My Whole Entire Life

When I was seventeen we were in Mexico City and saw Charade, now a classic, with Audrey Hepburn. She was beautiful and smart and authentic, and she made me think the world was that way too. This was cleared up in a little while, but what I took with me out of the movie theater that day was Cary Grant, picking up his mail at the American Express office in Paris. He walked in as if he owned the place, as sure of himself as God after a long hot shower, and they treated him that way. American Express, those vague and compelling words. I wanted to grow up to be a citizen of the empire called American Express.

At my first professional job they got us any credit card we wanted. Mine arrived in a week, green like money. I loved presenting it to hotel desk clerks. I imagined it lent weight to my early fraudulent efforts. But oh, what a mess was that company’s bookkeeping. They got confused about a payment I made, kept billing and rebilling, and ended up canceling my card. A lawyer friend said there was a law that required credit card issuers to respond within so many days of a complaint, and to resolve the thing within so many more. So I complained. Amex ignored, I complained again, and when they said they were coming after my personal property I sued them, in part to prevent them from seeing that I hardly had any.

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