Short Story by Zahirra Dayal
I did it again. I know I know. I know what I said the last time but how could I resist this one? It was lying there near the sink… gleaming like a lollipop. I looked around the bathroom and under the cracks of light under each tiny cubicle. The room was bathed in silence. It was just me and it. I inched towards it, but I wasn’t committing to anything. A warm tingle spread under my skin as I got closer. I just wanted to feel its smooth texture. The soft leather dipped under the pressure of my fingers. I caressed the pinkness: baby pink my favourite colour. There were two letters embossed on the edge. I outlined the elegant letters in gold foiling with my finger. D. M. My heart started racing.
That must have been when I tipped or my point of escalation as Jenny would say. Things could have gone either way. I could have chosen to leave the bathroom then. I didn’t… because I wasn’t thinking of Jenny with her disapproving brows and thick rimmed glasses looking down on me from her plush pedestal.
I know what you’re thinking but it wasn’t like all the other times when I found them winking at me out of back pockets and unzipped handbags. This one was different! I unzipped it slowly. The matching baby pink tassel at the end of the gold zipper danced playfully. Joy surged through my fingers. Inside it was just as pretty. Multiple compartments. I counted all 12 card slots and a separate zipped one for coins. I was lost in its silky interior when I heard the stomping heels approaching, growing louder and heavier. Of course, I had no choice then. The door would fly open any moment and D.M. would rush in so I… I threw the baby pink purse into the mouth of my old brown bag hanging over my shoulder and buttoned my bag shut. My heart beat like a drum in my chest and I had to steady myself by putting one hand on the sink. I took deep breaths through my nose and out my mouth.
A woman with a curtain of long black hair in a black dress rushed in just as I was opening the tap. The sound of rushing water filled the air. She had false eyelashes and her face was caked in make-up. Her eyes shot around the room in panic. I put my hand under the dispenser and a blob of soap fell into my palm. I lathered it on my hands ignoring the woman who swung the doors of each cubicle and searched.
The water was warm on my soapy hands.
‘Have you seen it?’ she asked looking right into my eyes in the large oval mirror. I stared back at her frowning… calmly. The woman answered my quizzical look with a burst of new words.
‘My purse. My purse. I think I left it in here earlier. Oh my God!’
I scanned the room. ‘I haven’t seen anything. What does it look like?’ I asked feigning concern with my eyes.
I wanted to correct her. It wasn’t just any pink, it was baby pink. I pursed my lips to stop the words. The woman came closer, her heady perfume wrinkling my nose. ‘It not the purse you see,’ she said. Pearl shaped tears slipped out of the corners of her eyes where long faint line fanned outwards. ‘It’s got all my credit cards and my money.’
So, you see I was right all along. It wasn’t the purse that she cared about; it was just what was in it. I was annoyed that the woman didn’t seem to have any decent appreciation for the baby pink colour, the soft leather, the beautiful tassel and the gold letters. ‘No, I haven’t seen it,’ I said to stop her blabbering. But the woman wouldn’t stop. ‘But did you see anyone else come in. How long have you been in here?’ she asked.
The woman’s interrogation jarred with me, and I just wanted her to go away so I could touch the soft baby pink again. ‘Um… Now that I think of it. When I came in, there was another woman in a green velvet dress putting on lipstick,’ I said. Green velvet because that’s the first thing that came to me mind. Maybe I’d watched a movie with someone like that in it or maybe I just made it up on the spot. ‘That woman may have handed it in at the reception.’ The woman’s eyes filled with pools of gratitude. ‘Oh, thank you so much, thank you. I’ll go check with reception.’
I’ve decided I’m not going to tell Jenny any of this at our session tomorrow when she asks how my blind date went. I know what she’ll say. What she usually says. That my condition as she calls it, is not about the money or the things I take. That kleptomania runs much deeper and springs from losses that we haven’t fully processed. She’ll prod and probe my psyche until she finds the thing to justify her psychoanalytic theories. The thing that paints that superior smile on her lips. No, I’m holding onto this one. My soft baby pink leather purse. It’s the exact shade of baby pink as the blanket in that baby photo. The blanket I was wrapped in when my mother left me outside the hospital.