It was bound to happen, you don’t do what I do and expect that Karma won’t catch up with you one day. It’s just did it really have to happen here and right now? I’ve called the police – they said they’d be round as soon as possible, although I doubt on a Saturday night I’m a high priority. They’ve told me not to touch anything, although of course, I’ve hidden anything that could incriminate me. So now I’m sat here amongst the detritus of my life, all the things they considered not worth stealing, waiting.

It started about three years ago, I was looking for a room to let in Highbury and was surprised by how casual the would be flatmates were with their possessions. Whereas I keep everything under lock and key, some people had everything on show. The first time it happened was at an open house off Holloway Road, four girls in their early 20s were looking for a fifth housemate. Rather than arrange civilised interviews with the potential candidates, they organised a free for all, with all of us potentials arriving at the same time. I think whoever shouted the loudest and the longest got the room, there certainly didn’t seem to be any concrete selection process. While I was queuing up to view the shower room, I had a nosey into the other bedrooms, and there it was a pink perspex broach in the shape of a sausage dog. I’d been coveting one of these broaches for six months after seeing it in a shop and finding out they had sold out when I went back to buy it. Then the next thing I knew it was in my hand and then my pocket and I was leaving the flat without giving them my contact details.

Not too long after this incident, I found a new flat, although I often still found myself looking up flats and imagining the spoils secreted within the four walls. And for a while my imagination was enough, until one day at a loose end, I decided that it couldn’t hurt to look around a flat even though I had no intention of moving in, after all, it would pass the time, and being single, I thought I might meet someone nice. You never know. The current occupants of the flat were a male and female nurse who worked at the Royal Free Hospital. They actually seemed really great, although that could be because I wasn’t worried about John leaving the toilet seat up, or if Kathy looked like a screamer. They were the kind of people who recycled properly separating out the plastics from the papers and had a tub for kitchen scraps. My idea of recycling is putting all the wine bottles in the brown glass bin, as it will all melt down the same. They didn’t allow me much freedom to wander round the flat, but I did manage to come away with a nice fridge magnet from San Francisco.

I never stole anything big, mainly because it would have been too difficult to leave without detection. I tended to choose small things, tokens, things that you wouldn’t necessarily notice were missing for days, maybe even weeks. Things you’d just think had fallen down the back of the chest of drawers and would turn up next time you cleaned. And if you did notice they’d gone missing, you certainly wouldn’t suspect that cute girl in the tea dress who promised to make cupcakes if you let her move in. It’s important that you understand that I never took anything I thought might be of value, although one person’s junk is another person’s treasure, so I could never be 100 % sure about that.

And so I kept doing it, now and then, you know, just trying to keep my hand in. It’s surprising how trusting people are, one couple told me how it was such a safe neighbourhood, they often didn’t lock the back door, another girl admired the bracelet I had just stolen from her room and was brazenly wearing on my out, she said she had a similar one upstairs.

I felt quite bad once, while I was robbing an old woman. I told myself that she was the kind of old lady who left out poisonous food to kill the neighbourhood cats. The problem is I’m allergic to cats, so this made the old woman’s feline-cide more appealing to me. I tried telling myself that she called the environmental police on people who played music too loud after 11 pm but seeing as how I’m heading to that side of unreasonable myself, I still couldn’t justify doing it. In the end, I pulled a paperback book at random out of her bookcase as I was leaving, it wasn’t until I got home that I realised there was an inscription inside the book, I’m sure it wasn’t special.

Of course I never really thought about the consequences of my actions, what is the real weight of a missing shot glass or a toy car? At the time I would have said nothing, but now that someone has taken my snow globe from New York and the earrings that go with my green shoe, and countless things a generous cheque from the insurance company will never be able to replace, I’m beginning to realise just how much value we invest in objects. Is it wrong that part of me is already planning to replace some of my missing items with a shopping trip through the many soon to be vacant rooms of Islington? Don’t judge me, but after phoning the police, I was straight onto lining up viewings for tomorrow. I’m sure you’d do the same if you were in my position, besides I need something to look forward to.

2 thoughts on “Room To Let

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