I did a lot of things to get over Erica. One of the earliest techniques was to hang myself with a belt from a nail in my dorm room wall. It was summer and I had my own room. No roommate could have tolerated me.
Shortly after summer classes began, Erica decided she had to pick one of her three romantic interests, and she elected to stick with Oskie, the ancient graduate student she'd been seeing before I met her. Brian and I thought he was the least likely choice-- clearly if all was well she wouldn't be fucking the two of us --but we were surprised. So no raunchy midday sex with Erica in the dorm; she had dumped me twice in as many months.
The nail was near the ceiling so I had to get up on a desk to reach. I looped the belt around my neck and slipped one of the belt holes over the nail, and let my weight sink onto it. I started to black out before the belt came undone; the nail didn't want to hold it. I sat on the desk and cried. I felt like even more of a loser for failing to die. But I didn't try it again. I'd tried it once before during the spring, just using my hands, but that was part of a general tantrum rather than a genuine suicide attempt.
I also decided I wasn't going to eat ever again. I couldn't have believed I would starve to death, but fuck it, I wasn't going to eat anything. I got through the first day and most of the second, but by that evening I was thinking about food constantly. Reasoning with myself, I said that if I could steal some food I would be allowed to eat.
Earlier that summer I noticed some of the candy machines on campus were fronted with thick pieces of plastic rather than glass. I plotted. Vending machines in general seem to adore me; I'm always getting free food and change from them, and they'll always take the most wrinkled, desecrated dollar bills from me. Perhaps the machines were trying to appease me, to stop me from doing what I now did.
Weil Hall is, or was, always unlocked for the benefit of engineering students who needed to do late-night geekery. In the basement was a small closetlike room containing a couple of soda machines and a snack dispenser. The latter had a plastic window, and was inside, hidden, where I could violate it in peace. I crept into the room, shut the door, killed the lights and plugged in my soldering iron. By the snack machine's fluorescent glow I carved a hand-sized square hole in the transparent front. You have no idea how agonizingly slow it is to carve through 1/4" Plexiglas with a soldering iron. I was certain to be walked in on; I jumped every time I thought I heard somebody, but there was no use, the hole was blatant and gaping and I had to proceed. I sliced three of the four sides and bent the plastic outward. Instead of snapping off it creased, the clear plastic going white. Then I shoved my hand in and grabbed every candy bar I could reach. The hole was a little too small and placed kind of high to get everything. In my panic I scratched my arm up on the edges. Soon my backpack was full of loot and I slipped out of the room. If somebody happened to be coming down the hall I'd be screwed, but the whole adventure was stupid anyway. Stealing candy bars? And it would've been faster to smash one of the glass machines. Taking a circuitous route around the stadium I headed back to the dorm. I was nervous and looked it; I imagined the cops were already chasing me down.
But my worry subsided once I was home. I felt great, absolutely godlike. Doing crime made me feel alive again. I temporarily forgot my feelings for Erica. The robbery kept me high for about a week, during which I did the first of the old-style DG dollar paintings. Or maybe I was tripping on Reese's and M&Ms. It took me a couple of weeks to finish the candy. But by the time the project was done I was obsessing over her again.
I took to wandering around campus in early morning, breaking and entering. Not that I did much breaking. I seem to be a divining rod for unlocked doors, poor security. One morning in Weil Hall I played with a combination lock on an office door. Two minutes later I solved it, revealing a room full of Sun workstations, not twenty feet from a loading dock. I was not bold enough to bring my car around. But when I stalked the basement halls of Turlington I let myself into chemistry labs and helped myself to choice laboratory glassware. I never interrupted experiments. Often I stole something even if it didn't particularly appeal to me. It was a souvenir to show that I was there, that I'd gotten away with it. As time passed I got over the idea that someone waited just out of sight to bust me. It was stupidly easy. My faith in law and order was tragically shaken by this.
Whenever I felt pensive or angry I would go out and boost something. I stole art supplies from the desk of some poor fuck in the architecture classroom. I still have his pocket knife; it's been quite useful but I'll return it to him if I ever find out who he was. While hanging over in Gainesville on my way to California I slipped into the rich alumni skyboxes and made off with snacks and drinks. Shands Hospital had crates of glassware stacked up in one of its halls, and on my way out after a doctor visit I hastily crammed a case of Erlenmeyer flasks into my backpack and pedaled away on my bike. Kleptomania became a means for calming my nerves. It wasn't until later that I gave it political significance.