Every other Tuesday and Thursday morning, I would walk up the steps to the city’s oldest candy shop. When I would open the green glass door a faint ding of a bell could be heard. I walk around the store once, then casually go over to the lovely little chocolate section of the store. Pick up the candy; one, two, three. Without the clerk noticing. Then I would reach up to the balloons in the corner and twirl around once. So that the end flap of my favorite jacket would fly up. Then immediately and oh so swiftly; I slip the chocolates right into the pocket inside my jacket. Next I give the clerk a nod and a smile, then walk out the door. I thought to myself “Piece of cake.”
Eventually my parents found out about my crimes. Although that was only when the clerk saw me and called the cops. All over three little chocolates. But I guess they would have to go to these “extreme” measures if they saw me in the act every month. Honestly I seriously could care less about the candy. The thought of actually buying the chocolate for five cents a piece didn’t even come to mind after a while. Plus, it wasn’t even nice, tasty candy, it was actually bitter sweet and I’m pretty sure it was old too. But I would still go back there every other week. You might be wondering why… I guess it was the thrill of theft, or maybe the satisfaction of getting away with it. Either way, I guess it became my hobby, but the games became tougher.
As I got older, I started to move onto bigger and better prizes. At age 12, I stole some shoes, clothes, and little toys from the convince store on the corner. Then I was starting to become a rebel. When I was 14, I stole a pack of cigarettes from my father, my uncle, and my best friends grandpa. Later when I turned 15, on New Years day I stole a shotgun from the hunting shop downtown with a couple of friends. Then when I learned how to drive, that was when things got fun. I earned my license, took off onto the road and never cane back. Although I never really owned my own real car until I was 32. I would usually hot wire the best looking car towards the back of a parking lot. Or fix up the ones left on the side of the road. In my time I have “owned” 159 vehicles. I bet not many people can say that, or say they have been to 49 states in the U.S. plus Canada. And have stolen something in every state. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble through the years. 74 warnings, 32 tickets, 12 fines, and a total of 641 days in jail. I have been asked many times how I can remember all these numbers, I simply tell them.
“When all you’ve ever done it take what isn’t yours. You learn to remember what you think you had. It’s never and item, it’s only a memory.”
Nobody ever had a response to me when I said that. They would nod, say “okay“, or even just walk away. Except for one man, he was my cell mate for a month. His name was Bert, but everyone always called him Ziggy. Only because you never knew what sort of trouble he would get himself into next. The day I met him I could tell he had been through a lot. He looked about 45 with a scraggly brown beard, and had a couple of tattoos on every visible part of his body. Each tattoo was a bible verse, book in the bible, or biblical saying. I suppose this is what he leaned on for help and what he made his, kind of like in my saying.
When we both got out of jail around the same time, he told me he wanted to take me to his favorite place in town. I thought it was going to be some diner or restaurant he loved. But as we were walking down an abandoned street, we came across a huge extravagant old church. The front of it had a stain glass window of Jesus on the cross. I never really knew what all that religious stuff was all about, but he was going to make sure I did, and never forget. We walked through the beautiful hand carved doors of the church, went down the isle way, and sat on a bench in the middle of the room. Bert told me how he would always come to this church with his family when he was just a little boy. He said this was where he learned about the person who died just for us, so we could be forgiven for all of the terrible things we did. His name was Jesus, but of course I didn’t know that. Bert explained to me that, that’s what the stain glass window meant.
Later on in life, Bert and I became good friends, and on every Sunday we would go to that church he first introduced me to. I learned a lot there, more than I have all through life. As time passed, Bert was getting very sick. I wasn’t too sure of what to do. His only family was me and God, so I was given the responsibility of taking care of him. Yet he was getting more and more sick, fast. It was getting to be too much to handle, I had to take him to the hospital. It turned out that he had been struggling to live with cancer in his brain. However the cancer had already taken over too much too fast, and he died a week later.
I continued to go to the same church, and on Easter Sunday that year, I heard the first lesson I was ever taught.
That Jesus gave his life on the cross to forgive all our sins, so that later when we pass away, we can go to heaven and be with Jesus forever. Then I thought to myself, how even though I could never forgive myself for all of the crimes I committed, Jesus did. That in itself was just remarkable to me, that was when I remembered all my numbers. 259 vehicles stolen, 74 warnings, 32 tickets, 12 fines, and 641 days in jail. It never occurred to me, but all those numbers were now gone, and forgiven.