He saw my book, that thief and began casting poetry from his lips, poems that I suspected were in my book, poems that I probably had been gazing at moments before and barely noticed. I noticed them now.

The thief was, despite his calling, a cultured man. In fact he owed much of himself to his occupation. He once told me that since the day he's chosen his path he'd never paid for anything. So his clothes rarely fitted and his diet was sporadic (with a memorable face like his, running from restaurants could only be reserved for special occasions) he'd never sold anything he'd stolen, his flat could have belonged to a doddery old uncle perhaps, the clutter was so present. I asked him once why he never profited from his thefts, he merely smiled and said that he would then have been a criminal, as it was he was merely a thief. It all seemed to make sense to him.

And there he was, the thief, sprinkling poetry all over me, his fingers still plucking, his gaze alternating from me to the flower. He was quite a master of the written

word, though I do not recall ever catching him with a pen in hand save when he wrote in his precious stolen books. He was more of a talker, letting his words escape from him and come to rest in whatever ear they might find or often merely letting them escape with the wind going the way that, I suppose, so many beautiful words go.

He had a lot of poetry. I used to imagine him, dressed in black in someone's apartment, his soundless feet finding their way to a bookshelf, his silent hands reaching out, stroking for dust, for he only ever stole neglected books. And then quickly he would depart, a toaster perhaps under one arm and some ornament that had taken his fancy in the bag over his shoulders, the book tucked neatly, studiously in the back of his trousers.

They lay everywhere in his flat those books, a swarm of paper rats that never deserted ship. Each one on its inside-cover catalogued with the date stolen, the place and perhaps a thought for that day, or even one for the owner.

It was a dusty dry summer's day when the thief first noticed me. I was sitting, shaded beneath a large, very English looking tree, pretending to read something but really only idly passing the hours in a dreamy state pondering all the unimportant things that were cluttering my life at the time. He came and joined me, with his perceptive eyes and his cheeky smile, a daisy in hand and an oversize shirt hanging limply over his frame.

He plucked a petal from the daisy saying nothing. Then he looked straight at me, his head slightly askew. His look reminded me of a puppy's at first but the air of confidence around him soon made me think of a fox. He plucked another and his attention returned to the daisy. I couldn't tell if he was looking at me when I loved him or when I didn't. Pretty soon the answer would be clear.

To say I didn't take the discovery that he was a thief well would be true. In fact, looking back it seems so childish. I suppose the bubbles of excitement that a new relationship fills you with warped my judgement. I laughed with glee, and hugged him. I felt like a teenager going out with the rebel just to spite my parents. And I felt great, until the first night I spent with him and he went out. I lay there awake waiting, staring at the ceiling, worrying. I think I must have aged a great deal that night. I was livid by the time he returned. I had resigned myself to anger, no weakness shown. But, like an orchestral conductor, he controlled me, his sweeping, gliding words lifting me and bringing my anger down. He seduced me.

In the morning my anger was back.

"You must stop"

"I cannot, not even for you"


So I turned my back on him and left. He was a good thief though and pretty soon he had his reluctant prize back. That, I suppose, was the turning point and when I finally surrendered my reluctance I was his.

I used to spend days and nights on that floor, amidst all the clutter, my after-sex dreamy head roaming for books, for thoughts from my lover. The words that he wrote in other people's thoughts from other people's homes.

I ran away the first time that he came home bleeding. It was too much, patching him up, feeling his face swelling in my hands. I had screamed at him, no tears for him but for myself.

"You stupid, stupid bastard", I had slapped him as I shouted.

"Why, why?", but I knew why, "I hate you, I hate what you do", why is that hate is only an action away from love?

So I ran and left him, his words, "Its hard not to get hurt when you won't hurt back", lingering as I left his flat behind.

But, just as he could not live without his vocation, I could not live without him.

The only time he ever sold anything he stole (as far as I was aware) was so he could take me to Orleans.

He never told me why he took me there, perhaps it was just that Paris was a cliché. Of course it was still in the springtime and after a dusty walk by the river, watching the lazy boats go by, we sat on a beautiful cobbled street drinking pastis and laughing together.

He took nothing while we were there, for three whole days I pretended we had a normal life. On the last day he told me that if he ever worked out how to steal a house that he would steal it here. I didn't disagree. And as the shadows lengthened on that same cobbled street I looked at him and completely loved.

Once he brought me home a kitten, I was horrified.

"You can't steal living things", I had cried.

He had looked at me and smiled, "You can if they want to be stolen".

The kitten looked as if it did, as I'm sure I had in the park. But I cried, nonetheless, as if I was the little girl who might have lost this pretty kitten, I cried because I felt as helpless as it, and because I felt as at home here in the midst of lives stolen as I ever had anywhere.

When he was finally arrested they took everything away, leaving only the cat and I. We mewed together on the floor of an empty apartment that would soon contain only the dust of a thousand memories.

The first thing he had said to me from inside that prison was, "There's nothing to steal here. they took everything, everything I stole and with it they took my thoughts". He had cried and I so wanted to say something but the choking tears came just before the warden and I couldn't even hold out my hand to touch him before the prison spat me out.

But, of course, I did.


So I returned, and gave him as much love as I could. I wrote him everyday, my words clumsy compared to the books that I sent with the letters. I visited him every chance I had, smothering him with love because at that bottom line that was what he needed most. He used to steal things unloved by others and lavish them with love. Perhaps he identified with those dusty books, waiting just as I had been for someone to come along and love them. But my love was not enough, there was something missing. And like that fish out of water, surrounded by life-giving oxygen but lacking the water in which to mix it, he drowned.

I will never love again, I wish that I could, he had always said to me that when the time came I should love after him, for giving love was what he prized above all. But so, like those returned books of his, I gather dust, unloved and unloving, all of me save my heart. For my heart even the police couldn't return.

And besides who can argue with a daisy.