Mission: Be Benevolent

18 Feb


Sometimes you choose the mission, but as I’m sure many an action hero can attest, sometimes the mission chooses you.

I hadn’t planned on undertaking any new endeavors this Valentine’s Day. It seemed as good a day as any to work on being incognito. And by incognito, I mean laying at home watching cheesy romantic comedies (even the International Woman of Mystery has guilty pleasures) and eating popcorn for dinner. Don’t get me wrong – I did treat myself to a nice bottle of wine and some chocolates. I’m not a complete barbarian. If anything, I’m the best date I’ve had for Valentine’s Day in quite some time.

However. As if sensing my intrinsic happiness from afar, it seems Mr. Poison was not to be outdone.

At approximately sometime around 5 p.m. Friday before Valentine’s Day weekend. I’ve just wrapped up a Skype call with my bosses and have plans to crack open the wine, when the buzzer to my apartment rings. This perplexes me. Up until this point, I wasn’t even aware the buzzer worked. No one’s ever had cause to use it. In any event, I’ve now got answer it, which requires that I put on respectable pants and see who’s downstairs. Maybe it’s a neighbor who’s been locked out, or someone delivering flowers to the wrong apartment number. It occurs to me I should check before heading downstairs. I buzz back.


“UPS, ma’am,” responds the voice on the other end, “I’ve got a package for…uh…D..duh…zenifer? That requires a signature?”

I’m not expecting anything, but I’m also not about to turn down a surprise. It’s possible my mother felt sorry for me and decided to mail a Valentine’s Day care package or something of the sort. I throw on a jacket and make my way to the lobby. I immediately spot the UPS man, who comes bearing a rather large parcel. I wonder briefly if my mother has skipped all fanfare and just mailed me a male companion. Or maybe it’s more books. The UPS guy looks annoyed, so I’ve got little time to ponder. I sign my name without asking questions.

He hands me the package. It’s more clumsy than heavy. Whatever it is, it’s well packaged. I shake it but nothing moves. I drag it into the elevator and up to my apartment. Once it’s in the middle of my living room floor, I can do a little further inspection. No return address, but it bears a couple of stickers brandishing the name of an upscale department store in Boston. My heart drops into my stomach. Very few people I know are pretentious enough to shop at that department store. And only one of them is pretentious enough to send me a mail order package from there. I almost don’t want to open it.

An International Woman of Mystery could always stand to work on her willpower, so I decide to view this as an opportunity. Instead of opening the package, I’ll merely ignore it. Jenny G. has more important things to do than clamor over a present from an ex. I put on some upbeat music and clean the bathroom instead. And then my kitchen, my workspace and my pantry. I manage to re-organize some files on my computer and return a few emails I’ve been procrastinating on sending. I haven’t touched my wine, but more importantly, I haven’t touched the box. It sits like a mystery in the middle of my living room floor until I can’t take it anymore. At about 8 p.m., I finally dive for the box and rip it apart like a madwoman.

I tear through the outer packaging and open the box to reveal another box inside. The inner box is a large gift box. No invoice to be found, but I don’t need one. The wrap job bears all the professional impersonality of a gift from Mr. Poison. He likely paid some shop girl to do it for him. Inside the box, there is a card.

My Dearest Dszenifer,

I know that you are still mad. Just a little something to keep you warm out there in Denver. I miss you.

Happy Valentine’s,


I stare at the card, in shock for about five minutes. All manner of thoughts race through my head. How did he get this address? Why is he contacting me? I wonder what it could possibly mean. Does he want to get back together? Then I rip the card in half. The International Woman of Mystery is not so easily moved. It’s going to take a lot more than a card and a lousy gift to get back into my good graces.

And what is this mystery gift anyway? I realize I haven’t even touched the actual present. It’s still entombed in the box beneath multiple layers of fancy tissue paper. I dig in.

