To the Former Owner of Our House:
Please understand that when the package came for you, we had no forwarding address and we didn’t think we’d ever see you again. We opened it with really the best of intentions of finding some way to get it to you. And then we saw the sweater.Please appreciate that my husband had never had owned a hand-knit cardigan from Nepal before. He put the sweater on and liked it a lot until our babysitter told him that her grandfather had one similar to it and then he only liked it a little bit. But he still wore it.
Please know that when you came around a couple of weeks later and rang the doorbell and said, “Hi, I’m Carl and I used to live here and I was wondering if you got a package for me,” and I said “No. Was it a sweater?” in a fearful whisper, I didn’t mean to lie; I just panicked. And that when you came back around a month after that and asked about the package again and I said, “Nope, still no sweater,” by then the lie had taken on a life of its own and become the truth, the way lies have a way of doing, don’t you think? I tell you, I feel so much more sympathy for Bill Clinton than I used to. And when you came around the third time, while I was planting flowers in the front yard, and we had that invigorating conversation about how useless UPS is—well, I wasn’t precisely lying, because I made my mind think about another package that really wasn’t delivered, back in about 1990.
Please believe that we have tried to give the sweater the best life possible. My husband no longer wears it because he worries that you’ll come around looking for it and he’ll answer the door, but we haven’t cut it up into potholders or used it to line the dog’s bed. We have folded it very neatly and put it on a shelf in the closet and both of us remember to pay attention to it when we go in there. My husband often points to it and exclaims, “O, will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?” I try to give the sweater a little pat and say something comforting, even though the sight of it stirs in me a powerful mixture of guilt and shame and a wish that I was a better person—which is exactly how I feel when I see certain relatives.
Please recognize that if I could go back in time and undo all this, I would. If I thought we could have a peaceful exchange of garment hostages as outlined by the Geneva Convention, I would arrange it immediately.
Please agree that some forgiveness is in order here. After all, I have forgiven you for hanging that towel bar crookedly, which makes me feel like I’m on a rolling ocean liner every time I walk in the bathroom. I’ve also forgiven you for sticking those fake plants in the front yard, and for trying to sell us barstools for $250 apiece, and for giving the recycling bins to the neighbors for no apparent reason when you could have left them for us, since we had paid what we all agreed was a little too much for the house, and for the awful window treatments upstairs that don’t open and cause us to live in an Adam’s-Family-like miasma and—
You know what? I’ve changed my mind. I’m glad we kept your fucking sweater. I’m going to have my husband put it on right now and we’re going to sit on what used to be your back deck and drink red wine and say bad things about you and I actually hope you stop by and see the sweater, and if my husband spills a little red wine on it, I won’t even care. That will just make it more ours.