Yesterday I did two bad things that I still haven’t forgiven myself for.
I am a naturally superstitious person, though I tend not to tell people because I realize it’s silly and I’m usually able to brush off things like walking under ladders, or black cats running across my path. I can manage things like driving through a traffic light as it’s turning from yellow to red, but not without holding my breath and feeling a brief instant of doom. It takes me a little time to recover and talk myself down from some of the more questionable situations, because I believe in paybacks. Karma. What Comes Around Goes Around.
So I try to just be Good. It’s easier than constantly worrying about what might be coming my way in return for bad behavior.
When I opened my store yesterday morning, I didn’t put the orange chairs out front as a signal to passing cars that I was open, like I usually do. Because when I looked outside I saw a large pile of half-dried dog poop on the sidewalk where I normally put my chairs, and it seriously bummed me out. It looked as though a bike or two had already passed through it. I thought about how I might remove it – it would take scraping, and I have nothing with which to scrape animal feces off of sidewalks in my store. I thought about just spraying it with the hose, but the hose is locked and I’m not sure where the key is. Actually, okay, I do know where the key is. I just really, honestly, didn’t want to deal with it. It would take a lot of high-pressure water, and with that comes splash-back.
So I pretended it wasn’t there.
Whenever someone walked by with a stroller, I cringed and looked away. Please don’t roll through the poop! I thought. Every time someone parked out front and opened the back doors of their car to pull out their toddler, I held my breath. Please don’t step in the poop!
Every time I glanced out the front door, the poop was a little bit more smeared into the sidewalk. I chastised myself for my insensitivity, picturing people discovering poop on their shoes, or in their wheels, that sinking feeling of disgust and humiliation as they tried to find something with which to clean it off. Grass, paper towels, a stick. I reasoned that I hadn’t actually witnessed anyone walking by exclaiming Oh, maaaaan! while dragging their shoe along the corner of the curb. No one came in and complained about it. So I told myself that no one had been truly harmed by my inconsiderate laziness. But I I knew. I knew that someone – probably several people – had.
I’m sorry, strangers.
The other bad thing I did was, well, I stole a pen from a customer.
I didn’t exactly steal it, to be fair. But she did pull the pen out of her purse and use it to write something in her check register. Then she put it on the counter, and seemed to forget about it as she bundled up her pocket book and grabbed her bag of purchases. I saw the pen and I didn’t say “oh, is this your pen?” or “don’t forget your pen!”
Why didn’t I say anything? Because I really like that kind of pen.
After she’d left I berated myself for being such a dishonest asshole. What is wrong with you? I asked myself. Then I used my imagination: Well, didn’t she put a pen in her purse before she left? Maybe she just grabbed one of my pens instead, so it’s not like she’s totally without a pen…. I tried to picture her stuffing things into her purse, was there a pen? I envisioned that there was.
I allowed myself to get caught up in busywork and, after closing up shop, completely forgot about my bad decisions.
After I fell asleep, I had really bad dreams, and I woke up feeling sad and tired and like I couldn’t clear my eyes. I knew my dreams were punishment for the two bad things I’d done yesterday. I tried to think of a way to make it better, but I didn’t know where to begin.
At work, while unlocking the front door I saw that the poop was still there, smeared into a larger shape.
Without thinking, I grabbed the pen among all the others and used it to write a receipt. I felt hot with shame.
A regular customer pulled up in front of the store and as I watched her walk around to let her daughter out of the car, I squeezed my eyes shut, thinking please don’t step in the poop!
She came inside and cheerily called “hey!” Then she said “kinda muddy out there, huh?” and wiped her feet on my doormat. She shopped with her daughter while I stole glances at the brown smears on the mat, smiling. This was my payback, I absolutely deserved this.
After I’d rung up her purchases, she signed her credit card receipt and absentmindedly put the pen into her purse as we chatted about our growing children. The pen. I could barely contain myself. I wished her a good day and as she walked away I looked up at the ceiling, following the direction of my suddenly lifted weight.
I am absolved.