The Ice-Cream Thief

Sep 14, 2023
Dimitris Passas

The blazing rays of the sun hit my face as I stuck my head over the balcony rail of my house to take the last drag of my morning cigarette. The day began with a nasty quarrel instigated by the fact that my mother realized that there were two tenners (ten euro notes) missing from the wallet that she kept in her all-time favorite, black leather purse. A lot of time has passed since I lost track of how many times I had to fill the shoes of being a domestic thief. Being a full-time junkie means that you become the absolute master in rummaging drawers, closets, handbags and, generally, whatever could potentially contain money. There were many times I thought that I was able to tear the floor up if I suspected that I would find some small change there. This tendency exhibited by all addicts becomes so etched on the DNA that even dictates a particular body posture that one can observe in every place where drug dealings take place around the world; hunched back, and the head held at all times down, looking like you are examining your own feet. However, the reality is entirely different. The reason why we all choose not to look straight ahead but downwards is that there is always the hope that you will be lucky enough to find a bag of heroin that slipped from the back pocket of a druggie who was too stoned to take notice or some stray benzo pills that slide from a dealer who felt so pressured at the time that let his precious supply slide in the pavement. This habit, of course, follows your every step regardless of where you are and if there is not a chance in hell that you could find something of value down there.

But let's get back to my rough morning, one of the many, and the altercation I had with my mom, who seemed unable to cease the incessant bickering, a trademark of hers that I could never quite endure. After delivering her flaming spiel, she returned to her room, and now she is sitting there with her hands on the wooden desk, seemingly struggling to keep her head in place. I didn't utter a word, that goes without saying. I have long since grasped that there is no point of retorting to a person who is so far away from your everyday reality and doesn't show even the remotest of interest in getting to know you a little better. Plus, I was practically, once again, caught red-handed, so I was undoubtedly guilty in her eyes. There could be no excuses. As she always likes to point out, my father, dead for more than a decade now, taught us to live with our head kept high and protect our dignity at all cost. For my mother, this was an argument that could make me think again my actions, feel ashamed for my actions, and eventually steer away from the bad influences, eventually rebounding back to normalcy. Such a crock of shit. It was another proof that the woman who gave me birth and saw me grow up from a little boy to a man, was impossible to even begin to imagine what substance abuse and dependency entailed and how it influenced every single aspect of the addict's behavior. There is something else too. My mother is literally a daughter of a bitch, my grandmother who throughout the last decade not ever deemed worthy to tell me a single kind word. Instead, she used to show me her extreme contempt for me by deriding me, belittling my masculinity and explicitly stating that I was nothing but a burden for my heroine mother who struggled to keep our family afloat after her husband's death.

So, perhaps my mother's idiocy had its roots in being unlucky in the genetic lottery, but this thought didn't in any way make me fell less exasperated about her overall attitude towards me. Her inclination to cry each time we had an argument only made more livid, as she liked so much to play the victim. She may even believe that through such means, she could make me renounce drugs. I simply abhor that line of thinking and I firmly believe that it is a crystal-clear indication that a person is petty as one can be, let alone slow in the mind. However, our morning fight left me with only four euros and some change for the day. That amount of money was not enough even for an appetizer, that is a few milligrams of meth to clear my head and plan the rest of the day. There were no other nooks and crannies to ransack, so I had to invent something quickly to at least scrap together another five euros to score a more decent amount of the notorious "shisha". I put on a t-shirts and a pair of grey shorts and left, slamming the door behind me to make a statement of my nervous disarray.

Outside, the summer sun burned my white as milk skin as I started walking toward the tram station to get me downtown. When I reached the station's steps, my t-shirt and underwear were soaked in sweat, something to be expected as I hadn't managed to sleep even for an hour during the last two nights due to yaba's intense toxicity and effect. Moreover, I was out of Suboxone and the profuse sweating was mainly an early symptom of opiate withdrawal. There is nothing more vexing than waiting when you find yourself in such a predicament. Delay, under any guise, shredded my nerves to little pieces, and the tardy tempo at which the tram was moving made me so nervous that I couldn't help swearing under my breath now and then. Finally, we made it to Syntagma square, the last stop, and I got out to take the bus that would take me to the only place I truly wanted to be: The Park. It took about twenty minutes to reach the front gates of the city's largest municipal park that was now occupied by a motley group of misfits from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds who, nevertheless, shared an omnipotent impulse for self-destruction. As I entered, I immediately spotted my man, standing near the bench in the corner closest to the gates, speaking with someone I didn't recognize. Naim, the emaciated Afghan who had become the most popular supplier of skag and meth in the whole park during the last few months, flashed me his distinctive toothless smile and began to take out the small shisha Ziploc bag from his blue shirt pocket.

