May 28th, 2015 by Julie Silver
A few weeks ago, Mary and I met some good friends who were visiting from out of town for breakfast before their flight home. It was a sun-soaked Santa Monica morning and Montana Avenue was buzzing. We ate and spent an hour at the Blue Plate, but with so many people waiting to be seated, we decided to move the party two blocks east outside of the Whole Foods. On our way, Mary opened her wallet and gave ten bucks to some kids raising funds for their school rowing program. That Mary. So generous. She walked away and I told them to keep the pastry AND the money.
We sat down on metal chairs in a circle. The conversation got pretty deep. Around our small table, Mary gave this friend of ours some sage advice and of course we all sat there in awe of Mary and her calm and soothing words. That Mary. My wife. Getting through just about anything with calm and grace.
We said farewell to our friends as they climbed into their rental car and headed to LAX. I turned to Mary.
“Let’s go inside Whole Foods and get something to make for dinner,” I said.
Yay! 20 minutes alone with my wife in a grocery store without our kids! Pinch me!
We had some fun shopping, laughing, playing Marco! Polo! (but with Mary! Julie!) in the aisle, mocking the sad looking cabbage in the salad bar, tossing fruit between ourselves, and suddenly Mary’s wallet is missing. She can’t find it. She checked every pocket; we retraced our steps, it has vanished into The Organic Whole Foods Air. I felt like I would throw up in front of the chips and salsa if I didn’t spring into action.
(Insert Law and Order — DUN DUN)
“Remember when you opened your wallet to those kids on the corner trying to raise money for their sailing club or some kinda shit whatever that was, Mary?” I figured now is as good a time as ever to turn into the love child of Kojak and Sharon Gless.
“I asked them,” said Mary. “They haven’t seen it”
Not gonna lie. I wanted to hold those sailors with the bake-sale upside down by their ankles and shake Mary’s wallet out of their skin-tight One Direction jeans. I imagined making a citizens’ arrest with hair ties from my backpack for handcuffs as a dozen credit cards and our kids’ school pictures went flying into the Montana Avenue sunlight.
The search and rescue was turning into a search and recovery. And there was no recovery. We drove home with one bag of groceries and a thousand bags of anxiety.
We all know it sucks to lose your wallet. The pain in the ass is just the tip of the iceberg. There were photos, IDs, private things in there. And there were gift cards in her wallet. And all sorts of credit cards and insurance stuff and OUR ADDRESS and holy shit the express train to Worriesville has left the station and I am freaking out on board and I have been upgraded and sitting in my own row at this point but WHO CAN SIT AT A TIME LIKE THIS?
“What if we get to our house and they’re already there?” I said to Mary.
“Who are THEY?” Mary asked.
“Identity theft, Mary! We should call the police! We have to cancel everything! Everything Mary! We need to go home and change our bank accounts and insurance numbers and — “
“Y’know, Jules, I’m just gonna wait. It might turn up.”
Oh. My. God. I wanted to slap the grace right off of Mary’s face. How can she be so calm? Then she said, “whoever gets my wallet must need it more than I do” and suddenly I had this overwhelming urge to strap her down, shave her head, wrap her in a beaded meditation sheet and send her off to Tibet to visit the Dalai Lama.
And I’m breathing and I’m breathing and I’m reminding myself that I was, just two weeks ago, crying my way through concentration camps in Poland. Throughout this brutal experience my mantra was a gentle chant, reminding me, “I’m alive, this is nothing, I can get through this”.
The whole time I was there, I never sang it the same way twice.
“I’m alive, this is nothing, I can get through this,” I chanted to myself.
Breathe. I’m alive
It wasn’t even MY wallet. This is nothing
Mary seems OK so maybe I should follow her lead. I can get through this
We put away the groceries and the house got quiet. In a split second, I sensed something…a sound perhaps…
I raced to the phone to pick it up on the first ring.
Without saying hello, you probably think I shouted into the phone, “Do you have Mary’s wallet? We’re changing the locks and canceling everything! You’ll never get away with this!”
But I did not say that.
Instead, I said “Hello?”
“Hello, does Mary Connelly live there?”
“Yep. Hang on,” I said as I bounded towards my wife, hand pressed to the receiver, “oh my god oh my god Mare it’s gotta be the one! This has got to be the person!” She walked away listening to the woman, gave me a thumbs up, and swatted me away as I began bouncing on my toes, asking too many questions and something about she couldn’t hear what the woman was saying. Whatever.
She called to say “I found your wallet.” But I reacted as if she called to say “The tumor is benign.” I might have some “work to do” as my immediate thought was that we had lived to see another day. This is precisely why I usually don’t go with my immediate thought.
I chastised myself for tossing around the term “identity theft” with such ease when I had just seen with my own two eyes evidence of atrocities that wiped out almost an entire people bound by their identity. Theirs was the ultimate theft of identity: the hair, the shoes, the suitcases bearing Jewish names; mountains of things that had been taken from a people who would soon be robbed of their most precious possessions, their lives. I will never use the term identity theft the same way again, I thought.
I heard the phone knock on the counter and yelled questions to Mary who yelled back the details. Usually Mary isn’t favor of yelling from room to room, but what could be more pressing? This woman found the wallet in Whole Foods…she owns a laser hair removal place nearby…she wouldn’t turn it in to Whole Foods because she was afraid the manager would take the cash for himself and then call to say it had been returned but the cash was missing. (Finally someone’s thinking clearly)
“What’s her name, Mary?” I yelled from the bedroom.
“Enough!” Mary yelled from the kitchen.
“What the hell, Mare? I just want to know what her name is. My stomach is in knots. I’ve imagined some pretty worst-case scenarios. I barricaded the front door and rearranged the numbers on our mailbox and you won’t give me her stupid name?”
“No. I mean her name is Enough”
“What the hell are you talking about? Spell it.” I demanded.
Mary walked into the bedroom with an exhausted look on her face. “I-N-A-F. Her name is Inaf.”