I woke up in search of something—something that I loved and had lost.
In a fit of dread, I jolted out of bed and began tearing through every inch of the house that we shared. I threw clothes from one side of the room to the other. I slid furniture away from the wall, opened drawers and cabinets, pushed things over and pulled things out. I sifted through the pages of our books, in hopes that he had used it as a bookmark. I spent time on my hands and knees, searching under our couch and table and under the bed he was still sleeping in. I stampeded from our room to our bathroom to our closet, over and over and over again, desperately believing that this repeated path would eventually lead me to it. I searched while he slept. I cried while he dreamed of good and easy things. And, after hours of looking alone, and in the midst of him waking up, I gave up.
He found me sleeping in the corner of our guest room, next to a bunch of everything, thrown everywhere. Still curled up on the floor and unwilling to open my eyes, I told him quietly what had happened. I told him how I had looked all morning. I told him all of the places I had looked and the amount of times I looked in them. I told him where I last remembered seeing it and I retraced my steps in detail. And finally, after a release of deep breath and sigh, I told him that it was gone. I had left it somewhere and it had been found or stolen or squeezed between the crevices of some old booth in a dirty restaurant. Whatever it’s source of wander, I knew I would never see it again.
I still don’t know what sparked his reaction— whether it was because he hated to see me cry or because he really did think there was more to do. He sat quietly for a moment, with that look he gets when he’s in the middle of discovering something. He began asking if I’d checked in certain places … the closet, the hallway dresser, the kitchen drawers. Yes, to every one. There wasn’t a speck of the house that hadn’t been seen and examined by me already. But, the more I told him it was over, the more alive he became with certainty that it wasn’t. He was convinced that I left it somewhere and he was insistent that we fight to find it.
We had been walking for at least an hour. In the heat. In the heavy humidity that smelled of old, dirtied water. He had all of these ideas of where it might be and insisted that we find it together. He wanted to be with me when I saw it for the first time. He wanted to see that flash in my eyes … the split moment when my body would jilt at the surprise of the find. He just wanted to see me be happy again. And so I let him pull my arm up and down numbered streets and I let him tell me stories to make the time pass more quickly. And I dialed many numbers and I asked the same question many times and always got no as an answer.
I was tired and my limbs ached a little from all of the walking. I asked if we could sit down even though I knew he didn’t want to. His eyes had been excited and wide for the last hour. Like an animal on the trail of some frantic scent, his head jerked at sudden sounds and his hands shook and his voice seemed desperately loud. To stop him … to ask him to relent from this fight, for any amount of time … was to break a spirit in him that I hadn’t seen in years. Something in him had caught fire … sparked by some dwindling flame that I thought had burned out years ago.
I sat beside him under a canopy of green and watched his antsy legs bounce against the planks of the bench incessantly. I stared, without speaking, as he continued to plan his methods and his weapons and his ideas for finding what had been lost. The force of his pursuit was difficult to understand, and yet, as my eyes took in more and more of the scene, I began to feel a weight of familiarity. Something felt known. Something seemed right or true or reasonable. Something, in the foreign actions of this man I’d known and loved for so long, seemed to make sense.
But nothing that he gave that day mattered. I just couldn’t make it matter. No amount of strategy, no bursts of energy, no levels of commitment or determination were enough to make me breathe bigger or faster. The more he felt, the less I could. The heat had gone to my head and the sweat in the air had gone into my bones. It was time for me to go home. His endurance arrived too late and it left me feeling more exhausted than I already had been. If only it had come earlier in the day….
… or earlier in the week or the year. If it had come in a time when I was already fighting to find something I loved, that had been lost. If only he hadn’t slept through the beginning of my search.
He came by several weeks later to pick up some things he left behind. He had packed his bags in a hurry, after I asked him to move out, and told me to throw everything else away. I knew he would want them eventually and said that I would hang on to everything, until he was ready. We had been in this house long enough to accumulate meaningful things—I didn’t want him to lose them.
I woke up on a Sunday and spent a long time gathering. I found old playing cards that his father had given him and sheets of music he had written one night, when we were drunk and laughing. I folded up a few wrinkled shirts and read words I wrote to him in sweet notes with colored marker. And, after a few hours of finding and reminiscing, I stood in front of his filled box and decided I was finished. I had found all of his things and they were all in this box and they would all be leaving soon. And just as I began to pick everything up, I saw his pillow on our bed. He had paid way too much for it one night, when his insomnia prompted a marathon of infomercials. I moved toward the bed and reached for the expensive pillow and as I pulled back with a quick lift, saw the flit of something small and light. It was a picture of us from the first night we met— it was what I had been searching for, so desperately, just a few weeks before.
A small square of black of white—a memory that had been cut from the bottom of 4 others. It was the last, in a stream of photos taken from a booth at the fancy party where we met. Soon after we started dating, we agreed that we would always keep that picture as a reminder of how happy we were and should always be. We had many long talks and promised many times that, if we ever lost it, we would find it again, together.
And then one morning, I woke up and it was gone. And I searched alone, until I was too tired.