Sunday, October 18, 2009

Porter strolled past with the clunky watch he always wears and Monica and I started talking about how cool watches were when you were 11 years old.  I tried to remember when I'd stopped wearing (or even carrying) watches.  And that made me think of one of the handful of crimes I've committed.

It was in a small college course at Penn -- a language and philosophy class I think.  And in the middle of the seminar a piercing, beeping alarm went off.  A girl to the side of me fumbled with her watch, turning bright red as the beeping continued.  The Professor pointedly paused his incomprehensible lecture about Wittgenstein and stared at her as the increasingly desperate girl struggled to shut it off.  At some point I realized that she wasn't going to succeed, because the beeping was actually my own watch alarm coming from the bag by my feet.  But the sound was hard to localize and I knew that it was about to cease on its own, so I opted ignominiously to stare with the rest of the class at the girl for another few painful moments.

The first crime that I remember was stealing from Melvin Alleman in Kindergarten.  The teacher had unrolled long rolls of brown paper onto the floor for us to paint on.  It was near Halloween and we created a parade of monsters and fantastical creatures.  The boys painted one and the girls another.  A day or two later they had dried, and the two "murals" were given out as prizes for something or other.  I won one and Melvin won the other.  The problem was that I had won the girls mural.  Melvin sat in front of me with the boys' mural rolled up in the basket under his seat.   It was a less enlightened era and I had no interest in the girls or their mural.  I fell to temptation and somehow surreptitiously switched the two.

For years afterwards, until my parents finally threw it away,  that roll of brown paper up in the attic with its smudgy, peeling and cracking monsters would remind me of my crime against dim, kind-hearted Melvin.