Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Keep on Looking

I've always had a photographic memory. Early in my acting career, I found myself memorizing what the script pages looked like and then just reading them in my mind. If other people lost something, I could tell them "Oh I saw it on the corner of the desk" or "It was sticking out from between the seat cushions," and they would marvel.

It's not surprising, then, that I would become a photographer. Taking literal photos of things and places helps me remember them, putting a kind of sealant on the snapshots of my mind.

But my mind has changed a bit lately. I'm becoming more forgetful. I've always been one to leave my belongings at a restaurant or on a bus or in the back of a taxicab – be they keys, sunglasses, earmuffs, or umbrellas, oh, so many umbrellas – but it's getting worse. Earlier in the spring, I lost a car key. How do you lose a car key? And because it happened on a day when I'd carpooled with someone else who was driving, I had absolutely no clue when the last time I had it was. I couldn't remember if I'd locked it in my own trunk, or if I'd had it at any point during the day. Because I have no pictures of it in my head that day, I'm convinced that I dropped it somewhere inside my car, and I just haven't found it yet.

But I keep looking, especially after calling every place I went to that day, each of which turned up nothing.

Every time I use my spare key with the red strap instead of the lost one with the purple strap, I feel the pang of something lost – the worst kind of pang, when you don't know when or where you lost it.

I'm trying to forgive myself for this loss, because it's probably not my fault, exactly. I'm getting older. I'm still recovering from being rear-ended over a year ago. I'm under a tremendous amount of stress and duress. I'm still adjusting to new medication which may or may not affect my memory.

There are lots of things I'd rather not remember, so I was OK with a little memory loss, if it meant that I didn't have to face some of my past trauma, or that I could easily get over new traumas. I was OK with it, that is, until I lost a check.

That is, until I lost two checks.

Losing an item of some sort is generally more about inconvenience, with some monetary impact. Losing money is about losing money.

Both of the checks were signed. Both of them were for a job. One check was to the order of me – my payroll, amount to be determined. I could replace that one; I would just have to wait for it. The other check created a significant amount of anxiety because it was blank, but signed. If I lost that one, anyone could've put their own name on it in any amount, endorsed and cashed it.

Oh. Shit.

My mind had captured a picture of it in a drawer in my apartment where I keep such things, but when I rifled through that drawer, I couldn't find it. I sifted through the drawer's contents probably four times, looking inside my own checkbook and repeatedly empty envelopes, between the pages of notepads, under the receipts and gift cards and foreign currency that tend to collect in that drawer. Nothing.

I checked every other place in my apartment where I might keep important paperwork. I opened the kitchen drawers. I checked under the bed and in the covers. I tore apart the inside of my car, with the hope of finding my lost car key if not the lost checks.

Remembering that I'd recently tidied up my apartment and thrown some things out, I convinced myself I'd thrown the checks out too. But just in case, I kept finding new places to look: the underwear drawer, the coffee table books, the pile of freshly laundered towels. I kept thinking about how my mother would always tell my father I did and said all these horrible things, and upon my denial, tell me that I must've blocked them out in some kind of dissociative amnesia. I've never been exactly sure of my own reality.

I thought I was haunted for a very long time, until scientific evidence seemed to indicate the ghosts were coming from inside my own brain. But when something goes missing, I can't help but wonder if it's the ghosts poking at me, playing with me to see what I'll do. The poltergeists are a mischievous sort, aren't they?

I don't know what kept me looking, but I kept looking for those checks. I needed the money. I needed to feel like I could be responsible enough to hold onto two measly checks. I didn't want to have to admit failure. And every time I looked, even when I didn't find something, I felt like I was at least doing something. I'd eliminated a lot of places where those checks were not hiding.

Or had I? As I started running out of new places to look – which became increasingly ridiculous in likelihood – I returned to the same locus, guided by some trace of geotagging left from my brain's image.

I kept checking that damn drawer.

Finally, after a day focusing on work and people and creativity and productivity, I returned to my apartment, with that sinking feeling of what it was missing. There were no checks here, where they should be. There were no checks anywhere. They had simply disappeared from my possession, and from my memory.

I checked the drawer for what I decided would be one last time. I yanked the drawer out of its cubby, and the envelope with the two checks was in there, crammed into the back of the cavity, crinkled hard into the corner, probably from my repeated openings and closures of the damn thing. I'd misjudged the architecture of the small mirrored side table that it was set into, thinking the bottom of the drawer was also the bottom of the table, and that if something had worked its way to the back of the drawer, it would fall out and onto the floor, like so many socks and t-shirts have done in my dressers from long ago.

Not so.

A minor example at best, but this incident reminds me that I have to trust myself. My instincts are rarely wrong. At times, I find myself thinking that I should be more brave or resilient or less sensitive or delicate, but usually it turns out that my intuition is pretty spot-on, even if it has to be validated the hard way. Sometimes I'd rather be proven wrong than proven right.

So, in this case, crisis averted. Two little pieces of paper and the envelope that held them were found. My efforts paid off, and I was right to keep looking despite my repeated failures.

Now if only my car key would decide to show its face one of these days....

Related Posts:
Go With Your Gut
A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, Or, The Cassandra Complex
Aren't We All LOST?
No Site Left Unseen
Keep On Moving
Keep It Moving