Hobbies and Pastimes

I was smoking a cigarette in the alley when I noticed her walking alone along the empty streets. She moved on autopilot, lost in her own world. She didn’t notice me following behind her. It wasn’t until I was right at her heels that her head perked up. I stepped in front of her.

“Give me all your money!” I spit through my ski mask.

She looked at me confused. “Excuse me?”

My rush of adrenaline dipped a little by her lack of fear.

“Give me all your money bitch!”

She thought a moment. “I don’t have any.”

I yelled again. “Bitch! Give me all your money!”

“I don’t have any!” She yelled back annoyed.

I shoved her. She stumbled back a few steps but didn’t lose her footing. She shoved me right back. We locked in a stare. Her body puffed up in size, like one of those fish trying to scare off a predator causing me to deflate a bit. She put her hands out in front of her and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, what are you gonna do now? I knew I was defeated.

“Get out of here.” I waved her away.

She turned and walked off. She never once looked back at me.

I pulled off my ski mask and lit another cigarette. No one had ever challenged me like that before. Most people just throw their wallet as soon as they see the ski mask. I tossed my butt in a puddle and walked back to my condo. A nice one bedroom on the 27th floor of high-rise overlooking the lake. I walked out onto the balcony and thought about what started this little hobby of mine.

I work at an investment firm downtown. I manage accounts receivable. Every day it’s the same. Get up. Put on a nice suit. Take the train downtown packed with all the other working stiffs. Sit in a windowless office all day and move around numbers. Millions of dollars that only exist in the abstract. Then it’s back on the train. Back to my empty one-bedroom condo. Dinner for one. Wake up the next morning and do it all over again. I almost completely cracked there for a while, had a complete mental breakdown.

Then something remarkable happened. I was walking home. It was late. I was in a shitty mood. I saw this woman standing on the street corner. She was in her 40s, dressed to the nines: fur shawl, expensive bag, fancy shoes, lots of gold jewelry. She couldn’t find a cab, and she was pissed. She stepped back from the curb and pulled a cigarette case from her purse. She held a long thin cigarette between her leather-gloved fingers as she tried to light it. Her fancy gold lighter was dead. I walked over to her and with all the charm I could muster; I pulled out my cheap plastic bic and lit her cigarette. She thanked me. I lit a cigarette of my own, asked her how long she had been waiting. She looked me up and down, judging everything about me; appraising my value. I could tell she liked what she saw, not as a man but as a plaything. She smiled, started chatting me up. She asked me questions about my life and feigned interest in my answers. She was nice enough looking. I could have let her take me home, brought a little adventure into her life. She probably would have paid me. The idea of her paying me made me think about my stupid job and how I move millions of dollars a day for rich bitches like her. Women, who’ve never worked a day in their lives, just marry someone for money and coast. If I let her pay, I’d be a bitch like her. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. And before I knew it, I knocked her down and stole her purse. I heard her screaming and crying as I ran away. What a rush! The purse was loaded with cash and credit cards and at first that made it worth it. It was the reason, I told myself anyway, that I did it again and again. But I became obsessed with it, like a fiend. I needed it. Eventually, I started mugging people who didn’t even have that much cash.

I sulked into work the next morning empty without my violence buzz. Before I could even get settled in the receptionist poked her head into my office.

“Beth Marvis is here for her interview.”

“Oh shit, I forgot about that.” I ran my fingers through my hair. “Send her in.”

The receptionist closed the door, and a few moments later Beth came in. My stomach dropped. It was the brave girl from the night before. She sat down in the chair across from the desk.

“Nice to meet you,” I shook her hand waiting for her to recognize me. Nothing. I sat down in my chair. Relieved, I continued with the interview discussing the inter-workings of the company.

“—Which basically means we move money from one account to another.”

A dark cloud passed over eyes. She looked me over. “What did you just say?”

“We move money—” She stopped me short.

“Money, say money again.”

My stomach sank. Beads of sweat formed on my brow. She recognized me.