I kept telling myself that things could not go on like this—but as the days passed into weeks into months—I realized they could. I found myself powerless to cope anymore. I was not made to be able to care this intensely for more than one person. They say time heals all wounds; they say it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved. But, those who say such things loved and found, and so time healed.
I kept telling myself these things as I roamed the department store looking for Christmas gifts of meaning, but still mulling over the philosophy of life, when my eyes played a trick on me. I saw a sign: Lost Loves and Found. I stared at the clerk, a medium build young man, unremarkable in his store uniform and trained smile.
“Can I help you?”
I looked at the sign more closely. No. It was the Lost and Found department. How silly I can be. Lost loves? But one cannot find lost loves, by definition.
“No,” I shook my head and felt the sadness sweep over me again. “No one can help me.” I turned and went back towards the children’s department, leaving the young man with his generic trained smile far behind.
I shook myself back to the present and for the thousandth time that day, a repetition of every day, demanded of myself to stop soliloquizing, and picked out various gifts for the children of my friends. As I pulled out my credit card to pay, my driver’s license slipped out unnoticed. Being a good driver, I probably would not have noticed for the longest time if, that evening, the doorbell had not announced its return.
“Who is it?” I queried before opening the door.
“You don’t know me,” a tenor voice replied. “I’m from Macy’s. You lost your driver’s license.”
“I did? Just a minute.” I quickly got out my handbag and looked. My license was indeed missing.
Opening the door, I said, “Thanks, I never would have thought to look for it at the store…”
“I know…oh, it’s you!” It was the young man from the Lost and Found Department, now in street clothes and no longer looking like a mannequin. He smiled a real smile now. “I saw you earlier today, didn’t I?”
“Yes,” I laughed lightly taking my proffered driver’s license and slipping it back into my billfold. It dawned on me that he had probably just gotten off work. “Well, don’t just stand in the door,” I said, “Your efforts merit, at the least, a cup of coffee; you must have just gotten off work.”
“As a matter of fact I have,” he replied, then added hesitantly, “actually, I’m going to be a bit late getting home, do you mind if I use your phone?”
I closed the door behind him, ushering him in. “Of course not, you make a call, and I’ll put the water on…uhm your name is?”
He spoke slowly as though trying to remember, “William, William Tayler, and you are Sandra, on the drivers’ license you know.”
“Yes, of course,” and then I really did smile, “William Tayler, oh dear, and I’ll bet you get no end of kidding as William Tell….and everyone thinks you like archery?”
Now it was his turn and he grinned broadly. “Actually, yes. But my friends call me Will and I hate archery!”
“There is the phone,” I pointed to him, “I’ll be right back with coffee.”
Putting on the water, pulling out mugs, and slicing a cake I’d baked yesterday, I mulled over this no longer generic, quite human, un-mannequin. He was interesting enough. His black hair, which had seemed perfectly ordered in the store was now somewhat disarrayed, as though he’d run his hands through it a time or two, without thinking. His brown eyes were the kind only men have and every woman dies of jealousy looking at; if I had his eye lashes and brows, I’d never need mascara again. His face carried the bare shadow of the day’s end and his mouth was plain, with an open smile. Odd, I thought, how the store seemed to want to make mannequins of its employees, but, if he was an example, they still succeeded in resisting at the day’s end.
The water boiled and I piled everything onto a tray and carried it into the living room. Will was standing looking at the various pictures I had on one of the walls. He turned as I came in.
“Did you make your call?”
“Yes, thank you. I just wanted my sister to know I’d be late getting home.”
“Good. Well, here’s your coffee and some cake. Do you always bring items from the Lost and Found to their owners?”
“Not always,” he replied, sitting down on the sofa. “But if it’s a drivers’ license or something like that, I try to return it, most people wouldn’t think of looking for it in a store since they don’t notice the loss right away…which reminds me…”
“Yes?” I asked, “Milk? Sugar?”
“Two sugars, no milk, thanks.” He took the mug and looked at me quizzically. “You did come to the Lost and Found today, didn’t you? I remember you looking at the sign over my desk for the longest time. I asked you if I could help you and you just looked at me rather oddly and mumbled something about no one being able to help you…”
“It was nothing,” I answered too quickly and passed him a piece of cake. “I was thinking about other things.”
“I should think so,” he bit into the cake. “Hey, this is good, did you make it?”
“Yeah…” I smiled. Odd how all this small talk was so comfortable. How long since I’d enjoyed a casual talk about little nothings. Maybe, a new beginning? I didn’t know. And then, the phone rang.
“Excuse me,” I said to Will and turned to the phone. “Hello?”
My face must have gone white, I certainly felt it. And I could feel my hands shaking. “Gary?” I barely was able to speak his name.
I could not see him but I could feel him through the phone, as real as I could feel Will looking at me from across the room.
“How are you?” I managed to ask.
“Hard to say…OK I guess…you?” The same gentle voice, deep and soft, each word pronounced carefully, as though each word had value and import.
“OK, I guess, like you…” I could control my shaking now, but wondered if he heard the trembling I felt in my throat.
“Uhm, Sandra, I know it’s been a long time, but…. can… can I come over? I need to talk with you.”
I felt cold inside and before I could stop myself my voice went hard and brittle over one sharp little word. “Why?”
Silence over a telephone is bearable after months of silence. I waited. Finally he spoke again. “We need to talk,” he said gently, “Sandra, I know I’ve hurt you but… please…. can I come over?”
“I’m at work… say, a couple of hours?”
I wanted to hide. I wanted to protect myself. I did not want to say yes, and yet, hope dies hard. “I…alright.” I whispered.
