Sunday, August 30, 2015

lost and found

I was walking to work a few weeks ago when my phone rang. It was a police officer in Milpitas.

"When did you lose your blue wallet?" he asked. Just like that.

"The day before my mother died. November 23," I answered. (Just like that.)

The Milpitas PD had found the wallet lying in a parking lot in an industrial part of town. The officer speculated that it had "gone down the rivers," and asked me whether I knew a person whose discount card was stored in the wallet. I didn't. 

He said my bar card was there, and my driver's license, and several other cards. 

"Can you send it to me?" I asked him. 

"I don't think you want it back," he said. "It's pretty beat up."

Oh, but I did. I certainly did want it. 

It arrived a while later, looking like it does in the picture, but a little more roughed up. I opened it. Everything was there--bar card, bar association card, driver's license, insurance cards, credit cards (all of them), HSA card, Exploratorium card, library cards (SFPL and UC), random notes. Everything of mine, and a few remnants of another life.

A Subway receipt from February 15, 2015, from Montague Expressway in San Jose (meatball sub and a cookie, paid with $20 cash).

A Banana Republic merchandise certificate issued to a Katharine Alfond on March 28, 2005--endorsed on the back, apparently unsuccessfully.

A green card thanking my mystery wallet-holder for celebrating Olivia's birthday at Vanguard Bingo. $5 buy-in discount if used by November 14, 2014. 

A battered lottery ticket.

A Home Depot store credit.

The return of my wallet triggered many more questions than it answered, of course. How and when did I lose it? I'd always thought I dropped it somewhere in the house in a state of distraction as my mother was dying, that we'd find it when we sold the house. Nope. I thought when I cleaned out our cars, I'd see it hiding under a seat. Not there either.

I remember putting on my mother's red leather jacket and driving to the pharmacy down the street to buy what turned out to be the last set of home hospice supplies we'd need. That was the last time I paid for anything until I realized I no longer had my wallet. I must have dropped it in the parking lot or left it on the ledge outside Starbucks. I'd have been too distracted to notice.

So that's probably how I lost it. But what happened next is far less explicable. When people pick up wallets, normally they either return them in some way, or take possession of them and their contents, which includes taking the things of value and ditching the wallet. But my wallet-holder didn't do either. The address on my driver's license is current, and anyone can find me through the California Bar website, so she intentionally didn't return it. But she also didn't take anything or use any of the cards--two Visa cards, AmEx, Nordstrom, MasterCard (HSA). And she didn't ditch the wallet, either, at least not for several months.

Instead, my wallet-holder walked around with me in her pocket, undisturbed. Did she show my ID as hers? Does she look like me? Was she homeless, like the officer speculated? If so, why bother carrying a large wallet if she didn't intend to use anything it held? The wallet is beat up, indicating exposure--was its bearer ever tempted to buy a jacket, some hot coffee, a hotel room to get inside for a night?

How did it end up lying in a parking lot in Milpitas one day in July? Was there a struggle? Or did my wallet-holder simply drop it? Why didn't someone else pick it up?

I'll never know, obviously. But I feel some amount of kinship with both the battered wallet and its wandering temporary custodian. I tried cleaning the wallet up, but it won't be the same; some degrees of loss and damage cannot be undone. And, orphaned, I've also been wandering under a new identity not entirely mine.

Lost, and found? No, that's too neat. 

And I think this is only the first chapter. 

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