There are two boxes of tissues on the windowsill of one of the gyms I train in. Today, I watched an old woman waddle into the room and stick her finger into the first box. She was checking how many tissues it contained. She decided it wasn’t enough. She waddled past me and my client to the second box, which apparently had enough. She picked to box up and slipped it into her bag. She didn’t even try to conceal what she was doing. She had dyed brown hair, an oversized grey t-shirt, and a seriously sour expression. I asked my friend at the front desk what her deal was. Apparently, she steals tissues every time she comes. They’ve asked her trainer to talk to her, but nothing helps. I wonder if it is a compulsion, but she in no way fought it. So either she has given up resisting, or she considers the tissue boxes to be included in her membership fee.
It made me remember something I had forgotten. When I was twenty, I wrote and acted in a short film about a kleptomaniac. Loosely, the plot was that a woman has trouble on a date because she can’t stop herself from stealing something from him even though she really likes him. The last shot is her with a pile of crap that she’s stolen. I’m pretty sure I heard something on RadioLab about kleptomania and was inspired. I was living in Prague at the time, and I didn’t have internet in my apartment, so I would download as many podcasts as I could and listen to them when I was home. It was a weirdly emotional time. In Prague, I became aware that I was good at the things I liked to do. At the same time, I became convinced that I didn’t look good enough to do them. I would spend the evenings hiding away in the flat, eating bars of chocolate and listening to shows about science. I wondered if I should stop art and become a scientist instead.
I wonder if I still have the film somewhere. I remember I called it “Klepto,” and we lit my dining room with strands of Christmas lights and candles to make it look romantic.