Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

a letter to rebecca

dear rebecca:

you don't know me but i have come into possession of certain information that may interest you. perhaps i should offer you an example, in case you don't believe me:

in 1991 did you by any chance declare income for the first time in the amount of $519?

see? -- i knew you'd believe me. and while i know i'm a little early, also, please allow me to wish you a premature birthday -- silly -- i mean a premature happy birthday -- still silly -- i mean, please allow me to wish prematurely that you have a happy birthday on april 13, when you will turn 30. that's not that old, trust me. try 31. in your thirties. now that's old.

what else do i know, i bet you're wondering. well, i also know that once, a long time ago, you lived here, in my apartment, in bloomfield, pittsburgh's little italy. it's a lovely apartment, don't you think? the way the sun catches the high leaded glass transom in the bedroom of a springtim saturday mid-morning, and sets the room on fire? the ceilings so tall at night you wonder where they are? the creaking hardwood (even if you have to hammer the errant nail back into place once in a while)? the windows and the light? the light. the light.

sometimes i think the only reason i haven't bought a house by now is because some lovely three-bedroom with a powder room and pocket doors and a front porch wouldn't hold a candle to this silly little three-room apartment in a deteriorating victorian with the mice scratching about in the walls sometimes, audibly, the cats poised nearest the sound and ready to pounce.

your loss certainly was my gain i guess, but then perhaps you moved on to something better. and here's hoping.

and of course this is why i "know" you, too. nothing paranormal at work here, nothing so weird, nope -- it's just that sometimes i get your mail, even though this apartment has been mine for nearly 5 years!!!

it's not like i make a point of opening other people's mail. that would make me some sort of criminal, i think. no, i'm usually pretty good about returning to sender, or leaving misdelivered mail out for the mailman to retrieve. i'm not nosy! okay, that's a lie. i'm nosy. but i mostly follow the law and i wouldn't want you to think otherwise, especially because i keep getting your mail!

i opened this letter because it looked like an annual social security report. which it is. i thought it was odd that it came when it did, a couple of weeks ago, because i'm pretty sure mine came only a few months back. and they're annual, i'm pretty sure. but i live here alone. very alone. the cats only get mail from the vet. they don't declare income. so when something's in my mailbox i just figure it's mine. plus getting my social security report is exciting, all the thinking about what i might be forced to live on if i was disabled all of a sudden, what my widow (i'm not married though!) would earn if i were to retire based on what i've earned so far. it's really interesting stuff! sort of morbid, i guess, to think like that. our tax dollars at work, though, right? it's like we have to look.

anyways, i opened the report, and was shocked to see all the zeros, year after year, and only then, after i started turning the folded paper this way and that, did i finally realize that i was reading rebecca's report, your report, instead of my own. so dumb! of course, now it was open, and there was really no harm, plus i almost feel like i know you since i get your mail once in a while (i remember years ago i mistakenly opened something from a creditor -- rebecca, the collections people didn't sound happy at all), and we share the experience of this gem of an apartment -- and i'm nosy -- so naturally i looked more closely.

in 1992 -- the year i graduated high school in new jersey -- you earned no money at all. i don't have any figures handy, but i'm pretty sure i made thousands of dollars that year, as i have pretty much every year since i was maybe 15. but not you. nothing in 1992. nothing again in 1995. and never more than the $1,319 you earned in 1994.

rebecca, what's the deal? do you still exist? see, i've never really understood how people can not give the post office a forwarding address when they move. i mean, perhaps it's a "me" thing, but i'm always scared that something is happening somewhere that i could have experienced, but instead i'm missing it. but most of us weave these tangled webs of interactions with the world, and even now, with the internet and all, still most of us do most of our business on paper. mail coming here instead of going there (there meaning wherever you are) almost means you really don't exist.

i'm shaking my head here in your former apartment. how weird!!!

do you realize that neither you nor any employer has put a dime into social security on your behalf since 1997? or that, as you turn 30, as far as social security is concerned only $530 has been deposited in the trust for you? another $122 in medicare? and that's it? how is this possible?

you have only 4 credits of the 40 credits you're going to need to collect social security when you retire. you should keep it in mind. although i don't even know if retire is the word since apparently you don't work.

and then i catch myself wondering: are you a prostitute, a stripper, a tax protester? were you kidnaped and sold into sexual slavery in southeast asia somewhere, pale round-eye angel in a roach-infested brothel in some foreign country where you can't watch tv or drink coke. actually, you can probably drink coke. but still. what if you are. actually dead? isn't it weird that the social security folks wouldn't figure that out?

of course they would. you're not dead. i'm sorry. i should be more sensitive. that's what mom always tells me -- i'm not sensitive enough to keep a girlfriend.

but still there's so much i don't know, even though we share the experience of this apartment, these strange rooms trying to be octagons, the bedroom almost making it but for a single right-angled corner where the door lets out on the living room, the turret with its three tall windows. you wouldn't believe it, but i actually conned the landlord into installing new windows. granted, the sunroom-turned-closet is still old windows and unheated; in the winter mornings, a cold breeze still paralyzes my shower-moist skin as i try to settle on an outfit. it's sort of like camping out for a few minutes every day. but that's a small price to pay for this light, these floors, the pests in the walls who never show their faces in the apartments that have cats, and all of them do.

are you the one who put the glow in the dark stars all over the walls and ceiling in the bedroom? how did you get all the way up there!? they painted over your stars, you probably guessed. in tan. i can see their shapes, though, under the surface. and i imagine them glowing behind the paint sometimes when i can't sleep.

i can't believe i haven't repainted the bedroom in five years!!!

i hope you are okay, rebecca. i hope that all of this is a false alarm. that only social security, and a handful of bill collectors, don't know where you are and that everyone else, the people who really matter, your family and friends and lovers, do.

do you have kids? you're not getting any younger, you know! i want that for you very much, and so i'll imagine that's the case. you really should tell them, at least everyone but the kids, that you're living in sin bureaucratically speaking -- no red tape, the ultimate crime in this country now, where you are the sum of all the information about you -- this giant warehouse of servers and hard drives.

maybe that's what bothers me: i imagine no one can escape it, but you have escaped!!! maybe i'm not worried for you. maybe instead i'm jealous! there's a thought!

maybe one day you'll drop by looking for your mail. and you'll explain to me what all of this is about. i hope you won't be angry that i haven't kept any of it. except maybe for this social security report. even though it's sad.

i imagine you're pretty. but then in my imagination all women are. it's easier that way.

your concerned space-sharer / time-neighbor,



Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker