On the third, or maybe, fourth night of enforced, unwanted wakefulness, when sleep itself, the very notion of sleep seems lost forever, she begins to list all the other lost items in her life and when she used up her fingers, begins to count on her toes.

Left hand

1. A husband, lost on a winters’ day when waking she looked and saw a strangers’ face om the pillow next to hers. The loosing took more planning, more time, more effort than seemed possible once the decision had been made.

2. A grey velveteen rabbit, sewn by her grandmother, its button eyes, slightly uneven, giving it a constantly surprised expression. Left on a number 82 bus and never handed in, despite her insistence that her mother called at the lost property office week after week. It was years before she gave up hope of its return.

3. A diamond ring, borrowed without permission from the other grandmother, worn to impress a man who might have become her husband, but didn’t. Her grandmothers’ dementia saved her from the shame of ever admitting the loss.

4. A lipstick, pillar box red, the one worn when she feared invisibility, a statement color. A lipstick more exciting than she felt she could ever be. It’s loss was somewhat of a relief, allowing her to embrace pale rose, a more fitting shade.

5. A cat, black and white, 5 years old. For years afterwards, she would carefully examine any similarly colored animal until one day she realised that the cat, her cat would have long been dead.

Right hand

1. A friend, a friendship that lasted through school and college and small children and on hno sleep and no money but slipped away, quietly, almost unnoticed when there was nothing left to complain about anymore.

2. A car, but only briefly, in those days when life seemed to consist of lists and tasks and don’t forgets. Parked on a day when her head felt so full that there was space for nothing else. A patient attendant walked from floor to floor with her until the car was found. No longer lost.

3. A t-shirt, out-sized, fabric softened by years of washing to become the perfect sleeping garment. Lost, madly, mysteriously within in her own home. Some days, she opens a drawer, digs into a cupboard, and is momentarily convinced that today will be the day when as mysteriously as it vanished, that it will return.

4. A key, not her own, a key to someone else’s house. She kept it, hanging uselessly on her own key ring, even though she never planned to open that door again and then one day she noticed that it no longer hung, next to the spare shed key.

5. A school duffle coat, bottle green, bought to grow into and finally, after several foiled attempts – returned from the bus stop, returned from the corner shop, returned from the bridge over the canal, thrown by Andrew Snell into the same canal. He believed it to be bullying, she wanted to kiss him with gratitude.

Left Foot

1. Her flat stomach, lost slowly, gradually. Baby 1, baby 2, a weakness for chocolate biscuits eaten noiselessly straight from the packet, middle age, middle spread. She misses the taut flesh, but not enough to do anything about it.

2. A black thong, expensive, lacey, frivolous, worn for the man who gave her the key, also lost. For weeks afterwards, she tortured herself, imagining the underwear dropping from her bag in front of a colleague, a neighbor, her husband. She examined faces for knowing expressions, but nothing changed and finally she relaxed. Felt safe.

3. The collected poems of Sylvia Plath – Shunted from bag to bag, dependent on her outfit, a talisman against boredom in the days before touch screens and I- things. She considered buying another copy, but found herself satisfied with “Take a Break” and “Hello” magazines.

4. A job, one to which she was so unsuited that she expected to loose it every day, practiced appropriate expressions of regret, dismay, made sure that she kept nothing important, irreplaceable in her desk draws, just in case. The actual loss was something of an anti-climax after all.

5. Her virginity, it weighed heavily on her 16 year old self and she gave it up happily to Nigel, he of the moped and the racing green hand knitted jumper. In retrospect, she wonders if he also lost her virgin status during their inept fumblings in his mothers’ bed.

Right Foot

[ Getting tougher now, but sleep feels nearer now, mustn’t stop now]

1. A breast and appropriately a right breast, enumerated on this right foot. She thought she would miss it more than she did, but by the time it went, she could look at it only with loathing, betrayer, mutant, mutating. No real loss at all.

2. Her youth, it seemed to leave her in one single day. She went to bed and woke, middle aged, as if the fairies had stolen it while she slept. She searches for it, in mirrors, in perfumed pots and jars. It has remained, defiantly lost.

3. Hope, its loss is etched on her lips, permanently downward turning now even when she smiles. The ghost of loss bleeding through her smirk.

4. A child, birthday still remembered but distantly, maths needed to work out the date. Sometimes overlooked until the day is half, two thirds, three quarters done, but then recalled, the day paused and then the memory put away for another year.

[ Stop, stop now, focus on the last toe, the smallest, nail painted, soft pink – an easy loss, a nothing loss]

5. A five pound note, a small amount, inconsiderable, unimportant, perhaps not lost at all, perhaps put away, hidden, safe against a rainy day.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

2 responses to “Lost

  • Stephen Wright

    Starting with left hand, number two finger, stating of bus number, strangely lets it down, bit of a cliche. Right hand – Duffle coat entry, brilliant. Left foot, 3 and 4 good, but i’d take out Hello Magazine – funnier to go from Plath to Take a break, adding Hello, labours the point. On toe 5, should it not be ‘lost HIS virgin status’? Right foot, lots of good entries – £5.00 ok, but I was looking for a bigger finish. Perhaps transpose this with duffle coat finish maybe…The lost fiver sounds like you were running out of ideas…possibly. Star rating 4.

  • cathi rae

    gosh – thank you for such detailed and helpful feedback, but i like the fiver, will edit corrections over the week end

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