Sunday, May 01, 2005

the magic wallet: paying for aversion

I realized I had lost my wallet when I decided to check my cell phone for text messages. I keep both items in my front right pocket.

The wallet was a gift from my sister Maureen for my previous birthday. It was a leather magic wallet; it had no pockets to put money in, only a cunningly designed set of bands that crisscrossed its faces. You open the wallet, slip bills in, then close it – when you open it again, your money is secured by the magical properties of the clever bands.

I had just withdrawn a significant amount of money. It contained the household payroll, money for the new bed we were going to buy for Sage, plus spending money for the long weekend. It had my ATM card as well as an assorted of other useful cards (these were exempt from the properties of the magic bands) and other oddments that are valuable only to me.

My friends and I scoured the place, the vehicles, everything we carried, all the trashcans in the vicinity, as well as my memory as I tried to recall where and when I was last aware of it being in my front pocket. But it was truly gone.

When people lose wallets or purses, they say it isn’t the lost money that hurts. In this case, it is. Sage will simply have to grow up with the sad reality of not having a bed, scarred for life, sleeping instead on the cold unforgiving floor, painfully bereft of sweet dreams. Okay, okay, we can always buy her another bed but I was really stunned by the loss.

After I had surrendered to the fact that it was gone (and dealt with my anger, panic, and deal-making with God), I told my friends with frustration and regret that I should have spent all my money – if only I had known I would lose it.

Then I changed my tune. I told them that perhaps I paid for averting a terrible accident, and the amount thus invisibly spent was small compared to the cost of a lost arm or a life.

On the way back home, with only exactly seven pesos in my pocket, we passed the scene of a very recent accident, the shattered glass from the two totaled cars still glinting in our headlights. As we slowed to carefully negotiate the road, I looked at the smashed vehicles, then closed my eyes.

Perhaps I really did pay to avert something. It is a small comfort, but for someone who has none, any rationalization involving parallel realities is as good as the next one. The human mind needs to make sense of the senseless, to appease the demands of reason and insist upon a semblance of meaning to the inchoate nature of things. I know that the bald truth of the matter is that I was careless; the consequences of my irresponsibility are mine alone – there is nothing glamorous or magical about being foolish.

But as a writer, I needed to create consolation with the notion that my act of stupidity was actually an act of active intelligent foresight. I smiled a little pathetic smile at my own sad cleverness.

Later, my cell phone beeped with a text from one of my companions: “…and thanks for saving our lives, I don’t think I could stand to die so young…”

Anytime, my friend. It’s on me.

Alternately, this could be karmic payback for my constantly wanting Scott Savol out of American Idol.

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