Lately, I’ve started telling stories like an old lady. They start with embarrassing sentences like ‘This one time?’ or ‘Back in the day…’ or ‘When I was in my twenties –‘
These phrases are designed to make the person listening feel like I’m actually okay now — that this kind of story is an anomaly in my boring, steady present — and that it was just a one-time occurrence which is not true at all. Then I tell a rousing tale of good friends, bad decision-making, and a result usually ending in oh no you didn’t! I feel fairly invincible telling these tales, having fought so many pointless battles and won.
I was thinking about this the other day thanks to the flowers on our patio. I told my neighbor, Michelle, that I wanted to get some bigger plants: larger trees, or fuller bushes, so we can have some privacy from the walkway. I jokingly said, “If I buy a big plant, I’m chaining it to the rail so nobody steals it.” She laughed, and I laughed, and then I remembered: There’s a reason I had that chain-its-ass-down, knee-jerk reaction.
So this one time? Back in the day — in my twenties? We used to steal flowers in our surrounding neighborhood. My BFF and I would hop into Big Blue — an enormous, worn-out, dirty truck from the wilds of Gig Harbor, Washington — and cruise around the neighborhood, looking for our bounty.
Big Blue sounded as big as her name; ‘stealth’ was not her style. She stalled and rumbled, spat and roared. Big Blue seemed like an overweight smoker from the deep, deep South. She had a surly attitude and a poor sense of humor, but she was our other sister in crime. We’d spot a garden up ahead and bounce on her seats in excitement; we would slow to a crawl, and turn the AM Radio down. Slowly, Big Blue’s dusty door would creeeak open on hinges bigger than my Samoan hands, and we’d climb out of her, shushing each other for no reason. The anxiety and excitement would build inside of me with every deliberate step.
One of us would spot a big row of tulips and squeal with like a Miss America contestant; the other would make wild hand gestures like an umpire gone raving mad. We’d do a fearful little jig, put fingers to our lips, and run through the garden looking like clumsy, drunken ninjas; we danced together in the dark with a fortune at our fingertips. Usually stoned and always paranoid, we’d both perk up at a sound on the wind, or a dog barking five blocks away. We’d run, with shame and giddiness, back to Big Blue and throw ourselves into the truck. “Go, go, GO!” one of us would yell, while the other shrieked with laughter; and then we’d screech off into the night, two of Seattle’s loudest thieves.
We were always quite pleased with ourselves, high-fiving each other and shouting, “Oohmygaaaaawdthatwasaaaaawesome!!”
We always smoked a victory cigarette afterwards, on our porch, peering into the darkened streets of our criminal masterminding. Guilt rarely entered the picture, as we were young and lacking morals, as most young people do.
As always, on the morning after, we would re-live our adventures over our morning smoke and whatever wasn’t moldy in the fridge. Our other BFF, sleeping soundly during our midnight escapade, would come downstairs to find a big bouquet of fresh-cut flowers in our living room; they were always for her. We figured that was part of our penance; we would take, but we would also give away. I think she disapproved a bit — her father was a gardener who took pride in his flowers — but I know she appreciated the gesture and always thought they were beautiful. I liked having fresh flowers in the house. It reminded me of my parents’ house, and also made me feel kind of fancypants.
Now I have guilt, but only because I fear that my crappy green-thumb karma is coming home to roost. And then I have guilt about that, because I know I should feel guilt for reals. I am a woman who lives in fear of having a garden. That’s like being scared of a miniature bread roll. So it seems like I should apologize for my behavior to the Universe, and see if that helps me at all. I will finally admit to my part in everything, and take responsibility for my actions:
She made me do it.