From a piece I wrote, called Three Different Memos To Three Different Neighbors (2006):
MEMO #1 – TO: The Neighbor Who Stole My Doormat
RE: What the Fuck?
Okay, I know it’s been two-and-a-half years, but I honestly still can’t believe it. And so I have to ask; come on guy, you really needed to steal my doormat? My doormat?
And we’re not even talking about an ornamental, expensive doormat – the kind embroidered by a young child in a dark factory in the heart of Taiwan; the kind with the word “WELCOME” woven in over an irresistibly crude caricature of puppies playfully squirming under a doormat of their own, their big eyes staring straight through your soul; the kind that you can only find in an elegant, out-of-the-way specialty store like K-Mart or Target. And I understand that not everyone has the rare combination of both ten seconds and six dollars that it takes to go out and buy one of their own. And if I had owned this kind of extravagantly decorative doormat, I would understand a working man’s need to steal it, to give his family a small taste of the same lavish, luxurious lifestyle that Doukhobors like myself enjoy in our rent-controlled apartments in the heart of Queens.
But that’s not the kind of doormat we’re talking about, is it? The kind of doormat we’re talking about, the kind that you stole under the dark cover of night, is dirty and beige; it’s the kind of doormat that I got not from Wal-Mart, nor even from Kiki’s 99-Cent Emporium, but rather from the relatives of an elderly neighbor who had recently died, shuffling off this mortal coil in housedress and slippers, plastic bags clutched in her hand, a faded babushka on her head and a complaint about the heat left unspoken on her tongue. That’s right; you stole a free, dead woman’s doormat.
To be honest, I’m not even angry so much as I am completely baffled; what, exactly, did you think you were going to do? Just put it down outside of your apartment, the only place you could logically use it, and hope that I wouldn’t go door-to-door through the building hallway looking for it?
In the annals of crime, stealing a neighbor’s doormat falls somewhere between mugging your boss in the elevator on the way up to the office and bursting into a police precinct, waving your shotgun in the air, and declaring that the next person who moves gets it. Which is to say that it falls exactly halfway between being “poorly thought out” and “fucking retarded.”
And if you can’t use a doormat for its intended purpose, what exactly would you do with it? Sell it on eBay? Not that I would put it past you; after all, the person who would steal a used dime-store doormat is the exact same person who has undoubtedly, at several points in their life, had a small, swarthy man named Chico calmly inform them that “you ain’t can’t have the weed if you ain’t don’t gots the cash.”
And so I scoured Craig’s List, searching for the tell-tale ad: “FOR SALE,” I imagined it would say, “Doormat, gently used – NO QUESTIONS ASKED! Serial numbers have been filed off. Am looking for best reasonable offer – cash, food, or even MetroCard swipe into subway.”
Or perhaps this doormat was of some value to you, a value that I myself did not ascertain and could only truly appreciate once it was gone from my life. In my mind’s eye I can see you running through the building, clad in an Indiana Jones leather jacket and fedora, clutching your bleeding, gunshot arm as dark-suited thugs from the Russian mob close in fast. Trapped in a corner, desperate, you wheel around, revealing a Luger held to the head of a dirty beige doormat trembling in the crook of your arm.
“Don’t do anything we’ll both regret,” says a large man who steps from the shadows, a deep scar running down the side of his face, a gloved hand removing a pair of $500 Ray Bans, revealing one eye made of milky-white glass, the other filled with a mixture of hatred and respect.
You shake your head once: “No.” You pant for breath, swallow, then add, “Tell your men to step back and give us safe conduct, Vladimir. Now. Or the only place this doormat lies is inside the entrance of a mausoleum.”
He gives you the once-over; he knows that after what went down in Morocco, where he watched a small, frayed bathroom rug die in his arms, that you’d be just crazy enough to do it. He signals to his men, and they step back, warily placing their guns halfway into their holsters.
“You’ve won this round,” he says. “But I’ll return. Even you can’t watch forever. One day you’ll be napping, or drunk, or out of your house for ten minutes to get some milk from the store. And you’ll leave that doormat alone and unguarded. And when you do, I’ll be there. And I can tell you now, I won’t have to steal it away; it will come with me, and willingly.”
And you know in your heart that he’s right. You may have that doormat for now; hell, you may even love it as much as once I did, but you’ll never own it. The tread-worn beauty that makes it a treasure is also its biggest curse. This doormat was born to roam free, my friend, and no matter what kind of care you take of it, there’s going to be a morning when you awake to find it gone, and with only the memories to sustain you.