Viewing Guilt

Viewing Guilt
Published: Dec 03, 2012
A short anecdote about (not) stealing a television.

Where does guilt come from? If the tabloid newspapers are anything to go by, then some evil criminals show no remorse for the most sickening of crimes. But others feel guilty for things they didn’t even do. I didn’t steal the TV, but, I admit, it didn’t look great.

It’s ten o’clock at night – dark, but neon lit and the streets are busy. People leaving the cinema, having a drink, hailing the bus: going about their business. My business is that I’m struggling to wheel through these streets a supermarket trolley. It’s laded down by a dead weight of grey, hard-edged, outdated technology, and its front right wheel has gone sufficiently askew to turn the simple process of steering into a veritable battle of wills. I’m winning it, just.

Through a seemingly endless carpark, down the pavement, round a corner and along the street, I’m getting some strange looks – “Who is this brazen idiot?” their eyes seem to say. Children are ushered out of my path with suspicion. Surely I don’t look like a real criminal? Not in these shoes. And surely no actual criminal would be stupid enough to wheel their loot along the street in a supermarket trolley, in broad view of the whole world? But, then, perhaps it’s an ingenious double bluff. Perhaps I’ve outsmarted them all.

I hear a police siren in the distance behind me, approaching shrill and fast. A procession of thoughts rush through my head, as I rapidly run through a series of stories to justify my innocence. “No officer, I just purchased it. Yes officer, from a flat around the corner. I’m just taking it home now, officer. How much? £20, honestly.” Honestly. “I even asked permission to borrow the trolley.” I find myself defending myself to myself, and I’m not even being particularly persuasive.

The car whizzes past. Clearly they have a more important crime to attend, like real crime.

“Honestly.” It’s like “trust me” – when somebody resorts to using that word, you know they’re lying. But not this time. Honestly. And it is true: I didn’t steal the TV, or the trolley. The kind man who runs the corner shop let me borrow his only one – on the condition that I return it unharmed within half an hour. But it was me that pranged its wheel, crippling the steering of his only trolley. Perhaps that’s where the guilt came from. Sorry.

Image credit: Velma


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