Lots of things raise my blood pressure: political news; financial uncertainty; computer glitches; and health concerns. Sometimes I’m able to reason my way out of an anxious funk. But misplacing something drives me crazy. I’m plagued by the feeling that my inability to manage my possessions is a sign that my life is about to descend into chaos.
When my children were little I could blame an unexplained disappearance on them, but now that they’re grown and gone I have two options: elves or the onset of dementia. I choose elves.
A friend of mine named Jean had a third option. She blamed the disappearance of a ring on a ghost. Her Victorian house was haunted by a friendly spirit who once, according to Jean, brought her a cup of tea when she was in bed with a high fever. Jean eventually decided to move to a new house and asked the ghost to come along with her. He shook his spectral head and told her that he couldn’t leave the premises. On the morning Jean left she found a ring in the middle of the floor of a room she had emptied the day before. She understood, by telepathic means, that the ghost had taken it several months back as he admired the gemstone’s beauty. He apologized, and she forgave his thievery.
One of my incidents usually begins with a search for an object in its last recalled location. For example, I look for a pocket knife on my dresser where I’m sure I’ve left it–not there. I look in the next obvious location and note my growing panic as the knife remains perversely absent. I expand the circle of my search outward until I’m pawing through tool boxes, opening drawers in cupboards seldom used, looking under sofa cushions where I’ve not sat in months.
I eventually rummage through shoes on the floor beneath the dresser, the pockets of pants in the laundry, the dust bunnies under my bed, but discover the knife hidden underneath a piggy bank on top of the dresser where I first made my search. I had neglected to take into account the elfish predilection for shifting things slightly to one side.
Today I went on an expedition to find some credit cards. We had received a new batch just before my wife and I left on a mini-vacation, and I had forgotten when we returned to mail cards to my son and daughter. My wife told me that my son had asked after his, and I remembered putting them on the desk in the living room. I made quick searches through bank statements and bills, but couldn’t find them. My wife noticed the strained look on my face as I redoubled my efforts and began to look in progressively absurd locations. She said, “We’ll find them. Don’t worry.” I replied, “Will we? I’ve looked in all the places I can think of, and they’re gone. I’m running out of ideas about where to look!” My wife looked at me with a mixture of exasperation and pity, and offered no more comfort. “Those goddamn elves are ruining my marriage,” I thought.
I took Judy to an appointment a few minutes later, and when we returned I made another search of a desk drawer where I believed the cards had been left. I found the them tucked in an envelope with an auto insurance bill. They hadn’t been there 90 minutes ago. Fucking elves.
I sighed in relief. I bolstered my self-confidence by telling myself that I had defeated my tormentors once more. The sheer power of my desperation had forced them to return the cards to the desk drawer while we were gone.
The jewel case for my Lemonheads’ CD, “It’s a Shame About Ray”, is next on the agenda. I’ve turned my studio upside down on at least three occasions, but haven’t yet summoned the eye bulging intensity necessary to intimidate the elves. But there’s always tomorrow. I’ll recall all the things I’ve permanently lost over the years and work myself into a monumental froth.