Tuesday, January 16, 2007

lost and found

The stock kid at my corner bodega sells $20 bags of weed. It’s a pretty good shade of green but the weight is kind of light. Still, it does the trick. I copped one earlier tonight; it was twenty more dollars than I really had. Now I'm broke and stoned, this feeling is too familiar.

Anyway, a few nights ago I was in the middle of all that had gone mad in the city. The sky was falling. The streets were exploding beneath my feet. At least that’s what it felt like. I was sitting in my office, smoking a cigarette and looking at my untied shoe. It was early afternoon and I had a million things to do.

Fast forward a few hours and I was weaving down forth avenue on my bike. The air was wet and unseasonably warm. I was on the way to the post office to pick up some stamps and mail out a few packages. I’d just come from an electronics store where I had returned some unused speaker wire and instead of the standard credit card charge back, had received cash in hand for my troubles. Now that cash was burning a hole in my front pocket and I was pumping my legs hypnotically, keeping pace with traffic while dodging potholes. I would look down the side streets as I passed them and marvel at how large and lonely they appeared, and how it seemed even the cars had no use for them in that part of Brooklyn.

The line at the post office was insufferably long; it always is, so I opted to use their automatic stamp machine instead of braving the wait. It was my first time using one so I fumbled a bit with the buttons and had to re-enter some information twice, but eventually I got my packages stamped and in the outbox. Then it was off to an office supply store to check out a new desk. It is on that desk that I am typing this right now. My new desk is awesome, you can be jealous if your so inclined.

On the way home I picked up a bottle of wine and when I got to the cash register I paid with the money in my pocket instead of my debit card, like I usually would.

Back at the palace I sat on the couch with a glass of red in my hand, smiling and enjoying the fruits of my labors. Then the doorbell rang and startled me out of a post workday trance. I had no idea who it could be, and so before actually going downstairs and blindly answering the door, I peeked out from a window to see who it was.

I didn’t have any time for solicitation from god’s followers or, even worse, pseudo hippies trying to get my money for some rain forest across the planet. I’ve got no faith and no funds, leave me alone with that crap.

I didn’t recognize who it was, but noticed they weren’t holding a book or clipboard, so hollered down to them to state their business. They looked up at me, it was a middle-aged woman, she smiled then asked if I was who I was, saying my full name with middle initial. I confirmed I was, but eyed her suspiciously. She held up an envelope I hadn’t seen before.

Did you leave something at the post office? She asked, a strange smirk spreading on her face.

I looked down at her dumbly. As far as I knew, no, I hadn’t, but there had to be a good reason she was here, holding the mysterious envelope and grinning like a schoolgirl with a delicious bit of gossip. I told her to hold on and went downstairs, racking my brain on just what it could be that I’d left at the post office. When I opened the door she stood there, leaning against the frame, gleaming at me, letting the curious package in her hand flop back and forth on her wrist.

You lose something? She asked again. Now that I was closer I saw she was probably in her 40’s and of some Spanish speaking descent. She was short and plump, probably a mother of 2, and she had one gold cap in her front row of teeth.

I stammered and smiled a dumb and innocent smile. Her face fell a bit and her eyes frowned at the edges, but she opened the envelope and took out my wallet. My eyes squeezed from their sockets and I gasped once, then twice.

My wallet, I said weakly.

Her smile came back, rising on her face like a sudden sun. She opened it up and took out my driver’s license then made me tell her my birth date, just to be sure it was me. I’m pretty sure just looking at the picture would have sufficed, but I could tell she was cherishing the moment and wanted to ride it for as long as she could.

You’re lucky, she said, Delores found it on the stamp machine and handed it in. It could have been anyone that found it.

She opened it up and pointed to the money inside.

There was forty dollars in there, nobody touched it. Everything should be fine.

I'm sure the overwhelming waves of shock and gratitude I felt would bring a lot of people to their knees, and I could tell she wanted that satisfaction, of someone that was so thankful they couldn’t even bear to stand under the weight of it, but I have pretty sturdy composure, even in the most alarming situations, so what she got was me repeating thank you thank you thank you over and over again and offering up half of the money that was in my wallet as a reward. She wouldn’t take it though. She would just throw her hands in the air.

No papi, you work hard for your money, I'm just glad you were here when I dropped the wallet off. Then she smiled again, this time genuinely happy, with nothing mischievous about it at all. I smiled back, still stuck in a quiet stupor. She waved good-bye to me and walked down my steps into the streets. I waved back thanking her under my breath.

To be fair, had I of known my wallet was missing, I'm sure I would have been reduced to weeping when she rang my bell and told me she had found it. It had been a good 3 hours since I left the post office, and because it is, admittedly, extremely rare that I lose my wallet, I would have never assumed I’d just left it on a counter in the middle of a crowded station. If anything, I would have assumed it fell out of my pocket while riding my bike, or stolen from my backpack when I wasn’t looking. But since I hadn’t known it was gone, my reaction was more stunned silence as opposed to a roaring flood of appreciation.

Later that night though, the miracle of it hit me. In the great big city I’d dropped a small, insignificant item that meant the world to me and nothing to anyone else, and a few civil servants recognized this and went out of their way to return it. It made me think there was room for faith in 2007. Maybe it was going to be a decent year after all.


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Creative Commons License
:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at downtownalleys.blogspot.com.