Most mornings my wife puts on one of the local news shows first thing. Between the inane forced banter and constant weather/traffic reports, every day, there are disconcerting reports of violent and awful crimes right before the awkward juxtaposition of the days viral video of a cat cuddling with a pig.
Usually it's something the viewer can relate to. Last week it was the motorcycle gang beating the poor guy in front of his wife and baby in the Range Rover.
With such a small, if consistent, number of crimes actually reported on TV I try to consider the thousands or tens of thousands of crimes that must be committed each day in and around the five boroughs of New York City. It is astonishing and a little frightening if you think about it. However, as I ponder this I realize that I've barely been touched by it in my life.
Certainly a number of close calls but I can only think of two times as a genuine victim where the police got involved. First was many years ago as a 13-year-old mugging victim. A knife was held to my throat at a train station by a kid not much older than I was. It was terrifying and I remember stuttering as he took the contents of my wallet and then quickly split.
The other time was years later in my shop in Manhattan. I was working alone that day and two well dressed European tourists (both men) came in and were looking for a piece of art to buy. As one distracted me, I realized later, the other went into my little office, and took my wallet. Worst part had to be the $500 in cash I lost. Strange footnote was that these gentleman robbers later sent me the contents of my wallet in the mail minus the cash and credit cards! I have no idea why. Maybe that's how they perpetrate in the Old World.
In re-considering these events I had a strong realization that of the crimes I've experienced first-hand, by far, the most long-lasting effects were from those committed in the context of personal relationships.
When I was in my early 20's I was in a relationship with a bright and beautiful young woman. From vastly different backgrounds, we had met in college and pretty quickly became exclusive boyfriend & girlfriend. It was volatile and exciting and lasted several years. The break-up a result of me not trusting her and she ultimately not liking me. The ending was sad with some passive/aggressive behavior by me contributing to the conclusion as shameful as that may be.
Cut to 3 or 4 years later. I'm now with an amazing woman in a wonderfully drama free relationship. We're at a party being thrown by the sister of my ex- girlfriend described above. I know there's no chance she'll be there so there's no potential awkward scenarios to contend with. A fun party, nice to catch up with acquaintances from the not so distant past. While talking to my ex's brother the subject of a certain leather jacket comes up and it's like I've been punched in the stomach.
About a year before my ex & I broke up I had moved to another part of the country to study. We had rough plans for her to join me and then we'd get engaged. Unpacking my stuff I realized that a nice leather jacket I had borrowed from my Father was missing. I called my then girlfriend, who had worn the soft brown bomber on occasion, if she'd seen it and she said "no." My Dad didn't seem to care that much and I just concluded that I'd lost it and then literally never thought about the jacket again until that night at the party.
The ex's brother casually revealed that his sister, my ex, had given him the jacket about a year or two after I moved away. He was laughing and had no idea this jacket had some importance to me. He thought he'd given it to an old girlfriend of his but he wasn't sure.
At that moment I was reeling. Of course, I couldn't care less about the jacket. However, like a rogue wave all the bad feelings from that relationship came crashing down on me. Deception, distrust, flagrant lies....ugly stuff! At that moment all my pathetic insecurities were, I believed, revealed to be absolutely true. This stupid jacket that I didn't even like that much, had became symbolic proof that my worst fears had been justified.
This hit me hard but only for a few days. I realized that in the scheme of things the jacket deception was minor. Certainly a symbol of a very messed up relationship. However, I suppose I could have found out far worse things and ultimately I felt lucky to have this be the only mystery of the past that was cleared up.
While her stealing my Father's jacket sounds minor compared to a potential throat cutting, that petty larceny, if that's even what it was, was far worse than the mugging and the robbery. Not even comparable. I believe it's those knowing, little crimes in a love relationship that leave the real scars as life goes on.