I hold the bulging envelope in my hand, gingerly and with extreme care, as though it might explode at any moment.
The letter is addressed to my boss, and it is a confession of my crime. It is confessing what had started as a harmless trick that soon ballooned into a crime, or rather a series of crimes that I could not control. It took on a life of its own. It overpowered any feeble attempt at arresting the madness.
I was only 20 when I began working as a delivery truck driver at this great online retail store that everyone had suddenly started buying from. It felt like a lucky break that $20 per hour pay packet plus medical insurance and a chance to participate in corporate profits by way of an annual profit-sharing bonus.
It was a better pay package than any high school dropout among my friends had received, and I was so thrilled. My own apartment, a job – life had come together well for me.
Then I met Clara with all her talk of high-end restaurants, designer clothes, and expensive cars. She seemed intimidating but was so pretty. I felt lucky to have her be my girlfriend. And all those expensive dates I paid for, it was because I was so in love.
One day while delivering packages on my route, I saw a name that I knew on a package. I knew it from something Clara had said before. From that conversation I knew, that these were high-end shoes worth more than my entire wardrobe put together. I looked at the packaging and I remembered Clara had also mentioned that you could buy knockoffs that look the same at the downtown store.
It got me thinking. What if I switch the $2000 shoes with hundred-dollar knockoffs? I could pocket the difference. That transaction, if I could pull it off, would net me a cool couple of grand – a profit greater than my monthly paycheck. And if the knockoffs were as good as Clara said they were, nobody would ever know.
After thinking for a bit, I decided not to deliver the package that day. Instead, I put it in a mailbox, like I was supposed. But instead of dropping the key for the oversized packet in Shawn Mallory’s mailbox, I kept it. It jingled in my pocket through the rest of my work day. After work, I picked up my Ford Probe from the parking lot and drove back into that nice neighborhood where Shawn Mallory lived. I drove slowly, hoping my beat-up car didn’t attract too much attention. The neighborhood saw more Teslas, Mercedes, and BMWs than I had seen in any other neighborhood. I managed to pick up the package without attracting much attention and took it home.
Under the bright lights of my kitchen. I opened the package carefully, taking care to keep the packaging intact so I could easily repack it. I pulled out the merchandise and saw that they were nondescript-looking black shoes in men’s size 10. The next day was my day off, so I took plenty of pictures of the shoes and headed to the downtown store to find matching knockoffs. What I found had me befuddled too. They looked just like the originals. Excited, I rushed home to put the two pairs next to each other and marveled how they look so alike I was more confident than ever about my little scheme. The next day I went ahead and delivered the knockoff in my carefully repacked package. I waited a whole week to see if anything happened. Shawn Mallory, the nice guy who lived at the red brick house didn’t seem to have noticed anything amiss. My little theft remained undetected.
That week I pocketed a cool two grand from selling the original shoes on eBay.
I took Clara on an expensive dinner at that steakhouse, she kept harping about. She kept asking how I was suddenly able to afford the place. Eventually, I gave in. I told her about what I had done. When I finished speaking, I saw she was staring at me incredulously.
In the coming days. She became the mastermind of a series of similar thefts that I conducted. A different house each time. Our knockoffs became more and more sophisticated. They were often procured in back alley cash purchases rather than in a real shop. I had made 50 grand in three months and Clara took most of it, leaving me just a small portion. She claimed it was her idea after all.
One day, we swapped some baby gear to be delivered to the young couple that lived in the ranch house at the end of the street. It was a rocker or something to rock the baby to sleep. The knockoff was purchased in another back alley cash transaction. It looked just like the original except this time it wasn’t.
A few days later I found out that their baby had died. It had died in that stupid contraption I replaced his parent’s expensive purchase with. The safety harness had come undone and choked the baby.
When I first heard it from Josh, who did my route on my off days, I froze. Then I thought I would faint. I had to make excuses and go home sick. On that very day, I blocked Chara‘s number and refused to open the door when she came to my apartment. She yelled, screamed, kicked at the door, and basically created a ruckus outside my door. But I didn’t give in and was glad I didn’t. I pretended I wasn’t home and she eventually gave up.
For days after that event, I paced my apartment like a lunatic, talking to myself all the time. I ate little and could keep down even less. It was like something had gotten unhinged in my head and I couldn’t screw it back on, however hard I tried.
One day, I sat at my desk and rummaged through the top drawer to see if I had any cash stashed away. I had been fired for not showing up to work. With no paycheck, my fantastic career coming to a screeching halt, and non-existent savings, I had to figure out my life.
Then I saw in that drawer a journal (nothing I would ever spend my hard-earned money on). It was a gift from my mum last Christmas. I remember her saying, “When life gets rough, just write down what’s going in. You’ll feel better.”
Since there was no other feel-good drug in my apartment anymore, what with all the booze running out and me being a non-smoker, I thought I’d give it a shot. I found a ballpoint in the same messy drawer and I started writing. I didn’t write much on the first day. But with each day that I came back to that journal, I wrote some more. I poured out my heart into those pages, and it helped put my mind straight. At the end of the week, I knew what I had to do.
I started writing again. Not in the journal but on a letter pad this time. I wrote my confession and stuffed it into an envelope that also miraculously surfaced in the same drawer. Soon I got up. For the first time in a week, I left my apartment to come to mail my letter to my boss. He would surely report it to the cops, and I was cool with that.
I could never have said all that I was able to write in that letter. It was hard to own up to the crime, especially since nobody even knew a crime had occurred. Nobody was asking, but I had to tell. I hadn’t slept in weeks.