The cab driver at JFK told me he knew just where I was going, in order to catch my bus out to the South Fork, and so I sat back -- weary from the day-long journey from the Yucatan to Queens -- and watched the expressway lights, and called Paul and talked on the phone a while, and so didn't notice till the driver made a u-turn, then tentatively eyed some dark-looking intersections, that he didn't know where we were. I had to fire up my computer and look up the directions, and by the time we arrived the fare was about a third higher than in should have been, and my bus was already idling at the stop, with clouds of frozen exhaust billowing up from the tailpipe. So I hurried to charge the fare, pack away the laptop, get my bags together -- the two masks I bought in Merida, packed in the special Anne Waldman/Kiki Smith tote bag Anne gave me, where were they? I got it all together, raced to the bus, only to discover it wasn't my bus after all. And there I was in the aching cold, right next to the galactic rush of the L.I.E., and I realized that inside the departing cab was my hat. My favorite winter hat, with two layers of knit wool, and ear flaps -- decorated with blue pigeons! -- that folded down perfectly over my ears. Gone.
Thus the hat becomes indelible, at least for a while, as it moves to the front of the line in the great chain of my lost hats. I imagine this line snaking behind me, moving as I do, curving off toward the horizon: Kangol caps, baseball caps, watch caps, longshoremen's caps, stocking hats... I begin to imagine this line intersecting with lines of my other lost things. The longest must be the line of pens, a half century's worth of writing implements. Shorter lines of jackets, shirts, shoes. An enormous line of single socks, how is it possible?
Then it's easy to imagine my trails of lost things intersecting with the trails of others. I move inside the lobby of the Fresh Meadows Cinema to warm up (at least some)before my bus comes; it's packed with people lining up to see Avatar. They're all trailing cordons of things they couldn't manage to hold onto, shorter lines for the children, longer and more elaborate ones for the adults holding their hands. The room's so thick with tangled lines it's a wonder anyone can find their way to the ticket counter, where the seven PM show in 3D is already sold out.