Don't believe the movies, it's a dirtier life than it looks.
There's a peculiar curse placed upon creative people and it's been that way since we decided to substitute our own order for that of nature's (which is why it's inevitably doomed). We hear of the successful poets and musicians and artists from over the centuries (none from the Dark Ages) but those are the lottery winners of talent. Other "Creatives" are forced to deal with life in less fortunate circumstances.
A worker bee life is just fine - if you're a worker bee. Unless you can entertain us to the point of receiving compensation, worker bees are all society wants. That is why we have the myth of the romantic outlaw who breaks all the rules. Sure, in the end they are forced to unforgivably kill and destroy to maintain their lifestyle - but we understand. We want to live too. We also feel the thorns of the world.
I was #2 man in the crew that pulled the infamous Barnstown Bank robberies. Robert, our leader, was a creative genius, a force of nature all his own. He had no choice but to comply to his creative desires, it was an obvious death were he not to. I didn't have Robert's drive - that raging need - but I was creative and intelligent enough in my own right to review his schemes and poke through any holes I might find (which was rare and ones I found were of enthusiasm).
Linda and Larry rounded out our crew. Linda had her own demons bringing her down, craving a personal outlet she never fully explained but we all sort of sensed (We knew not to pry. It was part of the trust we afforded each other the outside world never gives.) Larry was more of what I call a "creative admirer", someone who sings in the shower but never on stage. He loved our exploits and daring imagination and for him to be useful in our endeavors meant the world to him.
As criminal crews go, we were tight, a quasi family. We started small, scuffling our way through with tentative jobs, testing ourselves and finding our place in the criminal hierarchy. We all had faith in Robert and he never disappointed. It was truly marvelous to go over one of his plans, they were almost operatic in their detail and rhythm of operations. No, we weren't a band that could go on stage, we were a band with a different act - and we were proud of that aspect. Yes, our acts were wrong in the eyes of the world but we filled a need that came from God.
The first time we robbed Barnstown Bank had been a precision masterpiece. I was point man on dissecting the bank as I was the best at analytical design. That made me more visible than the others but then I had an ego to be satisfied too, to let the bank employees know of my particular genius. (It's strange but the employees became sort of an extended family by default, sort of like blood relatives - there were those you liked and hated but either way you were stuck with them.) This compulsion of mine to show off was my eventual downfall.
Safeguards were put in place afterwards - but that only spurred Robert further. We laughed when he presented the plans to go back. We didn't know who the unknown foe was who designed the safeguards but we were going to him show our mettle. We wanted to shout to the world: "We're somebody! We count too!" We were going to make them listen come hell or high water. The more we found ourselves the more important we realized that was. This would be our first job with absolute flair.
Robert's plan worked to a T - and sure did get us recognized! We were dubbed the "Creativity Crew" by the media and since I was forced to lead the actual operation I became the face of the franchise. Nothing could be proven or tie me to the crime directly but my necessary scouting made me known at the bank and by deduction they knew I was guilty. It was dangerous and scary, but I loved the notoriety and recognition. The bank employees had this illusory version of the life we led, free from the ball and chain of their desks. You could see it in their eyes. It was perilously ambiguous because on one hand it made them want to cooperate while on the other their jealousy sought to sabotage us.
Our big breakthrough - as so often is the case in stories like these - was the beginning of the end. First Larry started getting cold feet, being pressured by the cops to spill the beans. He'd fed into their characterization of us and guilt like a tapeworm was eating him up inside. He just wanted to confess - as if that was a final solution. I managed to rally him back around but it was tenuous and I never would fully trust his weak mind again. Not that I didn't understand his need to confess, I shared that too.
I also started a relationship. I obviously could not bring someone fully into my life but we had a "coffee shop" friendship. Luckily, she was a woman most self-possessed and thus knew and cared little for the world at large. She was wicked funny and responsible in her relations, my admiration growing on a daily basis. We would meet by happenstance at a Thai coffee shop, sharing smiles but no questions. How she afforded to be there day after day I never knew - nor she me. Soon I found myself thinking of her during the dusty day, looking for smiles to bring to her. It's painful to think of that time now.
