crime

Stealing Books

I was working in a medium-sized open-plan office space halfway up a skyscraper. The view outside included streets, other buildings, and the landscaped gardens of some dark-stoned stately home. I answered my phone, and the voice at the other end said "Look at your monitor," in rather ominous tone; so, of course, I did.

What I saw was myself, in grainy black-and-white CCTV footage, hauling an entire shelf of books out of the front door of a large bookstore in a wheelbarrow. A moment of amnesiac confusion, and then it hit me all at once - oh Christ - that stupid, drunken night! I remembered: breaking a window, browsing the bookstore shelves blind drunk while the alarm sounded, tipping a whole shelf into my handy wheelbarrow and exiting in a relaxed, happy manner.

Now the full possibilities of consequences hit me. "God, I'm so stupid," I said, and the voice at the other end sounded amused but not moved. There was some kind of wordless communication of futures: prison, fines, humiliation. I thought of my family and felt so guilty that I'd let them down and failed in my responsibility.