Thursday night is pizza night. I begin to salivate when I call ahead and order our margherita pizza. With roasted red peppers. And spinach.
As my guy and I prepare to pick up the almost-ready pizza pie, his voice hitches up a notch as he admits, “I can’t find my wallet.”
Turns out, he’s been searching for it since I made the call 15 minutes ago.
In our house, I’m the one who loses things (like keys and glasses, of course, and my wits from time to time). My guy is methodical and organized and never loses anything.
So I panic a bit. We search through all the places we search when I lose something: closets, coat pockets, every corner of the car, kitchen drawers and bedroom dresser drawers, counter tops.
We dig deeper, into trash bags and garbage cans and, getting desperate, even in the potted plants.
I try to hypnotize him. “Close your eyes. You’re getting sleepy. Now, retrace your routes. Where did you last use your wallet?”
The hardware store, two hours ago, he remembers. I call and talk to the manager. My panic has increased commensurate to the calmness of my guy.
The store manager puts me on hold as he looks through their “lost & found” drawer and then talks to all the other clerks.
It’s been an hour, and my guy announces the next most important task. “Let’s get the pizza.”
Is he kidding? What about his wallet?
By the time we’ve returned home, it’s 8:30 p.m. We’re exhausted and famished. He pours the Chianti. I worry. Why hasn’t my guy begun canceling all of his business and personal credit cards? They’re all in that wallet, as well as his driver’s license. Identity theft!
We sit down with a microwaved slice and a glass of red. Just as we take our first bite and sip, the doorbell rings.
“Fudge!” my guy says. (Well, not exactly that word. You do not interrupt him when he’s eating pizza.)
I stay seated while he answers the door. I hear a hesitant voice ask him in halting English, “You live here?”
Hoping my guy doesn’t answer the obvious in a snarky tone, I stand in the hallway. A dark-haired man, 50ish, waits for the answer and for some proof. “Who are you?” the man asks more specifically.
My guy notices his wallet in the man’s hands so reveals his name. The man’s face breaks out with a smile so sunny it brightens the starless night, and then he hands over the wallet.
I jump out to the front stoop and exclaim loudly, “Thank you!! Where did you find this?” I notice then a woman standing yards away near the beat-up dark blue car that is parked in our driveway.
“That’s my wife,” the man says, seeing my glance. “We were driving on N——- Road and saw the wallet on the street.”
That’s a busy road half a mile from our house.
I address the wife. “How wonderful of you! Do you live near here?” She shifts her gaze away from me and closes herself in like a turtle into her shell. I realize I’ve asked a question she’s afraid to answer.
The man continues, “I stop and retrieve the wallet. Some stranger did that for me once, and I must pay it back.” He searches my face, asking silently if that is the right expression.
“You wanted to pay it forward!” I exclaim. He smiles, relieved. I want to hug him, but I respect the reserve in both him and his wife.
“I only look in wallet for address, I promise!” he adds. “I take no money.” Now he’s fearful.
“No money was in there!” my guy assures him before he turns and looks at me contritely. “I kind of remember putting the wallet on the car roof while I placed my briefcase and shopping bags in the back seat. I guess I forgot about it.”
Then my guy hesitates, and I know what he’s thinking. Perhaps this man would like a reward of some kind. “Please, wait here, I’ll be right back,” he says.
But the other man stops him immediately. “No! I want nothing. I am so glad I found you.”
We all shake hands, smiling. His wife is huddled in their car, and I imagine that she had begged her husband to not do this. To not expose them to questions.
But the man wants to pay it forward.
My guy and I return to our wine and our pizza and toast all the good people out there. To the many who are sweet and just and kind.
Despite their fear of being told that they don’t belong.
May we all pay it forward with acceptance, kindness, and compassion for everyone.