Noah’s uncle returned, as promised, bearing with him my not so long lost laptop. I was curious what he looked like, where he lived, how he might be perceiving this switch up, whether he might be viewing it through the same possibly cosmic lens as me. This closely held belief I have that everything happens for a reason has left me scratching my head before. If I didn’t have this belief, it would be easier to chalk things up to chance, and move on. My faith in fate, however, has not let me down. Although the purpose of a thing has not always been readily evident, I have witnessed decades long loose ends tied into gossamer webs too glorious to be without design.
And so it was with trepidation that I assigned the task of retrieving my machine to my partner and offspring. Now I would never meet Uncle … drat, I don’t even remember his name. I think it was Dave. Noah had copied him on an email. It was his first one responding to my frantic first SOS, the one where he asked how, after our laptops were switched going through security at LaGuardia, I was able to find out whose computer it was and send him this email. Transparency and trust are my curse and nature. I shot off an email to him, barely thinking twice, explaining how I’d been able to hack into his hard drive once I got back to Brooklyn, and also noted (again) the numerous calls to TSA I’d made (hoping he would voluntarily explain his failure to also check the status of his own belongings). After sending the email describing how I’d gotten into his computer, I mulled this decision over and over again in my head. If I didn’t explain it, he probably would have figured it out anyway and then my failure to explain it may come across as disingenuous, which was the last thing I wanted to impart to a 17 year old kid on the other side of the world who was responsible for transporting, on person, all my digital belongings. On the other hand, he maybe had considered doing the same thing (hack that hard drive Noah!) but didn’t want to invade my privacy and had settled on accepting a brand new computer as a reward for his goodliness instead. Either way, slowly but suddenly Noah was not seeming so noble to me. This was compounded by the eerie electronic silence that followed my second confessional communication with him.
Four days after our first (and only) exchange, I woke up in a cold sweat, convinced that Noah and his uncle were: 1) government spies; or 2) agents of an eagle eyed enemy who might find my legal briefs quite useful. My faith in all human goodness was faltering. Is faith in the goodness of the soul a childish thing? Was Noah truly of the elder scrolls and now more sophisticated than me? The morning of the cold sweat, I shot off an email to Noah and his uncle, telling them in no uncertain terms that I wanted my computer back, and why they hadn’t been in touch with me. It wasn’t that bad, really, but it wasn’t very good either. I didn’t hear from them right away, and grew bitter wondering what might be happening with my data in any instant and considered calling my bank, checking my accounts. I am usually pretty good about not using the computer for online purchases but sometimes it can hardly be avoided, and those rare airline tickets now weighed heavily on me. That, and a chilling quote I happened upon in a 2012 calendar I had gotten for Christmas and was gearing up for the new year:
I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.
The next thing I knew, Noah was writing back to me, explaining that he and his family were away for the holidays, and weren’t on email much. I envisioned Noah and his Uncle Dave sitting with Noah’s mom and dad around the family hearth at the quaint little cottage (little meaning big), warming their hands with heavy mugs of hot chocolate, their ski shoes still on. There’s a little girl there too, blonde locks and doe eyes. The cottage has a full wall of stone mined from a nearby quarry, and a Wright-inspired open floor plan, so you can see the kitchen where fresh bread is being baked for them in the oven. Through the window are snowy pines and a misty mountain sky. Frost frames the edges of the window. Maybe Noah finished his college application essay on another computer, and was free to enjoy this last Christmas break with his family before sprinting off to college and adulthood. As for me, I was busy clawing back bits and pieces of briefs and affidavits and affirmations and notices of motions I had emailed back and forth with my lawyer, now that I couldn’t access the original files. It was a hodgepodge kaleidoscopic reconfiguring of the various drafts I’d labored over to be finished in time for Christmas. Ah, let Noah and his family have their idyllic winter wonderland. Heck, even let him hack into my laptop and read the legal drivel that had been consuming my being. I saw this as a call from the universe to step away from the monitor, and engage with my life. Which, of course, was much easier to do when I confirmed that Noah was neither spy nor enemy.
Now here’s the postscript…I did not get to meet Uncle Dave, and he ignored my invitation to be Facebook friends (a desperate measure when I sleuthed the email address and found that he was sole proprietor of a production studio in midtown — leaving me to wonder whether, if they did break into the hard drive, they’d bother to read my old sci-fi script, now sci-fact). Smart move, Uncle Dave. I’m sure I started looking like a spy or evil agent at some point too. I did get the laptop back. My partner went to Uncle Dave’s two days after Christmas when I was back at work. It turns out Uncle Dave was home with his little one too so I’m sure they had one of those daddy moments where neither dad gushes and coos the way a good mom is expected to do (I admit to envying the dads, I do). They probably noticed the kids, nodded at each other in a knowing but appropriately abrupt sort of way, saying something to the effect of “hey, man, how’s it going,” then handed off the laptops and resumed life as normal, ticking this off a mental list of things I don’t wanna but gotta do today (before fixing stroller’s broken cup holder and after one more episode of Thomas and Friends).
The postscript part that’s hard to take is the mixing up of the loss of my laptop with the Green Bay Packers losing to the Giants this past Sunday. The Packers’ winning streak was being dealt a lethal blow the moment, a few weeks earlier, when I realized I was holding someone else’s laptop. In the twisted way that one can mangle their own belief in the greater meaning of things, my sister and I both felt that the lost laptop and the Packer’s fate were intertwined. If I found some light at the end of the tunnel before the game was done that day, the Packers might still win that game. No such light appeared, and the Packers lost. But I found my laptop and it was returned to me unscathed. All my Wisconsin buddies rejoiced this must bode well for the Superbowl. But two days ago, the Packers lost to the Giants, and are not going to the Superbowl. Fate, or I, f*#(kd up. Here lies the rubadubdub. What is f*#(kd up is thinking there’s any connection at all. I vow now, right now, not to pretzelize the happenings of a moment into some form of shape or sense where there is none. I believe in fate but not superstition. I believe that a smile can spread round the globe in no time flat. So can a jeer.
My FB friends cheered each other up. These are many the same Wisconsinites who skulked away from the Brewer’s disappointing end to its season, and now again had to accept yet another hope punctured, tumbling down to the cold Wisconsin ground. This one seemed an easier blow than I expected. There was no screeching frustration I heard on FB. It was like the loss to the Chiefs the day of the lost laptop, and the earlier disappointment of the Brewers so close season peppered our hope with a little jab of realism. With collective sighs, I read as friends turned to the consolation of Facebook and beer, consigned to wait out yet another wicked winter until the ground thaws and planting can begin again. With the recent cold front pushing its way across the eastern seaboard, and a concurrent visit from family, and the blessings of social media, my kinship with my home state is the same, and warm, as ever. A friend of mine once said that the truest friend in Wisconsin is one you see in winter. Hats off, to you, my friends. Hats off, to you, dear Anne. Hats off, to you, young Noah. Hats off to you, my dear Packers. Hats off to you, the Giants. And hats off to, in the words of Allen Ginsburg…
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours! bodies! suffering! magnanimity! Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul!