“The real significance of crime is in its being a breach of faith with the community of mankind.”
— Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) in “Lord Jim”
Dear whoever broke into our house a couple of weeks ago: are you enjoying our possessions?
Have you spent all the change my husband had saved for years in the big glass jar? Did you buy yourself something nice? Why did you leave the lid behind? That jar was heavy, so you would’ve had to carry it with two hands. You’d think someone would have spotted you, slinking through a city park carrying a big pasta jar full of coins in the middle of the day.
What about the camera? Did you sell it for a quick buck? You could’ve made more if you had taken the lenses, too. Lord knows, they’re not much good to us anymore. Our son was interested in learning to use that camera, but then, you don’t care about that.
Why did you take an empty wallet? Did you think you would open it up once you’d left the house and find the mother lode? Guess the laugh was on you with that one, which is probably why you threw it away. I wish I could’ve seen the look of disgust and disappointment on your face. All that hard work for nothing.
What about the letter a friend wrote to me more than 20 years ago? Did you steal that because it was inside a velvet pouch and you thought you’d grabbed something more valuable? It was pretty valuable to me, but obviously it meant nothing to you, which is why you discarded it. At least we got that back.
Did you enjoy strewing the contents of my jewelry box around our bedroom? I mean the stuff you didn’t take, obviously. Did you see our clothes on the bed? The pictures of our kids? My parents? Us on our honeymoon? Of course, we’re all just faceless strangers to you.
What have you done with the very first pair of earrings my husband gave me? Did you sell them or is someone else wearing them? How about the lovely pair he gave me one Christmas? Those were such romantic gifts.
Do you like the bracelet my brother and sister-in-law gave me for being a bridesmaid at their wedding?
And what do you plan to do with my late father-in-law’s wedding ring? Know a buyer with a ring finger just the right size, do you? Unfortunately, you won’t be able to reap its sentimental value; you don’t get anything extra for that.
Did you like being in our children’s rooms? Did you chuckle and shake your head at the unmade bed, or is that something you can relate to? Do you enjoy stealing from kids? Did you wonder at all why our daughter had a boy’s high school ring in her jewelry box? It was her dad’s, you know. Perhaps it dropped out of your pocket when you made your mad dash through the park, because we found it in the snow a couple of days later.
Did it make you feel powerful to know you spooked our little dog?
What did he do when you broke into our house? Bark? Act anxious? Crawl under the bed? Did you yell at him? Kick him? You must’ve done something, because when I took him out for a walk afterwards, he did not want to go back into the house — his house. He nearly jumps out of his skin, now, when he hears a loud noise.
He’s almost 13 years old and deserves every happy, peaceful moment he gets, for all the love he gives us. Do you care that you’ve shattered his sense of calm?
Do you care that you have robbed us of our peace of mind?
Not knowing who you are is worse than anything. Most people like to put a face and a name to the person who stole from them. You see, unlike the family that was recently robbed on Mullock Street, we didn’t have video camera surveillance. That could change, though. A lot could change.
I have changed.
You could care less, of course, but I am less trusting now. I am leery. The thought of you, a stranger, grabbing fistfuls of our possessions and personal mementoes, things that meant nothing to you but so much to us, makes me angry.
Did you know that the word violate comes to the English language by way of Latin’s violare, which means “to do violence to”? You might not find that very interesting — God knows you didn’t spend any time rifling through our books — but I do.
It’s very apropos. A break-in is a violation. It is a violent crime.
You don’t believe me? Trust me, you did violence to our family — it was all there in the frightened dog, the splintered wood, the drawers scattered on the floor.
In closing, might I offer you some career advice? Instead of stealing people’s stuff and selling it for money, you might consider getting a job in the more lucrative insurance trade. That’s where you charge people monthly payments for years, and when they try to avail of the service you purportedly provide, you warn them you’ll have to start charging them even more.
Great racket, eh? You’d be great at it, I’m sure.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.