The sweet frost lays around each exteriority, completely caressing everything with no pulse; the concrete benches, the cheap long-term parked cars, the flag post holding up a miserably stiffened version of the colourful cubes in the Antwerp flag. It’s all there, present in the fleeting solid state that winter provides. In Veldstraat a timeworn art deco building was rising high in pale red bricks and with tall, slim windows that resembled pride with a modernist erection. Our thief is not yet a thief; this, I’m telling you now, is how he becomes one. Not through necessity or choice or anything. Through revelatory coincidence. He knocks off a near-antique doorhandle in angry silence, and in the process falls in love with it.  

I don’t think he came to the Neptuno Zwembad in Veldstraat on a regular basis, didn’t seem so. It was more like he just showed up that one day, anonymously, hiding his ever present insecurity with the systematic structure of a swimming pool; the ticket and the security entrance machine, the dressing rooms in a long green row like the compartments you see in old, luxurious trains but bigger and a lot more simple given the intimate function it held: beings getting naked, getting into little black swimming things. The awkward transition everyone felt but forcefully refused attention, kind of.

Having tremendously long and gnarled fingers is complicated, and being incapable of having them at peace ever, makes it even worse. He was wearing a long sand-beige and sunny striped blazer, with scratch marks on the chest and deep pockets lined in soft white silk. He had stuff in his pockets, things that were his friends, mostly finger toys such as earplugs, small glass balls, and a tiny yellow belly turtle that he had been carrying around with him with the same natural feel as the libertine carrying his 5ml perfume. The turtle was not really growing, it was fed, sure, but its size was maintained at a minimum; a length of less than 5 cm. He sat down on the hard bench in the ultra green dressing compartment and took out the turtle and a nail cutter from his chest pocket. Slowly he cut the claws off the turtle, one by one, its only way of escaping (crawling up the silk and falling down and running off into the mad world) was removed, nail by nail, and finally he put it back into his pocket. There it was left alone to have fun with the many earplugs and the glass balls, without it’s tiny claws, reduced to a miniature Sisyphus attempting an impossible climb only to fall back into its modest material world.

It was not a busy day in Neptuno Zwembad, not many people there for sports nor leisure. The thief, who I remind you was not yet a thief, was slow by nature, his hands though, were always flapping around like a pair of insecure teenage vipers. When he had changed into something swimmable he grabbed the worn metal doorhandle, it was caressingly soft and cold, he turned it and moved his body forward so the door slid open. The doorhandle felt special in his hand and he automatically paid attention to its fine form and feel. In fact he put so much thought and courtesy into its sublime touch that while the door was opening and he was stepping out, he forgot to let go of his emotional grip and consequently he tore it right off its green surface. He stopped and immediately felt the transition; right then the doorhandle went from the state of being something to being someone. Out of pure reflex and perplex he stuck it into the small diving pocket that was placed right next to his left hip, started walking towards the gate and through the top down saloon doors he entered the swimming pool.

Wading slowly through the shallow water he felt as if in a state of momentary urschleim. Some people characterize this state of hyper consciousness as being back inside the mothers’ womb, this state that follows the kind of strong realization that shakes the fundament of character, changes something inside of you, but what kind of epiphanies really arrive in the foetus’ womb. Only the sleeping kind, I think. But wherever metaphors go, it didn’t matter to the thief. He was enjoying the way his mind was twisting in overexcitement about the thievery. Completely anew, he felt calmly composed and extremely excited at the same time; these two poles working their way out of an impossible union and somehow finding ground for an alternative solution. A complex I cannot explain or understand, but let me tell you this: He thought about his hands cause they were calm as a preacher under the slurpy water, and he no longer regarded them as slightly handicapped, being contorted and always moving abnormally as they were. He watched them spread and clench and wouldn’t escape the though; now… these are the hands of an art deco thief.