I was in Miami doing a story and I was pretty sure I was about to lose the job I’d had and loved for the past year and a half not because there was anything wrong with me but because of forces beyond my control. It was a business trip, but it wasn’t a business trip where you trash hotel rooms and buy people bottles of Champagne at strip clubs — I was staying with a guy named Greg who was a friend of a friend. I was trying to save money for the publication I worked for, I was trying to save money myself, JUST IN GENERAL NOT TRYING TO SPEND MONEY, and then I saw a MIU MIU wallet in a fancy second-hand store and I just lost my shit.
I had $900 dollars in the bank and this wallet was like $120. “Wow,” I said, when the saleswoman showed it to me. “That is a sweet fucking wallet.” It was black and soft as a lab mix. It said MIU MIU on it in tiny capital letters. And when you opened it, a surprise, the credit-card slots were beige and pink and off-white.
I texted several photos of it to my friend, who is also a writer. We spend half our time telling each other how great we are and the other making jokes about how we have no money.
“That tri-color inside is very classy,” he wrote back.
“I feel that it’s an investment in future success,” I said. “A way of saying to myself I matter.”
He wrote back, “I think you’re onto something.”
I wanted it so bad I felt like I was going to burst into tears. I was writing an article about climate change and feeling very freaked out and wanting the wallet felt more pleasant than wanting the world to be better but it still didn’t feel THAT good. Wanting it reminded me that I shouldn’t buy it. I decided not to get it. It was stupid. But then my friend wrote me: “Did you get the wallet.” And I said, “NO I can’t.” And he said, “Are you still thinking about it?” and I said, “YES I FEEL LIKE I AM THINKING ABOUT A PERSON I AM IN LOVE WITH BUT CAN’T HAVE,” and he said “YOU HAVE TO GET IT.” And I bought it, tingling with excitement.
Many objects are disappointing once they are in your grasp. I only have five things that I love so much that every time I put them on I feel a pleasured sob rising in my chest: an old Mulberry bag, a pair of pearl and diamond earrings I got from my mother that my grandfather bought in Japan for my grandmother (who was probably cheating on him in the very moment he purchased them), my Spanx leggings, an army green trench coat I bought at Zara in Manchester, England, because it was raining, and my Trillbillies T-shirt. This wallet was head and shoulders above all of them.
Then, yesterday, after less than one whole year of feeling actually emotionally braced by this perfect, slightly masculine thing and opening it up to be both soothed and adored by its sweet girlish interior, of caressing its softness in my green trench-coat pocket, I somehow just dropped it on to the main street in Grass Valley, California. I have no idea what happened. I ordered, paid for, and consumed a wedge salad, had a conversation about childhood development, my mother, Nebraska, solidified some details about a family Secret Santa, walked out into the street and somehow — just — did not have my wallet. I seem to have just cast the thing into the street. I went back to the restaurant, I walked around town and went in the ramen place and the lingerie store I had walked by, just on the off chance someone had dropped it off. Then back to the restaurant, I went through the tubs of dirty dishes, I turned on my iPhone flashlight and peered inside sewer grates and garbage cans and under parked cars and it is gone.
I sat in my car and cried. How was it that I would never touch it again? I did that thing where you remind yourself it doesn’t matter. But the longing persisted. I called my boyfriend and shouted praise for my wallet. He was like “I’m sorry” which is boyfriend for “Jesus Christ.” I did not blame him. Who besides me could possibly care?
I drove to my bank. My friend Karen was working. She held up a print-out of an article. “I read your Karen article,” she said, referencing a piece I’d written about, in part, what her name means to women of my generation. “Were you mad?” I asked. “Of course not,” she said. I said some Karens were mad. She said, ha. And added, “I’m an alpha Karen,” with great pride.
She went to make sure my address was right because they need to mail me a new card. She asked me if I knew my ex was still my beneficiary.
“I did not!” We changed my beneficiary. “Can you imagine if I died and he got my vast fortune?” I said. “I would be so mad.”
We laughed, imagining this, and I felt a little better. I showed her a photo on eBay, of a wallet almost identical to the one I’d lost. “The tri-color on the inside is a very nice feature,” she said. I showed the bank manager too. “Very nice,” she agreed. “A beautiful wallet.”
I went back to the car. I had $900, the same amount I had when I bought my wallet. I felt myself starting to cry again. Stupid, I know. Very stupid. I looked at the eBay wallet again. At the BUY NOW button. I pressed it. The relief was instant.