I open the front door to pick up the newspaper and notice some trash out on the grass next to the curb. “What is this?” I think irritably as I go out to pick it up. But it is not trash. It is somebody’s personal papers—all folded up and soaking wet from last night’s rain.
I carefully unfold them on the kitchen counter and discover a birth certificate, legal papers, credit cards, business cards, and a pile of receipts and notes—all belonging to a young man.
And as I look through these papers, I feel vaguely uncomfortable —as if I am invading his privacy. But I am looking for a phone number so I can call and let him know his papers are safe and will be returned. I find an address but no phone number and he’s not in the phone book.
I think of all the things I’ve lost over the years and how few have been recovered. A watch, a wallet, a precious ring, an intimate journal. The sting of these losses never quite eases. How could I have been so careless, so stupid?
I lay the young man’s soggy documents on paper towels to dry. And all day long, it’s as if there is a stranger in the house, someone I should be including in the conversation.
And the next day, I find a sturdy envelope, fold up the missing papers, and put them in the mail.