Friday, November 14, 2003


I remember the first time I was struck hard by covetousness. I was around eight or nine years old and hanging out in the house of a playmate, Allen.

Now Allen was a rich kid, an only child who lived in a bigger house with a multitude of maids, but he was very nice, not stuck up at all.

That particular afternoon, as we played with Lego in his room, I noticed a pile of oversized comics. Now until that point in time, I thought that comic books were of a single size, you know, comic book size. But Allen had gigantic ones.

Intrigued, I started reading and was introduced to the adventures of Tintin and Snowy, as well as those of Asterix and Obelix. I loved them. I wanted my own copies.

“Where did you get these?” I asked him.

“My mom got them in the States.”

It was then I realized that I’d never be able to find them in Manila.

And I so wanted them.


I went home in the grip of envy.

The following day, I dropped by his house to read. He wasn’t there but one of their helpers let me in his room. I started to read about Captain Haddock and Calculus, Cacofonix and Getafix.

I also thought about stealing all of his big comics.

Or some of them. I quickly thought it through and crossed the line.

I took one of them: Flight 714, starring Tintin. I stowed it in my bag and walked home.

I spent the night waiting for the inevitable phone call from Allen or his parents, accusing me of being a thief, and I had prepared all my denials, my ironclad alibis, my rationales and justifications.

I didn’t get a call that night. In school the following day, Allen treated me exactly the same way. Maybe he hadn’t noticed it yet, I thought. I gave it time, and in the two weeks that followed I waited for him to suddenly punch me in the face.

It never happened.

Gradually, Allen and I grew apart, making other friends, in a way that seemed very organic, very natural. We continued to see each other in school but we were both growing up, and moving on to other things. Up to this day I think the decline of our closeness was not related to my misdemeanor.

Or maybe it was.

As for Flight 714, after I stole it I never read it again. There was almost a physical pain linked to the act of opening the cover; guilt does that. I thought about returning it and coming clean.

One day, I visited his house and just dropped the book off. It did not erase the fact that I had done something wrong, but it did a lot to assuage my guilt.

The lesson I learned was that while I may not have gotten caught stealing something, the unchanging fact is that I had done something wrong. And the guilt and stress and loss of many somethings, some invisible, is not a good trade off.

And now, having all the Tintins and Asterixes as an adult, I know I owe the friend of my childhood something greater than an abject apology.


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