It’s been three months but I still glance in the bushes each morning. I still look for the Thrift Town purse of soft Sienna brown leather, two zip pockets, shoulder straps to my waist, brass corner points so the bottom won’t wear out. Maybe it will turn up beneath a spiderweb veil, or, the neighbors will find it when they are picking potato chip bags out of their gardens, and lay it out, scuffed, empty but whole, flipped from his thieving grasp.
This is what my purse had inside: Andalou shampoo, a post-it list reading: 1) quinoa 2) beets 3) Mt Tam cheese 4) fenugreek 5) Jacket!, a pink dry cleaner’s ticket; one bar of charcoal soap with bee imprint, one tiny Bromeliad head sticking out the top that I had just bought at Shell Dance, a wallet and my ever-present camera. Did he thrust each useless item from his enormous hands out the car window as he sped away down 580? Did he read the list and squint his eyes and wonder for a second about fenugreek, stick the note on the dashboard and smile at his criminal’s memento, written in the language of my world where spices and shampoo are more expensive than meat? Did he pause at the black soap—think it was medicinal, or edible? At the bottom, my clunky but cashless wallet. Two credit cards that would fill the gas tanks of his friends by the time I stumbled upstairs to cancel them.
I see him, sweating and panting, left hand steering the speeding Civic, right hand in my bag, feeling my camera in an adolescent blind grope hoping the smooth metal might be a Canon PowerShot. When he saw the no-name brand did he hurl it over the Hegenberger Bridge watching it shatter on the freeway? I see him unceremoniously tossing the camera to a friend, or girlfriend, or his skeptical mother. I imagine the ceremony of his lie—theft and lies together like a top hat and cane, his gifts a conceit of generosity. Still, I want to know if someone accepted my camera from him without question. If he first deleted all the year’s images in two clicks, or was he curious or bored enough between thefts to view them. I wonder did he see the picture I took of my mother’s face, a stricture under hazy golden light in Visitation Room 7, after my father had pushed me closer, ‘Take a photo . . . go ahead, I want one.’
Three-hundred-twenty-six images followed that one, none titillating. Unless he is tickled by my legs in that accidental shot, when I awoke to the somnolent cats curved together like an Escher at my feet. I took three steps to the dresser, picked up the camera, stumbled and simultaneously snapped my bare, hairy legs as the absurd monthly flow began to run, a carmine thread captured in a graceless, sideways picture of loss.