I can feel the soft woolen fabric before I unearth my “gift.” It’s a coat. A trench coat, to be exact. A gorgeous wool winter trench in a beautiful dove grey. It’s heavy and probably very warm. I already have a trench, which I acquired while culling together my International Woman of Mystery must-haves. Only I haven’t been able to wear it out since late fall, when the weather turned cold. I’ve mostly had to wear my boring old pea coat to battle the elements. This new coat would be far more suitable for an IWOM in winter. Fuck.

I’m trapped in my own apartment, the coat like kryptonite. I want to try it on, but I can’t. Can I? I debate my options. I could keep it and just never respond to the note. Consider it a consolation prize from my failed relationship and move on. I could sell it. A coat like this could probably fetch a decent price at a consignment shop, which could then be contributed to my travel fund. I could wrap it back up and write “Return to Sender” in bold red letters on the box.

There’s also option D. I could call Mr. Poison and see what his intentions really are for sending the coat. See if he’s changed. See if he’s sorry. See if he can give me any good explanation for calling off our engagement and never really bothering to chase after me. See if anything is still there. What if the trench coat is a sign? What if Mr. Poison could love the new and improved Jenny G. with all the neediness and insecurity of Dzsenifer stripped way?

Of course, why call the source directly when the Internet allows us so many more discreet ways to gather information?

Although I deleted my personal Facebook account when I fled Boston, I still have an account for professional use with my marketing firm. I log in. Do a quick search, and there he is. His profile is public. A new profile picture and a new haircut. I also see that he hasn’t changed his relationship status. It still says “engaged.” I scroll down a little further and stop in my tracks.

Mr. Poison is engaged all right. Her name is Emily. She is blonde. And there are about eighteen million pictures (give or take) of the two of them. Together. The two of them grinning, in a restaurant booth at a sushi joint he used to take me to. The two of them at a college football game, snuggled together under a blanket. The two of them making kiss faces while holding a golden retriever puppy in front of our old fireplace. It’s like something out of a deranged L.L. Bean catalogue. I feel my face get hot and close my browser window. I have all the information I need.

After indulging in a few glasses of my Valentine wine, I decide I must send the coat back to Mr. Poison. I’ll be sure to send it to the home address. I’ve already torn up the card, but consider taping it back together. I’m sure “Emily” has no idea he sent it, and I’d like to include it, just in case. I retrieve the pieces from my trash can, but I haven’t got any tape. I remember that there’s a drug store not far from where I live that stays open late. I’ll go buy some. In my haste to get out the door, I grab the trench. One little spin in it won’t hurt.

I make my way quickly to the drug store and am in and out in a flash with my tape. I’m just rounding the corner to my place and fantasizing about the look on Emily’s (and Mr. Posion’s) face when the coat arrives. In fact, I am so busy envisioning it, that I nearly trip over a girl huddled on the door step of my building. She looks too young to be on the streets, but about a million years old at the same time. Weathered. Tired and freezing, in a dirty old hoodie and jeans. She wants to know if I can spare a dollar. I start digging through my purse, but suddenly I’ve got a better idea.

“Actually,” I say, “I don’t have any cash, but someone just gave me this coat and I don’t really need it. Would you like it?”

The girl stares at me for a minute and then speaks: “Won’t you be cold?”

“Oh I’ll be okay,” I reassure her. “I live in this building and I’ve got other coats. Why don’t you take this one?”

I strip off the jacket and toss it to her before she can protest. I don’t want a scene, so I just nod politely and let myself into the building. From behind me, she calls out a thank you.

Inside I look down at the empty box on the floor and once again return the pieces of Mr. Poison’s note to the trash. Pour myself one more glass of wine and sit down at my desk. I don’t have any official IWOM letterhead, but I’ll figure that out later. Instead I pull out a simple notecard and write a new note.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your recent gift of one designer wool trench coat. Unfortunately, at this time, we here at International Woman of Mystery Enterprises no longer have use for your charity. Rest assured, your generosity has not been for naught. We have passed on your donation to a deserving recipient in the form of a local homeless youth. Feel free to keep this correspondence for tax purposes, but lose this address for the future.

Jenny G.


One Response to “Mission: Be Benevolent”

  1. totallycaroline 02/18/2016 at 8:01 PM #


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