sure box, my coins and chromies and marbles and G. I. Joes, and selling
it all for a hundred bucks. My brothers and I could live on our own,
be chromie kings. We’d twist and snap every blinking speck of chrome
from everywhere we went. We’d become rich. Maybe even famous—or
feared. We’d be powerful then.
But at some point in the night, the quiet black sky turned to blue,
only slightly, and I fell asleep. In the morning, Chris was gone. At first
light, he’d walked a few blocks to a friend’s house and called my dad to
come and get him.
After that, despite months of arguments, court battles, and the Allegheny Family Division maintaining Mom’s custody, all three of us
went to live with Dad in Bethel Park.
We never became chromie kings, as I had wished for that night, but we
continued to steal chromies from every back alley and driveway of the
neighborhood until the summer ended and we went back to school, or
eventually lost interest.
Now, when I remember that last year we officially lived with my mom,
I think we were almost like everyone else. We had a small brick house.
We had a big yard and woods and bikes to ride. I don’t think about fighting, or Mom’s absence, or even the way it ended. I remember how close I
was with my brothers. Drinking Turner’s all summer. The smell of sweat
on my skin at night when I couldn’t sleep. Chris hitting his head so hard
that year he had a seizure in the street. I remember Dave, my oldest
friend, taking me home to meet his family.
But it always comes back to the chromies, how I felt when I stole
them, or as my treasure piled up. I still have that box. I can’t let it go.
There are still the hood ornaments and trinkets, angels and bullets. I still
have the pennies, the coin books. There are days that I pull it all out, dip
my fingers in it, and move the stuff around.
How could I let go? These things that meant so much. That I worked
so hard to take. These small pieces of those older than me, those wealthier, those happier, those who had enough that they didn’t have to take
from others. Those flickering, sharp-edged chromies that I chased down
the street as I would a dream. That I chased as if to steal a better version
of myself. Things that—as the good always did—ran forever from me,
back to a nicer neighborhood with nicer people living a nicer life. A
place I didn’t know how to get to, other than to try and steal it.
Chromie thief: desperate and chasing.