Monday, November 14, 2011
Lovers and Strangers
I'm always moved by thoughtfulness. The sweetness of a lover who stands in my doorway with tulips cradled in the crook of his arm.
The stranger who motions from the sidewalk to tell me my trunk isn't latched.
Claims Evaluator #89 from the State Controller's Office.
Weeks ago I got a notice from the State of California informing me I had unclaimed property that had been left in a safe deposit box. It seemed like more than one lifetime ago that a certain someone and I had placed those keepsakes there for safekeeping. Our apartment was in a neighborhood that had a lot of drama. Hookers periodically stood on our corner resulting in a parade of prowling cars. There were "interesting" neighborhood characters, one who literally howled at the moon, a bank robber who demanded that I get out of his way before he leaped over our back fence with a gun and a bag of money. One neighbor's TV was stolen, and another neighbor was surprised by an attacker who crawled through her window while she slept. A member of the LAPD SWAT team used our Honda Civic as cover the night the house across the street was under siege. It's no wonder two young people accustomed to the gentler ways of the countryside chose a bank that offered a free safe deposit box.
We had a shoe box of things the day the clerk first led us through the dark-paneled rail and into the vault. Our renter's insurance policy, my great aunt's garnet necklace, and some silver coins given to me by my father and grandfather were all trusted to the locked drawer inside the locked vault behind the polished wood barrier. But I tired of going to the bank as I began to want the necklace more frequently around the same time that we bought our first house in a different neighborhood. The coins, the paperwork, and a bag of polished agates given to me by my favorite uncle were left there to re-enter my memory from time to time, but never took up residence long enough to force a drive across town in a schedule crammed with soccer practice, dance lessons, and school events.
Some years later we moved to a better house, and then an even bigger one. The bank moved, changed its name at least once, and moved again. I remember looking at the unusually long skinny keys when the certain someone and I moved into the house that would shelter the final years of our marriage. I may have recognized the keys, and thought about what I should do, but I don't really remember.
I wrote a letter when the State Controller's office contacted me, explaining that I was divorced now and that the contents of the box were valuable only to me. I filled out their form, had it notarized, sent a copy of marriage license showing the name under which I had opened the bank account. I sent my social security card, an old driver's license dating from the era when I'd decided to take my husband's last name. I sent my current driver's license and my final degree of divorce showing my new name which is neither my maiden name nor my married name.
My claim was rejected. But not hopelessly so. They needed a signed property release form from The Someone, which was promptly signed and returned to me after I sent it to him. But oops, I didn't read the pages of instructions with their if-thises and if-thats carefully enough. They needed a copy of his driver's license and his social security card. I dreaded asking him, but his secretary kindly scanned and emailed them to me, which I, in turn, faxed to the State Controller's Office on Saturday. Now, I thought, now the shiny bits of my past will come back to me. Would a sheriff knock on my door holding a small metal box?
No. Not yet. There was the original "claim affirmation" form that had already been signed by me, but not signed by The Someone. Claims Evaluator #89 called me on my cell phone this morning just as my battery was dying. "I don't know his number by heart," I said. "I'll have to call you back in a couple of hours after I get home." After I returned home with my phone attached to its car charger, I picked up a voicemail. There was she was, # 89, telling me that she wanted to help me, and she found The Someone's number on her own, and she called him, and faxed him the form. "You don't have to do anything," she said.