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That Time I Stole a Car... (and a little Money).

There is no play on words in the title... I actually stole.

I was living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and working as a cashier. After about six months, I was promoted to Head cashier. Even though I was given a significant pay raise, I still wasnt saving enough money to buy a car. I needed a car, because my four-door- Pontiac was repossessed earlier that year. Actually, I allowed it to be taken. The sight of it was constantly triggering cult memories; and began to loathe driving it. The car itself was great. But I couldnt see past everything it represented in my head. Besides Changing My Name, finally getting the car that I truly wanted was my biggest dream.

Though I was single, young, and hated four-door-cars, I was pressured by the Cult members to buy it. That way, more members can go with me, when it was time to go out and preach to others on the street, and homes. I wanted to represent god´s people in the best light possible, so I purchased a new car, modest vehicle. Besides, sports cars and two door cars were considered self- centered and too flashy for "Christians". But I digress...

Not having a car wasn´t a problem for me at the time. I was fresh out the cult, and had no clue about the rest of the world; in turn, I had no life. I went to work and came straight home. That was it. I had no idea how to make friends because I lacked the appropriate social skills. I was terrified of ANY and EVERYBODY outside the cult anyway. So I stayed to myself. But eventually, I became friendly with my next-door neighbor. His name was Kenneth.

One night, Kenneth attacked me. Period. That's all i am saying about it. That's all you need to know.

The police were of no help. They gave me a restraining order against him, and that was it. But I still didnt feel safe. I knew i had to move away very soon. I decided to confide in one of my coworkers, Michelle, about what happened. She had been through a similar attack a few years back, which left her with ugly scars across her face. She was an introvert, just like me. So we immediately became close friends. She told me about this guy she knew, who sold quality cars for very cheap. Every month or two, he popped up with one or two cars to sell privately. Cheap and Quality cars sounded too good to be real. But I was desperate, so I asked her to take me there.

About fifteen minutes from our job, we were headed down a long, dirt road. The trees were thick with leaves, and hid us from the sun; as they lined down the road. we didnt pull up to a car lot, as i expected. But it was a two-story, brick home, with a huge front yard. Michelle parked the car, and we headed to the back yard. We were met by two, huge and friendly dogs, when we walked behind the house. Carlos, the dealer came around the corner, and saved us from all the dog kisses. As he was talking to Michelle, I caught sight of HER in my peripheral vision. A classic, 1991 Camaro. V8 Engine. Automatic. Red..and TWO DOOR. Though his price was reasonable, I still couldnt afford to purchase Her. So, we worked out a payment deal. He would allow me to make payments, but I couldnt take the car home, until my debt was paid off. It was an easy decision, to have the car I have always wanted.

Everyday, I woke up with Her on my mind. I felt like I was in love. I got giddy at the thought of doing my makeup in her vintage mirror; and the vroom-vroom-noise I planned on making, just to annoy others. I had an expired license plate, from a vehicle i had ten years earlier, Da Diva. I dreamt of getting Her reregistered with the same plates, if i could. Faithfully, I made my payments every week. Sometimes I doubled my payments, because I wanted to move away from kenneth as soon as possible.

Since we were neighbors, I would still see Kenneth every so often, when parking my car. He would glare at me, sometimes smirk. I felt as if he wasn´t afraid of no straining order, and I was right. Several weeks after the attack, he showed up at my job, and threatened me. By the time the police arrived, he was already gone. Back when we were on friendly-terms, he told me about a three-month-summer- vacation he was taking with his family. The day he threatened me was the same day he was leaving for his trip. So I knew the police were not going to find him at his house. They were very nonchalant about the entire ordeal anyway (I am a black woman. Not being protected by the police is a normal thing in America for us). Their attitude told me that I would have to take matters into my own hands, or possibly die, when Kenneth returned home.

I was desperate to get Her. But I had about seven more weeks of payments to go. So I started stealing money from the registers at work. Every night, as the head cashier, I collected all of the money from the registers; tally up the receipts; and place everything in the vault. Despite cameras being everywhere, and working with a manager to empty the registers, i was never caught. They knew money was missing. But they never expected it was docile, timid, honest Karmen. This went on for weeks. Several days before Kenneth was due back from his vacation, I went to visit Her. She looked so gorgeous, with her freshly buffed rims. I tried to convince Carlos to let Her come home with me. I was short only a few of payments. Surely, he would trust me enough to pay off my debt. But he wouldn´t budge.

Though it was a hot summer for Carolina, that night was breezy and cool. I was lying in bed, when I decided what to do. At 1:15 am, I got dressed, and ate some pancakes. Then I called my confidant, Michelle. We spoke for approximately eight minutes. I stuffed all of my clothes into two garbage bags, and placed them by the front door. Thirty minutes later, Michelle showed up. She placed my garbage bags in her back seat; while I retrieved my over-sized Mickey Mouse doll from inside the house. We sat in silence while she drove.

At 3:07, we were riding down the dark, dirt road leading to Carlos´ house. I never asked Michelle how she knew that Carlos wouldn´t be home. And frankly, it didnt matter to me. We sat for a few minutes in front of his house, with the car off. Still, no words were exchanged. I got out of the car, with the dog food.

Thirty minutes later, we are standing in the empty parking lot, where we both worked. We hugged each other so tightly.

Tears of happiness, freedom, shame, and fear ran down my cheeks. She was crying too, but I was afraid to know why. We spoke very little, and said goodbye. She got in her car, and blew me a kiss goodbye. I got in my Camaro, and watch her drive off. After checking that Mickey´s seatbelt was fastened, and my bags of clothes were okay on the back seat, I turned on my car. I now had no job, no home, and no family. With five hundred dollars in my pocket; Mickey as my passenger; my garbage bags of clothes; and my expired "Da Diva" plates on my bumper .....I jumped on the highway, headed to California.


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