstruation dates in small red print, purposefully underlining one in February and placing three question marks beside it.  It suggests a life of high-class living and mild promiscuity.  I close the book, impressed, slip it in and close the clasp.  I’m ready.

They say most of the thefts were around Darlington Road and the St James Mall, so that’s where I’m going.  I’m a little worried that maybe he won’t be there, since that’s where they’ll be looking for him.  Clutching the bag comforts me though.  There’s no way he could resist it.  I think about applying a little of the lipstick in honour of the occasion, but I’m worried that might ruin the shape, so decide against it.

The shopping centre is far busier than I expected, and I can’t see him anywhere.  I walk round trying to look unconcerned, counting a salsa two-step to my heels.  I let the escalator carry me up (two, three, four,) like a huge tired, industrial zip.  On the upper floor, people gather and spill like mercury ball bearings.  None of the faces who pass by me has his eyes. 

Where is he?

It’s been five hours, they’re starting to pull down the shopfront grills.  I’m still holding the bag.  I don’t understand.  The security guards are starting to drive around now with their two-seater buggies, and I’m going to have to head home.  I’m sure there’s an explanation, but God, I hope it’s not that they’ve caught him.  I’m too young to be a convict’s wife, spending my best years in visiting rooms, pressing our hands to each other against the cold mesh, pouring out feelings on Her Majesty’s Stationery.  Oh, I know I’m probably worrying for nothing.  He’ll be fine, he’s probably just being cautious, taking a break while the pressure’s high.  He’s a smart one, I can tell.  That’s what it’ll be.  I’ll have to try again, tomorrow.  I’ll have to try harder.


Taking a break?  Like hell he was.  The Gazette says it’s now twenty-six bags, and there’s even a quote from that old bitch Jeanette down the road about how he jostled her arm as he snatched her saggy old satchel.  I can’t believe he touched her.  She’s not even his type.  She wears lilac cardigans with floral stitching, and her lipstick’s coral.  I don’t even want to think about him right now, it’s put me right off.  I mean, imagine.

Oh, but I can’t stay mad at him for long.  I went in to get my pills from the cabinet, and he looked right at me, pleading through his eyes.  His stare was so beguiling, I forgave him everything.  I’m going back to the mall tomorrow, I’ve added some more dates to the diary, it’s all okay.  This time I’ll get lucky. 

Another seven hours wasted.  It’s so tedious, the waiting.  By 5pm, I was ready to start flinging my bag at any man who passed by, but then I’d catch their eyes and know: they’re not him.  I tried loitering outside the more upmarket places, reasoning that if he was around, perhaps he’d favour their customers.  The ones with bags full of jewellery and twenty pound notes.  I’m sure that’s what he thinks he wants, but I know in reality he’d be so thrilled to get mine.  I can see him rummaging through it, struck first with disappointment at the lack of money or cards, his face crumpling.  But then he’d notice the content, properly notice it, and a little gasp would escape him, and he’d realise that someone understood.  That disappointment would melt into tenderness, a gentle smile.  And then: love.  If only he knew. 

It’s too late for today though.  I’m going home, going to make some dinner and have an early night.  Tomorrow’s Wednesday, the paper comes.  Maybe they’ll have another picture, or an article, a lurid description of one of the thefts.  I can’t wait.  There’s nothing more for me here today.

It’s over.  They caught him last night, after he tried to grab some student’s backpack, not realizing she was the second ranked sprinter in the university athletics group.  And these girls, they have no sense of decorum, when to hold back on a man.  She chased him, tackled him, then the police came.  Now he’s up in court next month, thirty-four separate charges.  That’s not the worst of it though.  Not even close.

They showed his picture in the Gazette, looking up at the camera with his hands cuffed behind.  He looks…ordinary.  Nothing like his photo-fit.  Nothing at all. His eyes, they’re all sort of darting and sneaky looking, and his chin is quite pointy.  I started to feel all breathless when I saw it, so I ripped it out and tore it into little strips and flushed them all down the toilet, and I feel a bit better now.  But I can’t believe I wasted my time on him.  He didn’t deserve me.  It was the picture, the photo-fit, they tricked me.  I thought about taking it down but when I went to do it, he looked at me again, almost sadly.  I realised then, it wasn’t his fault at all.  He couldn’t help that the purse thief looked nothing like him.  So I’ve left him pinned up by the cabinet, where he can watch me brushing my teeth.  I like to see him there in the morning.  It starts the day right, knowing that he’s there.

Posted by Jane Flett on 03/30 at 05:14 AM | Permalink
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