According to a book my son is inclined to read aloud while I am slaloming through traffic and overshooting exits and endangering wildlife – according to this book which mostly consists of disassociated facts like the rambling of a schizophrenic, the average human being spends a total of one whole year attempting to relocate lost things over the course of their natural lifetime.
The book was itself a lost thing, recovered from the garbage of a downsizing neighbor around the turn of the millennium, so not clear is whether this tally should include e-mails and photos and ringtones and passwords buried behind layers of software, or indeed any of the bits and virtual scraps of information we thought we were carrying around in our heads but just as likely weren’t. Lost or never known? The tips of our tongues have surely never been so busy.
And yet there is meanwhile something a little depressing, even savage, about watching a thing vanish forever behind keystrokes, and not being able to appeal. That it has to be somewhere may seem scientifically self-evident, though for many of us agnostics it is also as close to a belief in the inherent benevolence of the world as we are ever likely to feel.
Likewise, who hasn’t imagined some inhabitant of a parallel universe discovering our leftovers and putting them to good use? In What Happens When… by the invitingly named French writer and graphic designer Delphine Chedru, a sparkly bead falls down the drain… and becomes a prop for a circus of… roaches. Well, better they’re frolicking where we can’t see them. What, you were hoping for fairies?
A family of moose makes similarly clandestine use of a summer house no sooner than it is shuttered, a half-eaten lollipop infatuates a snail, and an odd sock dropped behind the radiator enjoys tea with some long forgotten underwear. There’s also a shark wearing a toy bucket as a party mask or muzzle (you decide; smaller fish seem pretty delighted with the arrangement), and a boy’s fading shadow which you will hopefully suspend your righteous indignation for becoming a cat burglar stealing across the rooftops and overflowing with pearls.
Plus many, shapely others which I would tell you about if the book had still been there when I returned a couple of days after finding it. But alas. The bookstore lady said there were still three copies documented in the inventory, we poked around, me growing a little furious about something I knew was right there. Profit if you will from this and all my losses, which doubtless make me remember them as greater, odder and less replaceable than they ever materially were. Sometimes it seems like you could spend half a lifetime blinking and missing and wondering what if.