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Stealing Sweetness

Have you ever stolen something to fill the hole in your soul?

I have. More than once. First time was—man, I was probably still in diapers. My soul-hole goes way back. First time I got caught, though, I was old enough for those cotton undies with the elastic legs, the kind with that hard, bumpy lace around the edges. So I was seven, say. Maybe six. Too young to be a criminal, but there it is.

I found my drug early in life, and it was sugar. Candy. Dulces. Sweets. Did you know that sugar is one chemical element away from cocaine?

Sugar: carbon, hydrogen & oxygen

Cocaine: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen & nitrogen

My young body knew it. Sugar was the one thing that took me away from reality, that made everything okay. I would suffer for some sugar. When I got sent to sleepaway camp, where I was trapped in an A-frame with nobody who liked me, I had sugar sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’d take a slice of that soft white bread with the perfectly square corners, slather on the margarine, and just dump white sugar in the middle. A ski slope of it. I’d squish the bread edges together in my fist, so now I had a hand grenade; then I’d open my mouth and crunch my way through that sick bready pillow of salvation. I didn’t care what Buffi and Billy thought, because I wasn’t even there. I was high and away in Sugarland.

I had a lot of reality to escape, so I needed sugar around the clock.

When I say “needed,” I’m choosing my words carefully.

My fix was easy in November and December. I just climbed to the fridge-top hiding place and snagged my step-siblings’ Halloween candy. But that left ten dry months in the year. A girl gets desperate.

My heart was busting out of my chest as I looked around that five-and-dime, making sure nobody could see me. Then I grabbed the closest candy bar and stuffed it down my undies. I think it was a Zagnut. Gross. But still. I made it out of the store, into the car and all the way home before someone found me out.

Don’t ask why, once we hit home, a grownup was looking in my underwear. That’s not the point of this story. The point is, I got busted. I got driven back to that five-and-dime. And I had to go in, by myself, and tell the owner what I’d done. I also had to pay him for that Zagnut—25 cents, plus 2 cents tax!—with my own piggy bank money.

That’s okay, though. I got it back soon enough. I learned my lesson: keep the thieving close to home. I graduated to stealing change from my mother’s bag, so I could go out and buy my own damn sugar fix, legal.

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