It has come to my attention that an immigrant from Guatemala, an educated woman in her 20s, worked in my home as the nanny to my two small children.

Her duties, it appears, were to take care of my children while my wife and I worked at our jobs. The information I have is that her responsibilities included watching the children while they played with their toys, preparing their noontime meals, and taking them on afternoon trips to the park.

It has further come to my attention that this young woman was compensated for her services, and that she was paid, in cash, by me personally. This transaction would take place each day, in the hallway by the front door of my house, after I had returned home from work, hugged and kissed the children, and thanked the woman for being such a loving caregiver. Although, to be honest, I probably would not have used those exact words. My relationship to this woman, I have learned, was fairly casual, and so I probably would have said something along the lines of, “So, did you have a good day? The kids love you and we are so grateful! Thank you so much! Bye now!”

Or words to that effect.

Because her rate was $20 an hour, the transactions in my hallway that I am describing might have involved the exchange of $140 to $160 at a time. Often I would have to remember to get the cash on my way home.

It has also come to my attention that I am personally acquainted with this woman, who, it appears, has taken care of my children every weekday for the past three years, not counting holidays. I know her name, which is Maria. I also know that she immigrated from the Guatemalan mountain village of Huehuetenango, as she explained this during the interview my wife and I held with her in our living room when we were considering whether to retain her as our nanny.

I can also report that it took me a long time to learn to pronounce “Huehuetenango,” and that when Maria explained that she came to this country to avoid a lifetime of weaving the quetzal into table runners and hawking huipile purses in the zocalo, my wife and I laughed and nodded even though we really had no idea what she was talking about.

I have also been shocked to learn that apparently I failed to keep a weekly ledger of Maria’s wages, calculate the Social Security taxes on her income, and send a monthly check to the Social Security Administration in the correct amount. This is a mystery to me. I thought I had done those things. But apparently not. Apparently, I just shuffled the cash into Maria’s hand at the end of each day and considered the matter closed.

In recent weeks other matters have come to my attention, each of them equally shocking. I was not quite aware, for example, that I had served on the board of a prominent Homeland Security contractor, that I maintained a personal friendship with a Mafia don, and that I carried on an extramarital affair with my biographer, in an apartment purchased by the police department for the use of firefighters conducting recovery and salvage efforts at the site of the World Trade Center bombing.

I have been, it appears, very busy in the last two years. I had no idea. Believe me, I am as surprised as anyone.

Surprised and, frankly, a little impressed.

Although this does explain why I never had time to pay Maria’s Social Security taxes.

In the weeks since the president nominated me to lead the Homeland Security Department, the facts I have described have come to my attention, again and again, first as a nagging concern, then as a growing anxiety, then as a rising torrent of fear, and finally, in the last 24 hours, as a source of raging, uncontrollable panic.

The panic comes from my realization that at my confirmation hearing next month I will have somehow ceded the moral high ground to Senator Kennedy.

It has further come to my attention that the specter of my botched appearance before the Senate will end my political career, and may very well personally destroy me.

These revelations have shocked and bewildered me. How could I have done these things? How could I have remained unaware of them?

Are there two of me? Do I have an evil twin? Multiple personalities? A degenerative brain disease? Perhaps I’m psychotic?

Another equally troubling question is this: How could someone of my fundamental incapacity have come so close to heading the department of the United States government charged with protecting our country from acts of terrorism? Is anyone else horrified by this? Is anyone besides me even slightly bothered?

And, finally, the most important question: How am I going to find another free apartment in Battery City Park?