Anthony insisted that we take our new Eddie Bauer beach chairs to Fire Island, even though my hands were full with a homemade blueberry pie. The chairs were light, made of blue canvas and an aluminum frame. They folded down neatly and had a carrying strap. It was the Eddie Bauer logo that impressed my lover, causing us to spend money we did not have. We reached a limit on our joint AT&T Universal Mastercard, but as usual when we were without a dime in our pockets, my lover managed to come up with the cash.
Anthony was sure to turn his beach chair so that fellow commuters on the subway would notice the logo and his style and sophistication. John carried my Eddie Bauer chair as we boarded the Long Island Railroad, and pointed out, as we sat down, it was only fair that he should get to sit in the chair when we reached the sand. He said it only seemed right.
The chairs were forty dollars each, but only cost us five bucks in real, hard-earned cash. The Eddie Bauer store in Soho, like all stores belonging to this high-end brand, permitted its customers to return anything bearing the Eddie Bauer logo. Receipts were not necessary. Anthony tested the store’s return policy after finding a pair of wool socks at a Salvation Army. The socks had the famous trademark on the heel. Anthony walked into the store in trendy, lower Manhattan and complained to a sales clerk that the particular pair of socks he had were faded beyond his satisfaction. He demanded an immediate in store credit. The clerk agreed and issued a fifteen- dollar, in-store credit for the socks, although Eddie Bauer no longer carried the particular style.
We spent an entire afternoon running from Salvation Army stores to more prestigious second hand clothing outlets in search of anything with an Eddie Bauer tag after we learned the store would take anything back. Three dress shirts pulled from the racks at Housing Works had netted us more than fifty dollars that day, which was what we used to buy the chairs. We were, after all, headed to a beach where the rich lay in the sun.
Although Anthony grew up in a poor neighborhood in East New York, he was an artistically gifted child with an IQ exceeding that of most white children. I admit, it was his wicked sense of humor combined with a sharp mind and tongue that caused me to fall in love with him. The New York public school system had granted Anthony the opportunity to attend the High School of Art and Design when he was the impressionable age of thirteen. This was where, according to Anthony, he learned the trade of shoplifting.
“I skipped class with a group of white girls almost every day. They were from really good homes. They all had parents who the salespeople at Bloomingdale’s worshiped. It was easy to stroll into those stores, try something on, and walk right out of the store, leaving our old things behind on the floor of the changing rooms. It was then that I realized how easy white people have it in life. Those little girls taught me so much about acting calm when committing shameless sin. It seemed so unfair that my mother suffered so poorly in East New York. I wanted to be just like the white girls. Of course I could never change my skin color, but I learned that if you hang out with white people, other white people treat you just as white. This is why I love you so,” Anthony explained.
One would think after Anthony spent nine months in a military prison for shoplifting from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s department store, he would never again attempt anything unethical with a store. He didn’t even blink when we walked into Eddie Bauer for our refunds.
The time he served locked in a prison did nothing to correct my lover’s need to be like the white girls he went to high school with. I learned my own lesson in regards to shoplifting though him, although I never developed the severe addiction he seemed to have when it came to taking things that were “insured by the stores, anyway”.
While stationed in Bavaria together, we were able to sneak away to the Austrian Alps on weekends and stay in the most extravagant of hotels there. Anthony was always giving me nice clothing to wear when not in my uniform. I never stopped to question how he could afford the gifts. I assumed I was just really good at sex. The trips to the Alps, like our Eddie Bauer lawn chairs, were financed through the skills Anthony learned in high school. We did not have the opportunity to make out in a bed. Our sexual intercourse took place in Anthony’s Subaru. It was the age before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was enacted. Gay men in the Army went to jail for sucking dick. What we were doing in the store was not considered that bad.
Anthony stole things and returned them for the cash to finance our love affair. Who was I to tell him he could not have an Eddie Bauer beach chair?