Jun 17, 2004

I had a name once (frayed in fake folds of leather)

The thing about committing the sins of your father, more than any talk about familial failings of genetic weaknesses, is you feel really stupid. I was feeling, and this is the only word for it, imbecilic.

I had this niggling thought about the weight of my pockets being wrong and then I focused, wait, I thought, and saw my wallet’s worn edges in the shadow of the mini-juke box on the table at the diner. Damnit, I said, I lost my wallet.

Once, when I was 13 or something, the whole family searched every street thorough throughout the neighborhood riding our bikes and walking up both sides looking for my dad’s checkbook, last seen on the roof of our wood paneled station wagon. A million times, growing up, we’d hear my dad at his desk, doing paper work, doing the books. Uh oh, he’d say. He’d say it loudly and we’d all stop, looking up from our books. What? Silence. Elongated pause leaving the concern without context, leaving the uh oh open.

Never mind, he’d say, without bothering to tell us what wallet, what crucial piece of paper, what world, had been lost and found while we waited. And we’d go back to reading.

So I hoped on my luck, hoped that the waitress had picked up my wallet and it was sitting under a counter waiting for me and they were wondering how to make me identify myself when I returned.

But it wasn’t there when I got back. The bar crowds came through the diner after we’d left, a bar crowd all raucous and, damnit damnit all to hell, wallet stealing. The waitresses were sympathetic, took my name down in case of morning-after-honesty but no, we didn’t see it, they said.

So I swore, and walked around for a day without proof of identification, not losing my identity, not quite not exactly, but without any paper naming my name or authorizing me to be me. They didn’t allow me to make a withdrawal on my paycheck deposit at the bank that day because they recognized me, but didn’t really know who I was and I had dark mother-worrying visions of being dead and unidentified. I had strange half-dreams about God’s lost ontological ID, the Divine walking around without any but circumstantial proof of being who he was. I had uncatchable thoughts about burnt social security cards and identities abandoned for a life tour of colonial dockyards under a name like Lucky.

The next day though, my wallet was back at the diner under the counter with a note about lost paperwork of personhood. It was there, folds of frayed fake leather missing $12 that whoever it was decided to claim as his earthly reward of eventual honesty.

It was there, my identity that some drunken clown had considered stealing, thought about taking, and returned.

All of the contents are dumped out now, here on the table before me.

$12, taken. Two bank cards: one without much money and one never authorized. A drivers license, signed, giving a Washington address, sex, height, weight, eye color and a date of birth that was the same day it was lost. A social security card. A worn out picture on a college ID with a crest and a bar code. Voter registration with a Michigan address and a signature. Voter Registration in Washington, a few years old. A gaudy orange Washington Hunter Education certificate listing D. Silliman with a pledge to treat weapons as if they’re loaded, to ask permission, to be sure of my target before I shoot. Two losing lottery tickets. Two library cards. A movie rental card. Phone card with a medium amount of minutes. Club card of a local grocery store. Scattered receipts to bookstores, gas stations and diners.

I look at the phone numbers, my on-the-road rolodex on the backs of business cards. I wonder if they called the indie punk as he tours with that Seattle band and did they call my brother in New York of the Greek Orthodox Seminarians in Boston or my philosophy professor’s cell or the post-Hillsdale crew at their common house in Ann Arbor or my bishop in British Columbia?

There’s a list undated: finish Trinity’s letter. Write Blum, Luke, Jeff. Summarize death of God theology. Do laundry. Old Crow Medicine Show. Dalloway.

I look at this pile of paper bits and think maybe this is a poem I’ll pretend I don’t understand because I know they’re talking about me. At this fragmentia, from this someone looked, and decided they didn’t want to be me. Pocket litter. If I killed a president this is where the search would begin.

From this I was summed, conjured through information bits, existing as scraps of paper and scribbles and numbers and I wonder if he did this, spread out this litter and looked at my picture and said who are you and looked on the back of the list to see if I’d written anything else. I wonder if he thought about checking something off my list of to do. I wonder if he looked at my handwriting and wondered what it meant, if he wrote his name and number on the back of a business card and thought about maybe, maybe mixing it in with the others.