To the drug addict who broke into my car at Dragon Con

You don’t know me. And you will never see this. I don’t know if you can see this. I don’t know if you can even read very well; close to a million of your fellows can’t.

My boyfriend and I stepped around a used needle on our way to the Hyatt the other day. Old needle, empty. We passed the stone doorways made into ragged nests. The old man staring through his cataracts. The latticework gates encasing the liquor stores.

I thought of this as I tried to piece together my broken window. I wondered which one you were. What the drug was that you needed so much, to ignore the CDs and the iPhone charger and the official documents and even the warm blankets in the back seat, favoring instead a fast rummage through the broken armrest, your rapid hands clutching at fistfuls of sticky pennies and dimes. I think there were some video game tokens in there. You won’t be able to use those. I’m sorry.

I was calm on the phone with Brian, checking out of the W just across the street, waiting for me to come back with the car so we could load the things we had bought, the things I had labored to make. I was calm with the 911 dispatcher. Calm as I carefully gathered the green safety glass into bags with the strewn receipts, orphaned pen caps, a tampon or two.

It must have been half an hour in the wet Atlanta heat that finally broke me. Or five days without more than four hours’ sleep in any one night. Nearly 400 miles of travel. Months of planning. A chaotic weekend in which I was glad to exchange my own freedom for the fun and fulfillment of others who had traveled further still. Maybe it was the residual exhaustion from the night before, when I wept for an empty city suddenly bereft of magic. I think it was when I realized I wouldn’t make it to my old college town in time to hand a favorite professor a copy of the first book I’ve been published in. I wanted to see his face. I wanted to have that moment.

Whatever it was, I eventually broke down. “I’m sorry,” I said to the police officer. “I’m crying all over your car.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “Don’t cry.” I cried harder.

Did you wonder why there were no quarters in the armrest? I’d given them to a beggar outside Goodwill the week before. I wondered whether that would make a difference to you. Whether you would care about the charities I give to every year. The clothes and goods I donate. The thousands of dollars I’ve raised to fight mental illness. Probably not. Maybe you’re right. Some privileged white girl gives her shit away so she can buy better shit? Fuck her. She can spare a few pennies from the car her daddy bought her for college.

I want you to know I’m not angry. I would have been if you’d broken all the windows, if you’d slashed my tires, if you’d written BITCH or CUNT across the doors. But you weren’t some vindictive teenager acting out of malice. What you did was abhorrent. You destroyed my property, you violated my space, you cost me hundreds of dollars, you upset the balance of my emotional well-being. But you did it for a handful of change.

You did it for a handful of change.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? You are so consumed by your addiction that you cannot even conceive of the effect your actions have on another person. It’s not that you don’t want to care. You literally can’t care. You don’t have object permanence. If you don’t see me, I’m not there. How can I blame you when the rest of us live the same way?

I thought about what it would take to make me so desperate, I’d give up basic human empathy—how dire my circumstances would have to be for me to pick up a chunk of concrete and smash it through a window. You’re not some alien creature, some inconceivable animal. We belong to the same species. You and I were born naked and unknowing, eager to touch and absorb and expand. What happened to you could happen to me. That is the heart of the horror. What would it take to turn me into you?

I thought about it. And then I tried not to think about it anymore.

I would have given you the money, if you had asked.

Comments

  1. This is very powerful.

  2. I too was a victim of theft at this year’s DC. It was like biting the rotten part of a sweet wonderful weekend, all I can remember is the bitter after taste. This is why I think petty criminals should be dealt with more harshly than crimes of passion or unintentional harm. People who would gladly destroy your car/home or even kill you for the change in your pocket and their only concern is being caught deserve the most brutal punishment.

    • Charlotte A. Cavatica says:

      How do they “deserve the most brutal punishment”? What is it that we’re punishing, exactly? The addiction? The poverty? Are we punishing someone for having the audacity to steal a tiny fraction of our relatively vast material wealth? I went home and got my window fixed. The perp is still on the street, still jonesing, still angry, still filthy, still ready to fight and die. He didn’t try to kill me. He didn’t take anything of value. He inconvenienced me. He hurt my feelings. I’m grateful that’s all that was damaged.

      What more would you like to take from someone who has nothing? What lesson do you believe you’re teaching?

      • In this recent instance for me it was painful but when my own “relative wealth” took a double digit dip I don’t consider it inconsequential. The one time my car was smashed in for theft I was not able to shrug it off so easily. As for how they deserve it, the people in question are not like cat burglers or Oceans11 style thieves, these are people who would leave you dollars poor so they can make off with nickels. They do not care who they harm, or even murder to make their lives even by their own estimate only marginally better. In your own instance you were not personally harmed but my roomate’s former roomate was murdered during a home invasion, where the home invader similarly made off with nothing more than the contents of his wallet.

        Crimes of passion are given sympathetic ears because almost anybody under the right duress can do things they would not normally do. Harm caused without it being the intent is still treated like a crime in some cases when the result is severe enough, they too are treated more lightly as there is no malice intended. However some people have absolutely no regard for other human beings, and we are little more than annoying obsticles to them. Would you feel similarly sympathetic if it was a banker who treated your life savings with the same regard? They are the same mentality, and they should be treated with the same harshness.

      • Charlotte A. Cavatica says:

        We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  3. Over the years, I’ve let cynicism grow in me. You gave money to a homeless person that needed it, I have an underlying fear stemming from when I was carjacked years ago. So it keeps me from stepping out to do that. I know, he’s not in my car or near it. It’s irrational to me in that, but it’s still there.

    I once had a boulder thrown through my window while I left my car parked in a safe area and carpooled to Kentucky. Nothing was stolen, nothing was even opened to search for something to steal. The insurance wound up not only not paying for the window, but also somehow convinced the glass windshield repair group they called to not charge me for it. Sometimes the agents step out on a limb in ways that surprise me.

    There’s also the part of me that says “I wasn’t injured except in my heart. I expect people to at least try to be good. It’s what I expect of myself, and don’t always succeed at.”

    At DragonCon this weekend, I watched from my parking area that is computer keypad entered, a parking area next to it where people have to put money into a slot in a steel box then use the metal prong thingy to push it in.

    As I was getting ready to pull out to go home 5 hours away, I saw a guy ride up on a bicycle and stop. I watched as I drove away, no number in hand to possibly call someone to tell them, him jiggle and jangle the box with an assurance that tells me he’s done it before.

    Some of the people in that lot quite possibly got a boot to their wheel and had to pay to get it unlocked. Most of the spots were empty at this point.. I hope the ones in spaces did not lose money or at least that it was too late for the cars to be checked at that point and they were safe no matter what.

  4. Though I’m not the perpetrator, I’m sorry abut what happened to your car!

  5. I know I’m very late to this thread, I just happened to see it. I’ve had my car broken into 4 times at DragonCon. Three times they broke the window, the last time they punched out the door lock with a screwdriver. They stole a $90 radio, it cost $228 to fix the lock. Every time it has been in a hotel’s parking deck. It’s actually become a joke in my family, when I get home they ask what got stolen this trip.

  6. wilder125 says:

    Old topic.

    In regards to giving money to those in need, re:

    In my city we have a guy who is well known all across town. And it’s a town of 50,000. That’s not an easy feat.

    He has:

    asked for money to

    fly to Germany to visit his sick daughter

    ride the bus to California to bury his son

    ride the bus to Florida to help his sister with her son in the hospital and could someone please help him with that cost too.

    Fly to nevada to help his sick mother take care of his ailing son and daughter

    for a bus to michigan to bury his sick mother who has lived in Michigan all of her life.

    fly to Britain to help his injured son who can’t get around too good due to all that *.&. hiking

    Help his father take care of his sick mother in their house over in Ohio

    etc etc etc.

    He’s also tried to sell an Iphone for 800 in various areas despite the fact it’s not even an Iphone 1

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