night, 7 p.m.
am standing in the
kitchen of our sweltering apartment, in my comfy clothes already,
removing the ham from my half of The Big Sandwich. As much as I love
The Big Sandwich -- and I do
love The Big Sandwich, pre-assembled straight from our grocer's deli,
especially on nights like tonight when it's too hot to cook (and we're
too broke to go to Togo's or Dimitra's) -- I feel that it contains
entirely too much meat most of the time. Tonight's sandwich, for
instance, features a layer of turkey, followed by a layer of salami,
followed by a layer of ham.
one layer too
many for *my* tastes.
remove the offending
ham slices and stuff them into David's half of The Sandwich, wedging
them neatly between the tomato layer and the turkey layer. Then I dump
a handful of Tim's Cascade Potato Chips onto each plate and pour two
extra large glasses of lemonade. Just as I am about to pick up the food
and the drinks and carry them into the bedroom, where David is waiting
for me to join him in our ritual Friday night Bed Picnic, there is a
soft knock at the front door.
only person who ever
knocks on our door this late in the evening is Alma, our nice little
apartment manager ... usually to drop off a package or give us a new
recycling bin or hand us a rent increase notice. So I
open the door without hesitation, even though I'm wearing nothing but a
skimpy tank top and a pair of floppy shorts. It's a bit of a shock,
therefore, to open the door and
find a tall young stranger standing on our doorstep.
Rafter?" he says.
a process server! shrieks the
Little Voice of Paranoia in my head. Or
a Jehovah's Witness! Or an ax murderer!
Except that he isn't dressed like a process server or a Jehovah's
Witness or an ax murderer -- he's dressed like me,
actually, in a tank top and floppy old shorts, looking dorky and sweaty
and mostly harmless -- plus he's holding something in his hand that
suddenly makes all of the hair on the back of my neck stand at complete
it's my Day-Timer slash wallet slash address/phonebook slash checkbook
slash photo album slash ENTIRE LIFE.
this yours?" he asks
politely, even though it must be abundantly obvious from the shocked
and bloodless expression on my face that it belongs to me. Plus he
must have checked the California State ID in the front pocket, in order
to find my address.
"Oh my god," I say, and I all but snatch the
Day-Timer out of his hands. "Oh my god. Oh
my god." For one long awful
moment, I'm sure I'm going to vomit lemonade all over my own bare feet
... AND his.
doesn't even have to
tell me the story: I understand instantly what must have happened.
Stopping on the way home from work to buy The Big Sandwich. Hot,
crabby, exhausted, hungry. The grocery store parking lot. Loading the
food into the back of the Subaru. Setting the Day-Timer on the roof of
the car while I pushed the shopping cart back to the front of the
store. David starting up the car and driving to the end of the parking
lot to pick me up.
off without a
second thought, thinking only of getting home, getting out of the
heat, getting on with the Bed Picnic ... with my Day-Timer still
on the roof of the car.
was laying in the
middle of the street," the young man says, nodding at my Day-Timer.
"Cars were veering around it like crazy: I thought it was gonna get run
over before I could get to it."
am still standing there with my mouth
hanging open, cradling my precious Day-Timer in my hands, unable to
any sound at all. I look it over carefully. The leather cover is
slightly scuffed, and one of the zipper charms is missing -- the little
silver charm bearing the Chinese symbol for "peace" -- but otherwise it
looks none the worse for the wear. I sink to the couch, a bit
unsteadily, and unzip the binder. I want to check and make sure that
all of my money and credit cards and personal items are still inside
... the floppy disk with tomorrow's *FootNotes* entry on it, the photo
of my grandfather playing his guitar, the Ocean Beach postcard from
Jaymi and Joel ... but I don't want to do it while he's standing there
you," I say to
him finally. "Thank you so
much. I can't even begin to tell
you how awful it would have been to lose this."
looks at me
reward! prompts the Little Voice
of Karmic Propriety in my head. You
should give him a reward!
I give you a
reward?" I ask him, and he looks momentarily uncomfortable, like he
wants to say 'no' but needs to say 'yes,' and eventually he nods and
mutters "Sure, that would be great." I unzip the money compartment and
pull out a thin wad of ancient dollar bills. Kacie's visit sort of
wiped me out last weekend: I have exactly eleven dollars and forty
cents to last me between now and next payday.
hand him ten.
wish it could be
more," I say to him regretfully.. He takes the ten
bucks and stuffs it into the pocket of his shorts, without even
counting it, looking a little embarrassed about the whole thing. I
thank him again -- "It's good to know that there are still honest
people in the world," I say, which makes him blush, but in a nice way:
I wonder if he's married? or has a girlfriend? or would be interested
in meeting a lovely young girl from TicTac? -- and then he turns and
soon as he is out of sight, I close the door, lock it,
throw the deadbolt ... tuck my Day-Timer securely into my purse:
tomorrow, of course, I'll have to talk to the bank and to the credit
card companies about whether or not I need to have all my account
numbers changed, because even though the guy looked
honest, that doesn't mean he is
and then I head back
to the kitchen to finish preparing our Bed Picnic.
to throw a rock?