Success had gone to Robert's head as well. The mad bastard came up with a THIRD plan for robbing the bank even with the new security they implemented. I immediately had doubts. We were going to come up through the sewers dressed as a SWAT team and use our "official" power to circumvent what they had put in place. Not strong enough yet to pull away I went back in to reconnoiter and I was embarrassingly mobbed by bank personnel who were equally galled and thrilled I dared to come back.
If we can't break free, neither can you!
I felt like an idiot so I decided to play it back against them saying, "You know guys, I could only be doing this as a distraction to our real objective." I wasn't but it messed with their heads and they became like aimless ants trying to sort it out. But then Linda made a mistake and was recognized by an employee, putting her on the spot. Linda was forced to account where she was during the robbery so she put on an elaborate display for the police as a Vegas showgirl that rightly used their own dicks to fool them. We never knew she had that in her!
But we were the Creative Crew after all.
So Robert had gone heady with success, Larry had his gnawing doubts, Linda had been panicked like never before and I had a relationship where I couldn't come clean. No way I wanted to do this job. The banksters were pissed as all get out feeling public sympathy was more with us than them the alleged pillars of society. A tower had been set up in the middle of the bank that monitored any and all activity. We were doomed just by walking in the door. I know Robert had an answer for that - he had an answer for everything - but instinct told me, "No more of this."
Pulling away ripped me in two. The desire to go on was overwhelming. In some ways it had been my first taste of life with my head above water, breathing in free air at last. How could I say no to that? I wanted to breathe and keep on breathing the rest of my life. Pulling away also broke the bonds of our gang, which is always a marriage of sorts. But I saw only jail as my future and that was one thorn of the world I could not overcome. After this, it all came crashing down.
With my secret life - and secret pride - now gone, I turned on my coffee shop girl. I felt I was shaming her with my friendship and I kept imagining over and over her horrified reaction to the truth of me. Like I said, she was one most responsible in her relations and I was paying her back like this? For months I spent grieving and I wonder to this day what would have happened had I confronted her with the truth of my inadequacies. I don't understand it but a voice says I sold her - and myself - short.
Was it all just a dream in the storm of your eyes, Sara?
We had a last party as a gang out on some ranch. It was painful. My heart broke the entire time and I felt tragic guilt for letting everyone down but I stuck to my guns. Larry surely would have cracked had we done another high profile job, the voices the cops put in his too loud to ignore. And Linda was so on edge she was ripe for a mistake. And Robert needed a personal life as opposed to substituting his art for one. But the worst crime of all: it killed my creativity not to do that third job.
Now I live in a prison of my mind. Literally, not a night passes I don't relive our jobs in my dreams only this time something always goes wrong, either by unimaginably bad luck or a vital detail we had skipped. My interest in life is waning, spiraling out of my hands. It's easy to see for me why criminals keep going until they get caught: the crimes are the only times they feel alive. Without that, you get the sort of living death I lead now. I can almost physically feel it inside me, a collapsing of the heart, my back bending in despair. Whatever person I was with the coffee shop girl, I am no more.
CODA: The cops came banging on my door. Some smart new inspector looking to make a name for himself. He reeked of danger. Someone had come across Robert's plans for the third job and actually pulled the daring stunt off. I secretly smirked at the news just knowing how much that must have aggravated the cops and the bank. Rumor had it they were shutting that branch down. That goddam inspector was convinced, however, I had knowledge of the job and tried planting stolen money on me right in front of my face. It was a gambit that might work. But I fought through my daily pain and argued my way out of it.
But the nightmares hear no argument. We robbed the banks to free ourselves but I'm not free at all, living with a past I cannot escape, my sanity slowly draining away. I don't know where freedom is anymore. Maybe it's with the love I gave up, after all.