I sit in Starbucks trying to write (I could open every essay with that sentence), but I find myself distracted by and surreptitiously watch and eavesdrop on a woman in the large distressed leather chair catty-corner from me. She is distressed, too. Multitasking, she balances an open black leather portfolio and iced coffee on her knees, thumbs awhirl on her iPhone. Her purse – really more of a tote bag – leans agape at her feet, and shifts as she motions to a man calmly drinking coffee at the milk bar. Chunky faux gold necklace and dangling earrings threaten to entangle her cup as she thumbs through papers. Her part, visible with her head bent down, speaks of either not enough “me” time or the decision to go back to her natural hair color. Two dark inches creep up on the cheery bottle blonde.
She’s managed to gesture enough between texting and rifling to catch the man’s eye – husband? client? – And she mouths with large jaw movements to convey urgency – “We have to go to the bank. Right now.”
I avert my prying gaze as she juggles her paraphernalia and stands up to make a precipitous get away with still-calmly-sipping-man.
I write until I need to leave to meet a friend for lunch. As I comparatively more coherently organize my things, I spy busy lady’s wallet on the floor by her vacated chair. It must have fallen out of her tilting tote.
I pick it up quickly; fearing someone else might grab it. Quickly running through my options (drop it at the police department? Where is the Norwalk police department anyway?), I just decide to take it and try to contact her directly. It occurs to me that security cameras might be recording and misinterpreting my every move.
In the car I examine the once rich, but now worn, purple leather Tory Burch clutch wallet, large raised logo front and center. It is weighty; stuffed to bursting, with a zipper as barely closed as my skinny jeans on a fat day. It has a similar bulging muffin top around the edges, too. I unzip it with some effort, and poke around tentatively, not wanting to invade her privacy while looking for ID. It is crammed full of credit cards, three deep in their slots. Cash and a cache of receipts compete for space. I gingerly remove her driver’s license, like I’m afraid of getting prints on it, and Google her thankfully long and unusual name and her hometown (New Canaan). Small business and a realtor sites come up; both show the same cell number. Bingo! How scarily easy it is to find people.
I text and leave a message on her voicemail; she calls back, frantic, about six minutes later.
“Hi! I got a message that you found my wallet? I didn’t even realize it was gone until I got your text. Good thing I didn’t drop the phone too. You saved my life!”
“No problem. I was sitting across from you at Starbucks.” I leave out the eavesdropping part. “And I saw it on the floor after you left. I only looked inside to get your license to contact you,” I explain as if guilty of something.
“Oh, no problem! Thank you!”
“I’m on the Post Road near Whole Foods if you want to come by and pick it up.”
“Oooooh noooo! I can’t do that. I have two closings and eight showings today. I’m a realtor.” (I know.) “We had to run to the bank to get a cashier’s check.” (So client, not husband.) “Can you believe my client thought he could use a personal check at the closing?” (No, I’m just dumbstruck.) “I am swamped all day. I’ll call you when I can pick it up. Thanks again!” Click.
“OK,” I say to no one.
The afternoon passes with no word from her, and I feel odd about carrying her wallet with me. What if I lose it? It begins to feel ever so slightly like a burden.
I check my phone at 8 p.m., after teaching a yoga class, and finally there’s a text:
“Hi, Diane. Where by chance do you live, so I can pick up my wallet! I just finished my last showing of the day. PHEW. 2 closings. 8 showings.”
I tell her, and she replies, “I can grab it tomorrow, once done showings at 10:30. Would that work? You’re (sic) life sounds less stressful than mine. Haha.” Presumptuous and a tad arrogant, I think.
“Sure,” I text. “I can meet you at the library in town at 11 a.m.”
“OK. Library in Westport around 11. Got it. Thank you. You’re a life saver.”
I sit dutifully and early at the library the next morning, At 10:58 she texts “I’m here!” I’m sitting right in the café at the main entrance just where I told her I’d be, “Just trying to find out where to go,” she texts again at 11:06. She doesn’t find me until 11:15. It’s not that big a place.
She stands and looks down on me, iPhone in hand, and tosses her tangle of keys on my table, right next to her plump wallet. She neither greets nor thanks me, but says, thumbs hard at work, and eyes on her phone:
“Sorry, it’s my daughter texting me about her ACT scores. She wants to know how to get into the system. How would I know? I’m telling her that. How would I know? You know it was funny when we got to the attorney’s office – it wasn’t my usual attorney – it was the seller’s attorney – I thought my purse felt light and then I got your call and oh my god I didn’t even realize. You saved my life, really you did. We had to go to the bank because my client thought he could write a personal check for the closing. Right?!? A personal check? And I said, no, oh sh*t we have to go to the bank. So I grabbed him and just ran out of there.”
She stops for a moment. Even competitive deep-sea divers have to come up for air at some point. She glances up from her phone.
“Well,” I begin, seeing a chance for the edgewise word. “I just noticed it on the floor as I was leaving…”
She picks up the business card that I’d put next to her wallet. I’d reasoned that she might want to know who I was. She holds it between her middle and pointer fingers and looks at it as she begins to text again. “Wow, your name sounds like a movie star’s name! Lowman! Like it’s not your real name and you picked it! Is it your real name? I used to do yoga every day but I don’t do it every day now because I’m too busy. I’d like to get back to doing yoga every day. Where do you teach? Maybe some of my friends and I will come to one of your classes.”
“Yes, it’s my real name. I do privates and I teach…”
“Oh, great, really, privates? That would be great to do a private. You know it’s funny I was going to get gas last night when I was done with the showings but I realized I had no credit cards! I almost called my husband to come meet me but I decided to wait until today. I’m so glad you found it and you were honest; you saved my life honestly. I don’t know how to access her ACT account! I already told her that!”
“Well,” I say, pretty sure this would go on all day unless I assert myself, “I need to get going soon. It was nice to meet you. I’m glad it all worked out.”
“Yes, thank you, I really have to go too! I have three showings today! Can you believe it? In the summer?” She begins to walk away.
“No. No, I simply cannot believe it. It’s the most amazing thing I have ever heard in my life,” I don’t say. “Um. Wait.” Is what I mumble and she backtracks. Her wallet still sits on the table.
“Oh my god I can’t believe I almost left my wallet! That’s hysterical! Oh my god! Well,” as she grabs it, “thanks again.”
“You’re welcome.” And she turns again. “Um. Wait.” I’m incredulous, and sound repetitive. Her key cluster still weighs heavy on my table.
“Oh my god can you believe it?” She giggles. “Yes. Yes I can,” I don’t say. “If my head weren’t attached…” her voice trails off as she leaves, finally, with all her belongings.
I sit for a moment, stunned and amused, and trying hard not to think derogatory thoughts about blondes, realtors, or blonde realtors. And pack my stuff up to focus on a walk at Compo.