As I got closer to him, I told him that I only had a little less than a fiver and I asked him to give me ten euros worth of product as I was a solid client who never owed him. I simply had the right to make such a request, and I was one of the very few addicts in the park who could do such a thing and not be treated with utter apathy. He took a short piece of straw that he used to transfer the shisha from the bag to a piece of paper I was holding with hands that were shaking so bad I thought I might have the most terrible accident imaginable: lose the stuff by my own mistake. Fortunately, I managed to contain it and took a few quick steps to a middle-aged Pakistani who used to sit alone and create glass pipes for shisha smoking that he sold at the price of one euro a piece. He always had a sizable piece of marble stashed that he tended to offer to those who wanted to snort, a hard surface is a must when you want to smash a rock of junk or large pieces of crystal as in my case. He gave it to me and I spread the tiny amount of meth on it, stomped it with a payphone card and snorted it. The burning sensation of snorting meth is about fifty times more intense than that of breathing heroin. You fell like your nostrils are literally on fire. That was one of the reasons why I gained a kind of notoriety among the Park's patrons; I was the only meth-head who snorted instead of smoking. There were countless times that I was approached by others, asking me if that was even possible.

As I made my way to my favorite bench, one of the most remote ones in the area, my eye caught the tiny shape of Irene, a 4-year-old girl who frequented the Park, accompanying her total wreck of a mother, Sandra, in her drug binging escapades. Sandra was perhaps the person I loathed more than anyone in the Park and the reason was that she preferred to treat her child as a doll, definitely not a little kid who never and under no circumstances should be allowed to be even near to this filthy place, overflowing with semi-lunatics, aspirant criminals, decadent male and female prostitutes and even elderly men sporting ivy caps who were on the prowl for young flesh. What was most impressive about Irene is that, even though I've seen her regularly there, I never heard her speaking, not even once. I've even wondered if she suffers from some speaking disability. I often tried to attract her tension and I used to mouth Dimitris in silence, hoping that perhaps she would be able to read my lips and one day I would hear her calling me by my name.

I was the moment I sat down that I saw the mystery man sitting in one of the central benches located around the middle-area of the Park. He wasn't a junkie, I could easily tell as he didn't exhibit any of the telling signs, and wondered what he could be waiting for. The Park was not the ideal place to be a complete stranger, it was more like asking for trouble. If nobody knew you, your presence there became suspicious, perhaps you were a cop or a desperate fag on the hunt for a boy to suck his cock. As these thoughts were churning in my mind, I didn't see him getting up and approaching the bench in which I was sitting. When he came close enough, he politely asked me if he could sit next to me. I told him it was not mine bench and he sat down immediately. We stood in silence for a few minutes and then he turned his head towards me and told me:

-"Would you be interested in a job"

-"I am not queer", I quickly responded.

-"It is nothing like that. Do you see the kiosk nearest to the statue of Leonidas right outside the Park?"

-"Yes, so?"

-"I want you to go there and take an ice-cream from the fridge. The frozen ekmek one. Don't pay for it. Pilfer it and then bring it to me. I'll be waiting here."

-"Why would I even consider doing that" I told him, making my irritation more than evident.

-"Because if you do it, I will pay you five times the price of the ice-cream"

Hold on, I thought. That particular ice-cream costs 2 euro. So, I would get a tenner for a simple swipe. Piece of cake. I didn't immediately accept, I didn't want to come across as desperate. But eventually, I stood up and told him to wait in that exact same spot for me.

I exited the gates and, for the umpteenth time, admired the imposing statue of King Leonidas. I was always inclined to think that if the sculpture had something of his soul, he would be furious for placing his memorial monument in such a depraved area. Anyway, I approached the kiosk and I took my time studying its structure, searching for its blind spot. Every kiosk in the country has a place that cannot be inside from the inside where the owner sits and sells his good. You just had to be meticulous enough to spot it as quickly as possible. I was lucky, for once, and the upper half of the fridge couldn't be visible from where a young, pretty brunette was sitting, reading a paperback. The next most important thing is to be decisive and not waver for a long time, battling your hesitation. Thus, I took two long steps and I opened the fridge's glass. The ekmek ice-cream was packed in the corner closest to me, so I took it and closed it into my palm, it was a rather little piece of candy. I started to retreat towards the Park, with confident steps, a way of moving that suits the innocents. As I reached the gates, I was certain that the owner didn't pick up on the petty theft as, by now, she would have come running for me.

