by Hugh Gilmore
In Part One of this story, I described my frantic search for a wallet I lost in the Andorra Shopping Center in Roxborough. Unable to find it there, I assumed I’d simply find it at home when I returned – didn’t though. After many phone calls to the only places I’d been in, the gym and the pharmacy and, after futilely searching my home, I put 24-hour holds on my credit cards. I didn’t know what else I could do as night came on.
I wasn’t worried about the credit cards. The card companies would send new cards tomorrow. If I needed to buy anything, I could get cash from the bank or pay with a personal check. Luckily I’d photocopied the contents of my wallet last July. I went through that file so I’d know what I had to replace. I started by writing the Pennsylvania driver’s license bureau. I also put the Xeroxed wallet pages in my car. Any reasonable policeman would accept my photocopied license if I got asked for it.
Duplication-troubles aside, there was only one irreplaceable item in my wallet. It was a photo of a young man I’d known for a year back when I was 18. I worked in the kitchen at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital in Darby then, and one day my boss asked me to go upstairs to the wards and visit one of the patients, as a kindness. The boy was my age. His name was Bobby Williams, and he was from Williamsburg, Va. He was in the hospital because, in his junior year of high school, he was riding home in the back seat of a car, double dating, and the car crashed. He was immediately made mostly quadriplegic.
By the time I’d met him he’d been laid up for more than a year down in Virginia. His limbs were contracted, though he had some large muscle use of his arms. He had bedsores of the kind medicine could not heal in those days. He was hundreds of miles from home. But he had the nicest, most amiable personality and a pleasant southern drawl. I really enjoyed talking to him – above and beyond the sympathy that motivated me to become his friend.
I visited him most of the days I worked at the hospital that year. I was getting ready to go to college in the fall. Once in a while I’d go in his room and he’d be crying, his situation was so hopeless, but mostly he was a friendly kid and I tried to “cheer him up” with my visits. A big responsibility for a fellow teenager.
At some point Bobby moved back to Virginia. I visited him down there once. I don’t know how we drifted apart after that, but we did. Somewhere along the way he’d given me a photo of himself, a yearbook headshot, “to remember me by.” The thought of the direction our separate futures would be taking was certainly guilt-provoking for me, but I was glad to have his picture. I felt that I should always carry it in my wallet as I went on to live the kind of live he’d never have. It’s the only photo I’ve ever carried.
Remembering Bobby the night of the day I lost my wallet drove my search harder, but it was to no avail. There’s never a definitive moment when you’re searching for something lost and can say, “Okay, I did enough.” But eventually, reluctantly, I turned out the light and went to sleep.
The next day was the Friday of Presidents’ Day weekend. By noon no one had called to say they’d found my wallet, so I canceled the cards. New ones should arrive over the weekend. I’d wait for a new driver’s license. All the rest was immaterial, except the sadness of losing Bobby’s photo. I tried to “put it behind me,” as they say.
On Friday night at 5:30, just as night was descending, my sister Jody called. A man with an accent had telephoned her, while she was in the elevator leaving work, to say he’d found my wallet in the Andorra Shopping Center parking lot. He asked her if she knew me. Yes? Could she call me?
The caller managed a business, an eatery, near the gym. I telephoned him. He said he’d found a card in my wallet with my relatives’ and friends’ phone numbers written on it (but not my own – I’d never thought to do that) and, after some indecision, called the first name on the list – Jody. I drove over to his place at once.
I walked in. Most of the workers in the place were working immigrants. One needn’t be a master of subtlety to notice such a thing. So also must have been the man who found my wallet. I was very conscious of this fact after another hard week of Trump vs. Immigrants in America. He gave me my wallet. We shook hands. I extended my hand a second time, this time with gratitude money in it, but he refused to even look at my hand. “Please support my business instead,” he said. They had just opened under new management. Working hard at The American Dream. I felt humbled.
And lucky: I got Bobby’s picture back, thanks to that man.