Molly muses aloud about language and experience.
All of my memories are colored by time and language. Perhaps language especially. When I was sixteen, I stole a tube of lipstick from the Walgreens on Sixth Avenue. I don't know why. It wasn't even my color. It was this deep, bright red, like a ruby in a cartoon. It seemed to really shine. It wasn't even close to the shimmery lip gloss I wore to school and it just seemed so not me, you know? Maybe that's why I took it and slid it into the back pocket of my jeans before readjusting my shirt. I couldn't admit to it being me. I couldn't legitimize it.
Of course, those are just words I use now, the same way that I emphasize that I was sixteen and it was a whole four years ago. I can say I was a different person then. Or even a different person who was trying to pretend to be a different person. I was a confused kid.
They caught me, of course, before I even left the store. Security guard came up to me and asked me if there was anything I had forgotten to pay for. Such a courteous side-stepping of language. So of course, brat that I was, I said, "Are you accusing me of shoplifting?" Like it was so horrible it was beneath me to say.
His face got so tight, then. So angry and helpless and tired. He escorted me out and told me not to come back. I got to keep the lipstick. When I twisted it open, the sharp slant of it glinted so red in the fluorescent glow of the streetlights, I knew it meant something dangerous and forbidden. Something I'd never be able to talk about, or maybe even put into words.
I read about a young man the other day. We don't live in the same city. We're not the same age. He was black and I am white. He was only just getting out of high school, so I guess I could even call him a boy. He had taken some merchandise from a store too, and tried to walk away without paying for it. Just like with me, no one dared to say "shoplifting" when they talked about it.
They said "robbery" instead. A police officer shot him in the street a little while later.
I have nightmares of color every night now. Ruby droplets scattered along sidewalks, glinting under rows of indifferent streetlights.