Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tangled lines of lost possessions

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.


Sifi said...

I am always loosing hats and umbrellas and I often go to great lengths to get them back. My partner thinks I am slightly nuts in this area...unraveled. And I always think of Elizabeth Bishop, and her One Art. Thank you.il

melissashook said...

This is precious. Those blue pigeons.
And all the single gloves and mittens dancing along with the single socks.
The only consolation is that the lines of varied folks with all their possessions so easily and inevitably lost will suffer mightily from Avatar and at the end of it, the very long time, very long time, coming end, will yell, Kill him! Kill him! having lost all control.
Thank you...

Elisabeth said...

What a story, Mark. It conjures up images for me of all the lost objects that float through the universe, yours mine and everyone else's.

And the cold you describe here, not just the weather but the coldness of loss infuses the sadness of all these missed objects.

Every year I go though all the single socks that appear in this house hold of between five and six people.

At any one time I have a full bag of single socks in my laundry cupboard. I always manage to retrieve a few connected pairs but mostly I find there is still a bag full of singles in my cupboard after this annual ordeal of mix and match.

How can it be? I wonder. Where are all those socks?

Where is Saint Anthony the patron saint of lost objects when you need him?

Mim said...

Mark, I like--so much--the way you go from your particular losses, beginning with the dear hat, to other peoples losses, as you place yourself among others and connect. You open things up!

Anonymous said...

Such a distinctive hat -- maybe someone will find your hat and return it. At one of his readings, David Sedaris mentioned that when he travels and arrives in the hotel room, he always keeps his things within about five feet of the suitcase. Never uses the drawers or other horizontal spaces across the room. He says that he knows that if he does not do that, he will lose his things. The neuroscientists likely have completed studies about those prone-to-losing-things moments, and one category of moment should be labeled taxi. So many things happen at that moment exiting the cab that it seems a small miracle when we remember so much -- to tip, to put our money away after paying, to remember whether we have luggage in the trunk, to decide whether we need to change anything for the weather outside. Housed in taxi's etymology is the common experience -- we frequently feel taxed at the end of the taxi ride, overwhelmed by the collision of the present and the onrushing future as the exit door swings open.

Roz Morris aka @Roz_Morris . Blog: Nail Your Novel said...

Some things we lose we don't mind about. What's poignant about your lines of lost hats is that you weren't ready to let them go.
Nice post - it reminds me of a song by The Divine Comedy, Lost Property.

Anonymous said...


galincal said...

I found a hat once. An Irish (really, from Ireland) tweed cap, classic. I found it in the parking lot at McNear Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, in a deserted parking lot, at dusk. I was thrilled; what a cool cap. Then I turned it over and saw written on the label (verifying its Irish pedigree)n the words "I love this hat!" and a phone number.

Of course I had to call and relinquish my all-too-temporary claim to the cap. The woman who answered was joyous. Her husband LOVES that hat. He has lost it so many times but it's always been returned.

She directed me to leave it with a friend, as they were from Mill Valley and had gone home. Their friend is the produce monger at a local market hall in Point Reyes Station. I met her there and inspected her selection of gourmet jams and so forth (the produce was very nice but not useful to me while staying in a B&B). I selected something (caramalized onion jam) and she said my money was no good for that, because her friend really LOVES his hat. I chose a joar of sun-dried tomato mustard, and this also was complimentary. Desperate to make a purchase that would benefit her, I selected a nylon shopping sack that folds up into its own tiny sack, complete with belt clip, so that I could always have it handy. This, she allowed me to pay for.

Perhaps you should write "I love this hat!" and your phone number in your next favorite hat.