Signs In The Leaves
Wishful thinking must be the number one cause of fraud and abuse.
I went looking for a sign before I began searching for a rented room in earnest. I’m disconcerted in spite of myself at the ways people find to flush out the credulous and susceptible. Before I plunged in, I took a trip down to the very oldest tip of the city, in the Financial District, to wander the area where my eighth great-grandparents had their home, on Pearl Street. It was in the 1660s, they were Dutch, and there is nothing remaining of their or their neighbor’s houses. The British colonial buildings that replaced them are considered very old, and yes I am bragging a little. I thought maybe one of their spirits would help me to ‘come home,’ so to speak. Perhaps I’d pick up some guidance, and not have to rely so totally on my own direction.
I felt nothing, to quote A Chorus Line. But I was wished a happy Sukkoth by an Hasidic man, and given candles for that night’s shabbat prayers by a sweet Jewish girl who approached me to see if I needed help slowing down and creating mindful space. I took the candles back to my friend’s, who is Jewish, and did my best to repeat back a Hebrew prayer as we lit them.
Nevertheless, I have had to abandon my trip up to the Bronx today, because I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t asked the woman (with whom I got along famously in our phone and written correspondence) if the two rooms she’d advertised had any way to secure myself and my belongings. How could I forget the most important item of all? If the experience of my rented rooms in Oregon taught me any one thing of the utmost importance, it is that good fences really do make good neighbors. Because the truth is, someone who doesn’t already offer that has very little conception of the rights of others to privacy and security, and is likely another intrusive landlady/lord who rents for more than the money—for the ability to interfere and claim to help: to lord it over people.
As soon as I remembered, I immediately felt fear. This is why I ‘forgot’ to ask. I was going right into this old, old pattern, and I’d felt it in my gut, which is the best sign of all. I gritted my teeth and inquired about those specific issues, and sat with inordinate anxiety waiting for a response. She texted ‘Good luck with your search.’ She knows what she’s about. Control. And so do I: this is not about somebody liking me, or finding me appealing, or vice-versa. This is about respect.
But I take back my first sentence. The number one cause of fraud and abuse is fraudsters and abusers.