Things fall apart. More often they are left behind. I can’t find them when I need them. They were just there a moment ago. Or the dog chews them into disrepair. Or they are hopelessly tangled – four pairs of headphones merged into one seamless ball while gathered in a junk drawer. You look at them and think one day you’ll straighten them out when you have time, but you never do. Or sometimes, and this is really odd, you just plain forget you own a thing.
It’s a modern luxury to have so much stuff you can misplace something willy nilly or misremember its whereabouts or let it vanish from memory so utterly that when you stumble upon it again it feels brand new – my juggling balls reappeared in a closet mysteriously after a few months absence. Why do I own five juggling balls when I can only manage three balls for two minutes at a time? So many lost, broken and misremembered things swirling around in a loose orbit that they collide and converge and disappear like meteors crashing in the night sky.
If am bad about keeping up and keeping track of things, my sons are worse.
Andrew lost winter coats at such a rapid pace when he was in the sixth grade back in Asheville, North Carolina that we took him one day to K-Mart and walked him down an aisle. What jacket could we get him that could never be lost? We located a bright orange hunting jacket. It must have been used for hunting or possibly for doing repair work on highways late at night in the pitch dark. We think the coat glowed in the dark because it practically glowed in the daytime.
Andrew couldn’t believe we actually bought the coat at first. Then he seemed to adopt it as his own private fashion statement, his way of standing out from the crowd. This was never our intent. We had hoped to send him to school with the horrible orange coat on only once. We thought he might reappear that afternoon with all the coats he’d ever brought to school, and we could quickly retire his new hunting jacket to the extreme outside position in a closet somewhere.
“Are you actually wearing that?” I’d ask him. “Sure,” he’d say. “Why not? You guys bought me this coat. You must want me to wear it.” I just shook my head. He disappeared in the morning mist as he walked from my car to his first class. Actually, he didn’t disappear in the morning mist at all because he was a glowing orange blob with his own internal light source that cut through any amount of mist.
Andrew was attending a charter school held in an office park across the street from the K-Mart and up a bit from the bikini car wash that used to feature a guy in a gorilla suit who was always standing outside waving. His school had no PE facilities to speak of. No gym. No auditorium. No flag pole. It was a school in a very loose sense of the word when it came to facilities in a town where wearing an orange hunting jacket to school was no big deal.
We never figured out what happened with all the other coats Andrew had lost. And he never lost the orange hunting jacket. Perhaps he’d been misplacing the other coats, and other children were picking them up from where he’d left them and wearing them or selling them in second-hand stores. But no one seemed to want the orange hunting jacket. Its one redeeming feature was to be so unloveable to the world that it could never be stolen or adopted by any other boy.
We eventually broke down and bought him another coat, which he lost in a matter of days. There he was glowing orange again in his old jacket. We tried not to look directly at him because that was like staring at the heart of the sun. We weren’t sure if we should laugh or cry when that orange jacket re-emerged from the closet much like the lost mystical city of K’un-Lun that disappears and re-appears unexpectedly only in certain issues of the comic book “Iron Fist.”
Avery also has a genius for misplacing things. Books. Backpacks. House keys. His glasses. Jackets. Everything must go. And most of it will stay gone forever. He is not a material man. He is more like a master of anti-matter, repelling every one of his possessions into a strange alternative universe where some other boy might find them more useful. Note to self: I must schedule a trip to his school’s lost and found department soon so I can reclaim his winter wardrobe.
We were trying to get out the door of our apartment in Manhattan for a trip to Philadelphia recently. I spent thirty minutes looking for my cell phone. I felt ridiculous. Then I found it where it had somehow fallen inside Avery’s backpack. We spent the next thirty minutes looking for Avery’s glasses, which he had misplaced somewhere. We tore up his bed. Dismembered the living room sofa. Looked in every nook, cranny and crevice. They were in his pocket the entire time.
Robyn worried at first we would miss our train. Then she stopped worrying. I was running around the house like a madman looking for lost things. But she grew very still. We’d already missed the first train we intended to take while I looked for my cell phone. She was sitting on a chair checking her e-mail on her smartphone when Avery finally found his glasses in his pocket.
I must adopt this zen like posture of unconcern when next we lose an item. I will meditate on the matter. No e-mail check. Just a quick visit in my mind to a mystical city. A district where citizens keep up with their stuff. A perfect ordered spot in time.
A place that can only be visited in visions in my home.