The funny thing was, even then I understood her deal pretty well, Rachel: her own mother was a pip. Well, more specifically, what I noticed was this: Rachel's mother would make a disparaging comment to her about her hair, or her thighs, and for the next several months, that would be all Rachel talked about: how awful her hair/thighs/whatever looked. (No mention, however, of her mother's comment in connection with this). When it was the hair, all her money went to mousses, sprays, and gels. She carried and used that "clicker," a cordless small curling iron that heated up to dangerous temperatures quickly if you didn't watch it, everywhere: on line at Magic Mountain, in the booth at Burger King, using the reflection in
the window as a mirror. During the thigh phase, she would slap, pinch, poke, stare, and jiggle whatever there was left to jiggle whenever she got a spare moment. She went on a diet and exercise regime, and could discourse with Talmudic subtlety on the distance between her thighs when she sat down. I don't remember my part when she got into these states: whether I teased her or argued that she wasn't fat or simply
went "uh huh, uh huh." I imagine it didn't much matter.
One day, she got arrested for shoplifting. I was with her; was, in fact, an enabler, although I did not get in trouble with the store or the law. She had talked about her exploits in petty thievery before, and I'd been...well, not disapproving, I know that much. It did seem daring, exciting, the way she talked about it. I'd never done anything remotely "bad" like that in my life: no smoking in the bathroom, no getting drunk at a kegger, no sneaking out the window after bedtime, and certainly no stealing.
So one day at the May Company, I...nudged her. She was already thinking along those lines, of course. She had enough money to pay for whatever it was (a bra, I think, or a T-shirt: something small), but the checkout line was long, and we were tired and bored. We conferred in oh-so-casual-tones, right there in the store, the pros and the cons. Finally, I said, "go for it." So she did. The old slip it on under the clothes in the dressing room trick. We headed out into the mall, my heart pounding. As soon as we'd passed out of the store, of course, they nabbed her.
We sat in a little grey-metal office in some hidden recess, backstage of the store. They made her sign some papers, and then they called her parents to come and release her, with the understanding that she would not be allowed back in the store for some months, possibly a fine as well. She cried, then, I think. The officers made it clear that I was not under arrest. I felt guilty as hell. To her credit, Rachel never tried to blame me for my part as instigator--not to the officers (who perhaps just didn't care), not to the folks, as far as I know, anyway. Possibly to me, some, afterward.
What I remember more clearly was her saying, in bitter tones: she'd been screamed at and grounded, but not (as she saw it) for stealing, since her mother had known that she'd taken things before and it had never earned more than a tsk-tsking sort of comment. They were punishing her, she said, for getting caught. I figured she was probably right.