Detective of Lost Things by Cayte Bosler
Lost is a place none of us know exactly how we’ll inhabit until we reach it. Until we are catapulted into it.
This summer, I moved back to New York City after a near year of travel. I was ready to tether my life to one zip code. I relished filling my new room with belongings. Postcards on the wall, mismatched socks, a keepsake mug with a blue whale wrapped around the chipped porcelain. I sipped stale coffee waiting for the feeling of a big moment to sweep me. But my mind only wandered to a repository of far off places where I might soon go. This, while a backyard thick with undiscovered street names awaited me. Sometimes I think I have always suffered from 'anywhere but here' syndrome.
I’m a product of an ever-shifting landscape since childhood. I settle inside when my particles whoosh around like rapids over rocks and feel quite strange when they instead gather in placid pools. Everything about the in-between of permanent addresses, about aloneness and travel terminals, curling like vines around events in my life.
I had mastered a way, I thought, to harbor stillness as I flung myself from place to place. But that feeling was swept from me with great force.
I was expecting a moving box kept together by layers of spent and tangled tape. Inside it were bits of telling swaddled in soft paper bodies. My strength collected from the content of books, journals and letters from years of stitching together my life with those of strangers, lovers, relatives, the smelly monk, the odd fact. A box of pages where I allowed myself to forage for the elusive feeling of home.
When I inquired with the post office, I learned it was maybe stolen.
My grief was instant. My brain deranged. My own neural wiring seemed as tenuous as silky sutures. There was the initial shock, a stillness like sea ice then a torrential of hot-blooded waves. How come we are never beacons of grace practicing radical acceptance? Mend me, begs the terrible melancholy.
I did what I might do in a foreign land. I searched for signposts in the waters of despair. Hey, you over there, hi excuse me, what direction do I swim? I just got here.
To distract from my heartache, I visited the Long Island home of my friend’s ninety-year-old grandmother Barbara. She fed me crab dip by the Atlantic sea that will one day stretch watery fingers into the stuff of comfort. There was a desk in her kitchen, splintery wood painted black. “It belongs to my firstborn son,” she told me as if he’ll plop down in the wobbly chair and scribble a note. Though I knew him to be dead, she shared bits of his life story in the present tense. Before I left, she passed me a cutout newspaper clipping to consider: Where Have all the Ladybugs Gone? The headline read.
The wet body of Lost is on everyone's map.
As a kid, I can remember splashing along with more finesse. When I sensed the ground around me slipping - when we changed houses again or when I overheard fights - I swathed myself in my father’s overcoat and tie like an audition for the hardboiled detective Sam Spade. Then went in search of little tangibles. The keys in the couch, puzzle pieces under the bed, treasures forgotten. Sure, life could take things away, but I would be the detective of lost things and fill the chasm growing around us.
But then I bored of the finding and played at disappearing myself. My great moment came at seven when I hid well enough that my dad called the police. A proper neighborhood search party unfolded for my small body. I was lodged, knees dug into my chest in the woods near enough to hear the frenzied exertion. I coveted murmurs of speculative guesses at my whereabouts. Tucked them away for future savoring. Something soothing and satisfying about everyone working together, even if for the sake of a missing child. I pressed the extension of my autonomy into the boughs of Evergreen trees nuzzled behind our Washington property. Passed days into darkness and when I returned, it was with a head full of the forest. And please, if this counts as a lost place, let me be lost always.
I had intended to be the heroic detective as I grew up. To have a method, a search and rescue system, for all the imponderables in this pretty, perilous world. But I’m not yet the swan, nothing silky in my composure.
When I lost my grandmother this year, I instinctively fled to the trees. I put dirt and rocks in my mouth that night. Laid on my back on a patch of the damp earth trying to swallow the black and blurry sky. My throat a portal shaped like a frozen scream. My lost feeling inhabited by raw earth instead of answers. In this way, I have a method.
I eventually found my box in a lonesome lobby of my former New York apartment. I smacked my hand on every buzzer until an annoyed somebody rang me in. Then I fell on its mangled body like a clumsy, famished hunter onto a kill.