Dear Sir or Madam,
I won't lie -- I was angry when I realized you had stolen my phone.
I didn't want to believe it was theft when I returned to my seat after giving a poetry reading... I wanted to believe it had fallen under my table. But it hadn't. I wanted to believe I left it in a cargo pocket or maybe a back pocket in my pants; some little pouch I rarely check. But I hadn't. I wanted to believe someone maybe picked it up by mistake, despite having an incredibly unique purple Element Case bumper and 100 percent unique Akira-themed background. But they didn't.
I was hopeful that you would answer the phone when I called from a friend's mobile. Or again, when I called from the venue's phone. I hoped you'd reply when I texted my own number with my email, a friend's phone number, and a message that said the phone that you had contained photos and text for two articles due today, and that is my livelihood (and believe me, I desperately need the money). But you didn't.
I will admit, I kept the faith that somehow, someway, this was all one big mistake and I'd end up getting it back. It took a while for Find My iPhone to register where you were, because you were smart. You turned off the phone when you picked it up. I'm pretty sure you were annoyed to find it took forever to turn off, because the power button is mostly broken. I usually had to push it HARD against a table edge or wall corner just to get it to register. It seems you figured that trick out as well. And when you turned it back on again, and I got a message saying it had been located nearly 50 miles away, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you stole it.
Now, here's the part you probably knew was coming. Here's where I tell you what I hope for you. And I'm certain you're getting ready to brush off hopes from a stranger whose phone you pilfered that you end up with AIDS-laced cancer and during treatment, some horrific sadist of a hospice nurse tortures you for weeks before you finally burn in hell. Or, at the very least, that I run into you one day and I hit you. Hard.
A few years ago, yes. Once I realized that you stole from me, the chants would have begun in earnest at the top of my voice that the heavens destroy you with one thousand plagues, but not before I got the chance to beat the living crap out of you.
Today, that's not at all what I hope. You know what I hope?
That you're not a thief. I hope you are merely a desperate person in a desperate situation. Maybe you lost your job, and you saw a phone laying there on the table and knew you could get a little quick cash from an automated phone trade-in machine.
Maybe you have children. Maybe you've been struggling week to week to keep them fed. Maybe you don't have children, but you yourself are having trouble making food appear on your dinner plate every night.
Maybe you have an income, but it's just enough to get by -- and medical expenses or an emergency repair to your car or even a speeding ticket threw your budget into a tizzy.
Maybe you're just like me -- going through one hell of a hard time. And you saw an easy fix to a situation and you took it.
I hope you're a good person in a bad situation. Because I know that I've had those thoughts. Trust me, I've had them. Just two weeks ago, I literally had 27 dollars. Twenty-seven. I didn't plan on having only twenty-seven dollars. It was a catastrophic sequence of events all at once in a very short period of time that drained every single dollar I had. A sick cat, a locked Paypal account due to an errant eBay purchase, an unforeseen auto insurance expense due to screwed up paperwork from my divorce, and a very untimely deactivated phone (the one you stole) due to a really big screwup with my phone bill drained me.
I was pretty desperate. And thankfully, I received some donations from people I did not see coming. Two very wonderful, very generous people just randomly helped me out. I didn't ask them. I didn't even hint that I needed help. I just got an envelope with some cash in it from one and a repair deposit for my truck from the other. It wasn't a lot, but it got me straight for the time being.
And I'm still there. I'm still trying to get straight. That's why the phone you stole was so important, and that's why the texts and messages you received sounded so desperate. It's not that I just can't wait to Facebook all night, or return texts from friends, or that I can't be separated from my email for a day.
It's that you took a few hundred dollars worth of my work when you took a few hundred dollars worth of hardware. And that's going to be hard to recoup, because I also have editors to explain things to. And that's okay, because in my head, you're not some lowlife thief. You're not just a greedy morality-deprived jerk who decided they wanted something enough to take it from someone else while they were reading poems to a crowd at a coffee house.
In my heart, you're a person in need. And that being the case, I no longer consider my phone stolen. I gave it to you. And I hope that whatever you got for it helps you out of whatever bind you're in. Because if not for the kindness of several very generous people the past few weeks, I'd be so very screwed. It's amazing how the universe works. It just seems to provide exactly what you need when you need it.
And even if you simply are a thief, you taught me a lesson. I was pretty low when I realized my phone was stolen. Like I said earlier, I was so angry with you when I realized you stole it. That anger sat in me for a while. I wasn't instantly enlightened or anything. I'm no Zen Buddhist. In fact, I reflected on my stolen phone as the latest item in a checklist named Everything Is Going Absolutely Batshit Crazy In My Life.
And that's where I realized, I've been where I am thinking you are now. I've been at the deepest part of a sinkhole that opened up in my life and swallowed everything in it. So I know exactly how boundless what you're willing to do can get. And that's why I'm giving you my phone. Consider it a fair exchange for the perspective you gave me this morning.
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