Call # 1: Today, Saturday, 22 September 2007

This morning, early, self walked outside with Gracie into the semi-dark of the backyard. It was raining, the rotting wood of the deck was slick and self detected several planks which had worked free of the old nails. Then, self spent minutes rooting around in the shed, looking at old journals. Who knows why she has begun this particular early-morning activity? It started after she returned from VCCA.

After reading a little in the shed, self went back to the house, seated herself at the dining room table, and opened up the laptop, preparatory to writing.

Suddenly the phone rang. In the silent house the effect was startling and explosive. No one ever calls self, and especially not on a Saturday, and not ever this early in the morning. The first thing self did before picking up the phone was glance at the clock on her laptop screen: It said 8:16 AM.

Self decided to forgive the caller and picked up. She heard the familiar voice of Tita E. Tita E. launched right into her message without preamble, not even asking if she’d called too early. Self thinks Tita E must still still have been on Manila time. She must have been awake for hours, simply waiting for a halfway decent time to call.

Tita E is not strictly self’s Tita, but self calls all her Dearest Mum’s friends this. Her Dearest Mum’s friends are Erlinda, Carminda, Amelita, Gladys, Cora (before she passed away last July), and Bonnie. Self has called them all Tita for as long as she can remember.

Tita E tells self that she has brought something for me from Dearest Mum. She doesn’t even have to tell self what it is. Self knows these are papers for Bank of America, who are still insisting that Dearest Mum pay for the fraudulent charges that appeared on her debit card last spring. The saga never ends. The latest is that Dearest Mum received a letter from the bank in late July. Said letter requested Dearest Mum to respond in writing by July 13. Dearest Mum is indignant. She tells self over and over, each time self calls, that the envelope was stamped as received in the Makati post office on July 17. So how could she have responded by July 13? Dearest Mum keeps repeating, over and over, the stamp was July 17.

Self had called her to greet her a Happy Birthday. But now all of that is forgotten, lost in the drama of the recalcitrant Bank, the annoyance, the miscommunication.

Dearest Mum tells self, for the nth time: They want me to call them in person, but their Customer Service is in Phoenix, and I have to stay up till midnight to get anyone. Dearest Mum wants self to go to the Bank of America in Burlingame and talk to a nice lady she met there in March, a Katherine Alviso. Who self believes has left the bank, for self has tried going to that branch three times, and each time Ms. Alviso is never there.

Dearest Mum says to bring her friend in Hillsborough with me. They will pay attention to her because she lives in Hillsborough (She has curly white hair and always dresses in Talbots suits). Dearest Mum is agitated, her voice shakes. Self is agitated, too. She tells Dearest Mum, Why are you doing this? Why don’t you just close the account? If you have to go through all this trouble every time . . .

And Dearest Mum says, Not before I get my money back, I won’t.

Self says, why don’t you find out who is doing this to you? Hire an investigator? Because it keeps happening.

Dearest Mum says, That person has stolen my identity.

Yes, self says, but don’t you want to find out who it is, who has stolen your identity? You keep going to the bank and —

And how, Dearest Mum interrupts, could they expect me to be in two places at the same time? In March, when those charges appeared, I was in California! And all those charges were made in Manila!

So self has to hear it all over again, as though Dearest Mum were arguing a case to self, as though self were not her daughter but someone, a third party, whose sympathy must be elicited at all costs. And her mother is so very good at telling this story, and self thinks: What is the point? Is she rehearsing for the time when she actually gets through to a live person in Bank of America Customer Service?

I tell Dearest Mum that perhaps she should write a formal letter of complaint. And self will find out who the President of Bank of America is, and Dearest Mum can send the letter to him, DHL even. Dearest Mum and self finally agree on something. Yes, Dearest Mum says. That sounds like a good idea.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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