Friday, September 29, 2006

open your gift

It's not my birthday. It's entirely too warm out to be Christmas, and it certainly isn't any kind of normal holiday, considering the fact that I went to work and it was drudgery as usual. There's no card, no tag. Just a nicely-wrapped gift box sitting on the floor of my apartment. In fact, I almost tripped over the damn thing as I stumbled through the front door, laden with all the trappings of a long commute (lunch bag, jacket, commuter bag, purse, keys). I'm not sure how it even got in here, though I suppose the management has keys and can put your newspapers inside if you leave them out there for too long.

It had been forever since I'd gotten a strange gift, and I wasn't quite sure what to think. "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts"? But I didn't know who gave this to me, or even, for that matter, if it was actually intended for me. It was merely a gift bearing gifts, and it might have been delivered to me by accident. I wouldn't know unless I opened it, right?

So I took it to the couch and set it down on the coffee table. The box itself glowed almost supernaturally, as though it absorbed all the light in the room and reflected that warmth and life back through its mother of pearl wrapping paper and iridescent white ribbons. It looked like the sort of painstaking gift wrap job that I would do, all smooth and self-sufficiently pleasing to the eye, to the fingertips. Absentmindedly, I had been stroking the box, presumably trying to find the seams: I wouldn't want to just shred a wrapping job like that, so I'd have to open it where it had been taped. It was too lovely not to.

But I had run my fingers all over the box, and there were no seams at all. I picked up the box and studied it. The underside? Like pearly glass. The place where the ribbons were? Nothing. I couldn't even tell how the ribbons were attached. It was like someone had wrapped the box in a thin sheet of clay, and rubbed out all the lines of the folds.

I was willing to accept that someone would give me a random gift. It was within reason to believe that it could have valid reasons for appearing inside my locked apartment. But I drew the line at this, the perfect, seamless wrapping paper. The aura of the box, the glow that I had immediately found appealing, seemed to take on a ghoulish cast. I made up my mind to call the landlord tomorrow, to ask him about the box. Then I went to the kitchen to heat up some leftovers for dinner.

When I was in the kitchen, a knot of unease tightened in my abdomen, compelling me to go back and look in the living room, to make sure that the box was there. When I saw it, I felt better, and could go back and tend the microwave. Heating the leftovers took twice as long because I had to keep taking breaks to check on the box. But it made me nervous, being around it but being unable to see it. Why did I feel the need to keep looking at it? Was I afraid of its contents? Or was it something else?

I didn't want it in my house while I slept. It had to go outside and wait in the hallway until I could call the landlord about it. But that's silly! Of course I was overreacting! It's a gift, it's lovely, and it would be rude to the giver if he or she ever found out that I made it sit in the hallway all night, wouldn't it? But he or she would probably not find out, I reasoned, as I opened the door and deposited the gift onto my welcome mat. And it would be fine out here. My neighbors would all be asleep in a couple of hours, and I would too. I could deal with it in the morning.

Morning came, and I rolled out of bed, groggily downing a glass of water and putting in my contacts. Ah, Saturday! The one day of the week when it's acceptable to putter around for a while, with asinine cartoons as background noise while the coffee percolates! I ambled into the living room and tripped, falling flat on my face. When I hauled myself up off the floor, I saw what I had tripped over. It was the gift. It was back in the apartment, even farther in than it had been the first time. But something about it was different. There were seams in the wrapping, now, places for me to slide my fingers under the paper and pull the taped flaps up from the package. So tempting...but so wrong! I ran to the phone to call the landlord.

1 comment:

Meg said...

damn it, m! that would be an awesome true story.