I opened my stride as I got in the Park and I was quickly back to my bench where the man was waiting. I gave her the ice-cream, and he, without any delay, got out a ten euro note from a tiny wallet he kept in his trousers and handed it over to me. I instantly went to score meth again and this time I would definitely get much closer to the amount I needed for every single day. It took me about 5-10 minutes to score as well as use and I headed back expecting not to see the slippery gentleman who relished ice-creams. So, I was somehow surprised when I saw that he hadn't moved an inch from where he was sitting when I left him. As I was getting ready to sit, he held his hand up as to show me that I should remain standing. I looked at him, anger building in the inside. He told me:

-"10 ice-creams and I pay you five times their price"

I was stunned. 20X50=100. 100 euros in my pocket. It was every junkie's dream. Easy money. However, I had to devise another plan that would certainly have to involve the owner's distraction for a brief amount of time. I told him ok and I scanned the Park for a person who I could trust. Of course, nobody does nothing for free here and I had to offer him a cut of the money I would get. I spotted Kostas, a short, bulky young man from the mean suburb of Gyzi, a rather good-looking lad for whom you couldn't tell he was a druggie at least not at first sight. He was sitting with a young woman who seemed to be at the first stages of heroin addiction. He was a rather good-looking lad and you couldn't tell that he was a druggie. Her face had not already evolved to a wax mask, her limbs were still fluid and the eyes were not glassy. I approached their bench and told Kostas that I needed to talk to him, now. He instantly understood that it was for a "job" of sorts, so he gently told the girl that he would be back in a few and follow me to the bench closest to the gates.

-"I need you to do something for me. If everything pans out, I will give you a twenty", I told him"

-"Tell me"

I pointed to the kiosk.

-"You will go there and tell the girl that your girlfriend is hysteric and you need to calm her down. Tell her that she is pregnant to your child and you are really worried that she may try to do something crazy. Bring her to the upper gate, the one that faces Alexandras highway and then tell her that she was standing right there when you left her. You will apologize to her and pretend to go back inside the park to look for her. You must be very convincing as to make her leave her post unattended for a few minutes"

Kostas seemed to think about the whole shebang and then smiled a little. Without saying anything, he began walking towards the kiosk. I followed behind him at a short distance and saw him uncap the bottle of water he was holding in his hand and then carefully applying little splashes of water on his face. Bravo! A shocked man is always sweaty as hell. From where I was standing, I didn't have a clear view of the kiosk's front, so I was waiting to see the girl running away with Kostas to clear my mission. And there they were, the two of them rushing to Alexandras highway leaving the kiosk all for myself. I couldn't carry all ten ice-creams at once, it was simply impossible, so I took two sets of fours and stashed them haphazardly at the stepping of the Leonidas statue. When I took the final two, I felt like I was finished, already feeling the rush of the massive impending meth high. I followed the same strategy to sneak the loot in the Park area. When I was done, I sat down on the bench beside the shady man who made my day. When I handed him the ice-creams, he patted my back and I instinctively recoiled in disgust at the patronizing nature of the gesture. As my body turned away from the man, the corner of my eye caught Sandra and Irene sitting in the bench right next to us. Then I listened the man's voice, cold as anything:

-"This was your test and you passed it with flying colors. Now, let's move on to the real thing"

I looked at him as I didn't understanding the meaning of his words.

-"In Alexandras highway, you will find a black Mercedes 200, an older model, which is parked right out of the Eco gas station. Take these" he said and handed me a set of car keys that I've never seen before in my life. Sensing my not yet uttered question, he explained.

-"They are the Mercedes master car keys. They open every model made until 1998. Take them and get in the car. You will drive to the National Museum, park there and then call me in this number"

He handed me a small piece of paper with a number on it. I took it and stared at it for what it seemed a long time. Then, I stood up and tore it apart in front of the man's eyes. I moved right in front of him, so now his face was at the height of my genitals. I touched my balls, explicitly unequivocally indicating that I deem him as lesser than nothing.

"I don't drive", I told him. "I don't know how"

He looked at me in something resembling amazement.

"And besides", I added and raised my voice just a bit "I am only an ice-cream thief"

After delivering my line, I turned away and started walking towards the Park's exit. It was after my first two or three steps that I heard the voice. A high-pitched, clear articulation:

"Hey, ice-cream thief!"

I turned back and saw Irene looking at me with a beaming smile in her cute little face. I smiled back in a way that I didn't know I had in me until then. It was the best compliment I've heard in my whole life.


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