“Is Brooke Allen there?”
“I’m sorry, I have the wrong number.”
When I first moved to New York City a well-meaning friend gave me a book about surviving in the city. It served no purpose but to destroy all pleasure in life: When pushed in front of the subway, lie down in the ditch between the rails. Carry your wallet in your front pocket since your back pocket will be sliced open with a razor. And by all means, install three locks so the burglar finds your neighbor’s door more attractive.
Immediately after moving to the city, phone calls like the one above were repeated every week or two.
I was convinced that someone was casing my apartment and the instant I didn’t answer I would be robbed. What’s worse, since the caller’s voice sounded different each time it appeared there was an inexhaustible supply of crooks.
Two years into my torture one of my mystery callers explained it to me. There was another Brooke Allen who lived on East 88th street. Her number was unlisted and mine was.
I tracked her down. We exchanged phone numbers and thus began a long and entertaining relationship.
I would call her answering machine and play her messages on my machine.
I became comfortable acting on the various party invitations that arrived in my mailbox every so often.
“Who the hell are you?”
One year I held a Christmas party. My friend called to say, “I’m confused. My sister-in-law received an invitation from you for the same date but a different location.” It appeared we had both friends and party dates in common.
Eventually we just held a joint party: Brooke Allen squared. Everyone might as well meet each other.
She is an established writer. When her play, “The Big Love” with Tracy Ullman opened on Broadway, I taped her poster on my office door.
“I had no idea you were you were so accomplished,” a coworker would comment.
“There are many sides of me you don’t know.” Yea, like that I’m shameless and I’ve never written a Broadway play.
When I wrote a letter to the New York Times, she got the comments.
When she wrote an essay in the Nation called “Our Godless Constitution” questioning the Religious Right’s right to claim we were founded as a Christian nation, I got the threats.
When I went to register for my MBA at New York University, they told me I was unwelcome there. It appears Brooke Allen had once been pissed at NYU, told them to get lost and put a stop payment on a tuition check.
While I was on vacation with a girlfriend, a friend of hers called my apartment and was told by our house-sitter that “They are in Europe.”
That friend them met Brooke at dinner and told her of the stranger on her phone. Only after she and the policeman found her apartment untouched did it dawn on her.
Revenge comes to all those who wait.
So tell everyone you know about that great writer, Brooke Allen. Tell them to look up Brooke’s books on Amazon and order them. Just don’t tell them she is not me.
Take pride in, protect and promote your good name, particularly if you share it with others.