30 April 2011
More than One Condition: Of Dandruff and Paranoid Kleptomania
Anyway, I guess I was more absent minded than usual that day because I simply put the bottle of shampoo into my pocket. Of course, a sales clerk happened to be watching at the time, so I immediately jerked the bottle out of my pocket with a silly, embarrassed grin. Then I saw to my surprise that no sales clerk was watching me. In fact, nobody was watching me at all. What I had taken for a squad of undercover cops was really a rack of sunglasses on sale. In a flash, I realized what had happened. I had just experienced an episode of kleptomania followed by a paranoid hallucination. It was a textbook case.
In the next store, a supermarket, I had another attack of paranoid kleptomania. I stuck a package of pork chops under my coat then immediately felt intense remorse and fear of arrest. I felt compelled to return the item immediately but before I could put the chops back an employee in white apron appeared behind me. I darted into the next aisle, but it was crowded with shoppers. And the next aisle also. I paced around nervously, too scared to let anybody see me get rid of my stolen goods. Finally, I went next door to a book store, and there, in the darkest and most deserted corner -- the poetry section -- I slipped the package of pork chops in between The Wasteland and the poems of Emily Dickinson, figuring that if anybody smelled anything, they’d blame it on T.S. Eliot. On my way out, I stole a copy of Oliver Twist, which I left in a liquor store between the gin and vermouth. The owner of the liquor store was a suspicious type. I couldn’t steal with him watching me all the time. I could only keep reaching for bottles and then pulling my hand back suddenly. I finally decided to buy a bottle of wine, but he wouldn’t sell it to me.
It was slowly becoming apparent that a man with my particular compulsions shouldn’t be hanging around shopping centers. I decided to visit a friend. As we drank some iced tea and sat around chatting, I surreptitiously picked up little objects off his coffee table and tucked them in my shirt. Every time he got up to answer the phone or fetch more guacamole, I would replace the objects. When he discovered that his glass of iced tea was missing, I got down on hands and knees and pretended to find it under the couch. He was a little upset. “What the hell are you doing?” he bellowed. “What kind of stupid game is this?”
“Forgive me,” I said, as pathetically as I could. “I’ve become a kleptomaniac.”
He could only gape at me in surprise and shock.
“I’m guilty and I’m tormented with remorse,” I said. I pulled a small clock and a couple of coasters out of my pocket and put them back on the coffee table where they belonged. “You see,” I said, “I’m both kleptomaniac and paranoid.”
He thought about his for a moment.
“You are one pathetic, sorry-ass loser.”
It was a logical inference, but I didn’t like his tone of voice. “It’s better than being an arsonist and a nymphomaniac,” I said.
“You keep my mother out of this,” he said.
And that little sentence set me to telling him about my own parents. My father was a policeman and my mother was a shoplifter. They met in Woolworth’s, at the notions counter. Mom had the notion to steal something and Dad had the notion to apprehend someone. And that’s what they did. He courted her all the way to court. He told her, “If you don’t marry me I’ll testify against you in court and you’ll get ninety days.” “Some choice,” she said. “Ninety days or life.” And so my mother gave up a promising career in the glamorous field of price-tag switching in order to get married.
At this point in my reminiscences my friend gently takes me by the scruff of the neck and tells me to go home and try to stay out of trouble. Trouble is the only thing that you always get when you ask forit.
So I go home, but I’m still feeling kleptomaniacal, so I decide to steal from myself. I start lifting objects from my living room and sticking them in my pocket. But I don’t really enjoy this activity very much. For a thief, it’s like masturbating. The moves are the same, but there’s no relationship there.
Indeed, you can do anything you want with your own stuff except steal it. Which goes to show that ownership has its limits. We tend to think that the rich can do anything, but they can’t steal their own stuff. Luckily, they can generally count on the regular staff to do it without being asked. Poor people don’t have old, faithful servants to rob them; they have to depend on complete strangers.
At this point, I decide that I’ll just fake it. I call the police station and report a burglary. A policeman comes to my door.
“What’d you lose?” he says.
I name several items, such as an iPod, a gold neck chain, and an expensive watch—objects which are even now bulging in my pockets.
“See anybody lurking around here?” says the cop, flipping open his notebook.
I say yes and proceed to describe myself—my height, my age, my distinguishing features. The policeman gives me hard looks as he jots down the information. Finally he closes the notebook and growls from the bottom of his throat, suggesting that he has trouble expressing anger without the aid of a nightstick.
As soon as the door slams, I realize that I’m holding the policeman’s hat.
Sh#t, now I’m in trouble. What do you do with a hot cop cap? Bury it? Burn it? Suppose he comes back for it? I only have one thing going for me in this whole situation. I’m white. Everything else fairly sucks.
I get an idea. I go outside and walk around looking for somebody weaker than I am. Finally I see a kid spray painting dirty words on parked cars. I say, “Sh#t only has one ‘H’, Picasso.” He flips me a very impolite finger. I grab him and shove the cop’s hat on his head. “You arrogant tadpole,” I say. “I want to you to remove this haberdashery from the vicinity of my responsibility immediately.” It’s either my impressive choice of words or the arm lock around his windpipe that finally persuade him to take the hat. I let him go and he runs off.
Instantly, I feel a blessed relief. All the shimmering delusions of guilt, remorse, and paranoia just vanish and I experience the heady sensation of being a normal person. I am overwhelmed by normal thoughts and normal opinions. I vote for a politician who promises to make medical insurance unavailable, college education unaffordable, our lifestyle unsustainable, and the earth uninhabitable. And the beauty part of the plan is that the money saved from these cutbacks would be given to the very rich in the form of tax breaks. It all makes perfect sense to me for the first time. I can easily solve my own financial problems by winning the lottery.
As I am rejoicing in my normalcy, a cop car pulls up and a policeman without a hat comes out and puts handcuffs on me. In the back seat, I see the young graffiti artist. He is crying and pointing to me, saying, “That’s the one, that’s the one who tried to kill me.”
“You’re in big trouble now,” says the officer.
“I didn’t try to kill him, your majesty.” I know he’s only a cop, not a king, but it doesn’t hurt to flatter people a little in these circumstances.
“Your majesty, huh?” says the cop. “I don’t like that kind of sarcasm. You’re under arrest for insulting an officer of the law. In addition, I’m charging you with theft, assault, perjury, and several counts of shoplifting. You’re a real nutjob, mister! You need to see Doctor Twinkle Toes.”
“But I’m absolutely normal in all respects!” I say.
“Oh, you are, huh? The maybe I’ll change the assault charge to attempted homicide.”
Whoops! I thought it was called the Sanity Defense. My mistake.
I’m awaiting trial now, so I have to be careful and avoid stealing things. So I’m stealing words instead. Every single sentence that I’ve written here is stolen; this story is actually The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway, but I’ve rearranged the words very carefully so that nobody will ever be able to tell.
- Tags: Dandruff