I hadn’t used that credit card in months.
|I only found out what was happening when the credit card company sent me a letter about an overage, which in itself was unusual, but that was probably because it was a rather large amount—over five-hundred dollars.
I thought it had to be a mistake.
I hadn’t used that card in months.
I recalled misplacing it and getting a replacement card with the same number, because I didn’t want to bother updating any websites. But I had already started using another card by the time it came in, so I just put it in my desk drawer and forgot about it.
When I went online to find out what this money was all about I had to reset the credit card’s website password, which took a bit of doing, because they had the wrong phone number on file and an email address I didn’t recognize. After a bit of time on the phone proving to them that I was me, I finally got into my account to find out…that might not be entirely true. I was still using the card.
Around the same time that I had misplaced my card I apparently bought a ticket to Naples. I stayed at the Royal Continental Hotel for three nights, probably with a lovely view of the Gulf there, and ate a few meals at the Ristorante Zi Teresa. I also visited the Pignatelli Museum and the Palazzo delle Arti Napoli. All of these charges were on my card, along with a number of others from various stores.
And then a payment was applied that covered everything. And that was it.
I stared at those first charges in wonder, questions turning over in my head. And I say first charges, because after a few weeks, the card started getting used again on a regular basis, and subsequently paid off. Maybe I wanted to make sure that those first charges didn’t raise any red flags, and after a few weeks, figured that I was in the clear to continue using it.
At lease I think that’s what I thought.
Sorry, that was a Freudian slip – because the next group of charges included a down payment for the lease on an apartment. I began staying at the Vicere Apartments located on Via Diodata Lioy, fairly near the museums, which I obviously enjoyed. And I was apparently pretty conservative when it came to dressing, because the clothes that I bought weren’t high-end, but I’m sure they were tasteful: one doesn’t visit museums and restaurants in Italy looking homeless. And I had also purchased a Eurorail pass, which I discovered I used extensively.
I began to wonder where I got all the money to pay the credit card, and why I didn’t just use the cash for everything. But then I realized there were quite a few things that required a credit card, along with proof of identify, which then brought up all sorts of other questions: Where had I gotten an ID for myself? It wouldn’t have been my passport, because the charges only started once I had gotten to Italy. But it might have become easier to get identification papers to match my credit card once I was there. But how? Did I have “connections”? How does one get “connections”? Do you have to know someone who knows someone with them?
I noticed that I had visited Pompei. That must have been amazing.
And then Rome; equally amazing.
Then after returning to Napels I started buying food on a regular basis at a little restaurant not far from my apartment: The Taverna dell’Arte. (It seemed there was a bit of a theme to my life.) It wasn’t a particularly cheap restaurant, but I didn’t seem to be paying full price for my meals there, and then it dawned on me that I was probably waiting tables and getting meals at a discount.
I waited tables? At an Italian restaurant in Naples? That was either ridiculously romantic or ridiculously pathetic. I’m sure that I thought the former. Actually, I did think the former.
Over the next few months, I had dinner almost every night at the Taverna, which was a perfectly picturesque little out-of-the way place, spent time exploring museums, picked up books at a few different librerias, and traveled to other cities by train to explore the county. I even took a weekend trip to France.
Which brought us to the five-hundred dollar overpayment.
It was actually a six-month refund of the down payment on my apartment.
I’m sure the apartment complex would notify me about the refund. When I started using the card in Italy I had gotten into my account and changed the password and contact information—email and phone number—but now I had just changed them all back. So the next time I went online I would find out that the password has been changed and know that I knew something was up.
What would I do?
A new email popped up on my screen: It was from me, in Italy. It had pictures of the Parthenon and the Venice canals and the leaning tower of Pisa and Pompeii and Tuscany and France. A number of other emails followed, with pictures of my life there, all the places I had been, all the things that I had experienced. There was even a picture of my humble little apartment, complete with a gray tabby.
And at the bottom of the last email, a message:
“I needed to leave who I was behind, what I had become. And you helped save me. Thank you for letting me borrow you for awhile. I hope I wasn’t any trouble.”
I stared at my computer screen for a bit, then looked around at my cluttered desk, my life filled with meetings and spreadsheets and deadlines.
And I promised myself that the card would remain available, asked for more pictures, and said that someday, someday, I would go to Italy and find myself.