Shoplifting at Filene’s Department Store

“I told you,” she said under her breath. “I told you, I told you, I told you.”

The beefy man ran down the list of what was going to happen next. There would be a court date and a fine. But first we were going to have to stand by the wall and have our pictures taken. He also told us we were going to be banned from Filene’s — Filene’s, our favorite department store, and the major entrance to the mall, where everyone we knew, including our parents, did their shopping! — for life.

My friend crumpled at this disclosure. A court date was one thing. Even the fine, a financial burden that was almost insurmountable for her, was something she could accept. But the idea of never walking into Filene’s again, the place where we had shopped for prom dresses and back-to-school clothes, this was a nail in the coffin.

We stood with our backs against those cinder blocks, first me, then her. The camera flashed, and maybe our eyes were open, or maybe they were shut against the light. They never let us see the photos.

Friendships survive all kinds of insults, grave and unserious, and ours survived this, but not forever. I had the kind of life that could permit the wading in and out of trouble. The idea that things were easier for me than they were for my friend would be a slow and simmering realization that began with the set of stacked bracelets and a used makeup compact taken from a Filene’s counter.

We were escorted through a maze of basement rooms and then into the blast of cinnamon and nutmeg and peppermint and warm air and shoppers and good cheer on the floor above. From there we were led to the wide entrance, where, with a gesture that felt almost like a push, we were sent into the belly of the Northshore Mall, never to return, not as friends, and not as enemies, either.

Hannah Selinger’s memoir, “Cellar Rat: My Life in the Restaurant Underbelly,” will be published by Little, Brown in 2025.