“Thanks,” I could hear a sigh of relief. “Thanks Sandra, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
I hung up the phone and just stood there looking into nowhere. I’d forgotten my guest, the drivers’ license. My thoughts were whirling out of control. Now? Why Now? If it had been months ago I would have known how to react. I felt so cold and hugged myself, and then jerked as I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder, breaking my thoughts.
“Are you alright?” I turned and looked at Will and in my mind I saw the sign as I had seen it earlier in the day, “Lost Loves and Found.”
I shook myself free and looked into the warm and honest eyes of a young man who seemed so nice, but he was not Gary. Gary had once looked at me, more deeply than this young man, and his look had made me feel real and alive.
“Yes, I stammered, moving away from his touch and sitting on the edge of a chair next to the sofa. “I’m sorry, just a call I wasn’t expecting.”
Will sat down in the corner of the sofa closest to my chair. “Listen, I know we only just met, but can’t I do something to help you? Something is really bothering you…”
I shook my head. “No one can help me,” I whispered.
“That’s what you said earlier today.” Will paused and closed his eyes as though consciously thinking, deeply, then he opened them and looked at me. “What did you think was written on the sign when you looked at it earlier today?”
“What? How did you know,” I was too startled to hide the fear in my eyes.
“It was obvious,” he smiled gently. “You weren’t looking at me; you were looking at the sign.”
I looked down at my hands. “It doesn’t matter,” I whispered.
My mind skipped a track and I looked up. “Did you ever watch Lost in Space when you were growing up,” I asked him.
“Yeah, a few times. Why?” He looked at me quizzically now.
“There was an episode about where lost things go. There was a boy who lived there, but he could never leave because he had to be able to see his reflection in a mirror and then leave through it; but, he had no reflection. He was lost forever in the place where lost things go.”
Will looked at me closely but did not speak.
“Oh, this is silly, pouring my heart out to a stranger…” I forced myself to look at him directly. He just nodded.
I swallowed hard. “Tell me,” I continued, “you work in the Lost and Found. Is there a place where lost loves go? Is there a place where lost love is found? Because you see, I’ve lost my love and I have two hours to find it again…”
Will just looked at me. He was silent for a moment and I could tell he was thinking hard. I was on the verge of getting up, apologizing and showing him out when he began to speak.
“No, I don’t think you are being silly… Sandra, let me tell you a story about my work.
A little girl came to me once. She told me she had lost her Teddy Bear and this was the Lost and Found, could she have her Teddy Bear back? I explained to her that no one had found a Teddy Bear, but she did not seem to understand.
“’This is the Lost and found, so you have to find what I lost,’ and then she pulled at me and said, ‘Come on.’
“She kept insisting, ‘I lost my Teddy Bear so you have to find him and give him back to me.’
“My boss saw what was going on and pulled me aside. ‘Listen, follow the kid around, and then get her to the Toy Department and try and give her a new one. I’m sure she’ll be happy and her mother will have showed up by then… you get the idea.’
“I agreed and let the child lead me, or rather push me in front of her. She kept insisting that I had to find her lost bear so that he could be found by her…kids and their logic…well, we looked in every department she said she had gone through and finally we arrived at the Toy Department. ‘Not here,’ she said disgustedly, ‘I wasn’t even here, so my Teddy couldn’t be here.’
“’Well, let’s look anyway,’ I insisted. I took her over to the stuffed animals. I pulled down several different Teddy Bears and showed them all to her. ‘Maybe you want a new one instead?’ But she looked at me in an almost offended indignation. ‘No, I want MY Teddy,’ she kept insisting. ‘You have to find him.’
“I was getting frustrated. I tried to explain that I couldn’t find her lost Teddy Bear; couldn’t she be happy with a new one? ‘You don’t understand,’ she was almost crying by now. ‘My Teddy Bear and I have been through everything together. He remembers when I had mumps, and when I cried and the first time I rode my bike, and he’s used to me, and only my Teddy Bear has blue button eyes and smiles just for me.’
“’But he’s gone,’ I tried to explain. ‘I don’t know where he is.’
“‘He’s here someplace, I know he is,’ and she ran off and began poking into every nook and cranny she could find, retracing our steps. It must have seemed like ages to her, but it was only 10-15 minutes before she finally sat and began to cry in earnest. I picked her up and headed back to the Toy Department. ‘Maybe, if you look hard, you’ll find another Teddy Bear who will also be your friend.’ But all the stuffed animals I showed her were yet again rejected. Then, suddenly, she cried out, ‘What’s that?’
“‘That, there on the top shelf with the blue spot, its too high to see…’
“I looked up. There on the top shelf, stuffed between some of the extra stock, was an old and battered Teddy bear, with blue button eyes. I guess someone had found it and for some reason assumed it was part of the Toy Department…well anyway you can imagine how happy she was. ‘You see,’ she exclaimed, ‘I lost and you found..’”
Will stopped talking.
“I, I don’t understand,” I said. I wanted to. I could tell he was trying to tell me something important, but I couldn’t figure it out.
“Sandra, you haven’t lost your love,” Will said ever so gently. “It’s here, in your heart. It never left you. But you have to know exactly what you are looking for and not settle for any substitutes. You only have a heart for a Teddy Bear with blue button eyes—and the minute you see him, you’ll know if that is your Teddy Bear or not.”
I forced a smile. “Maybe, maybe,” I replied.
He got up. “I have to get going, it was nice meeting you.”
“You too…” I closed the door behind him and waited and wondered about feelings and lost loves and blue button eyes. The doorbell startled me out of my reverie.
I opened the door. Gary stood there as he always did, hands empty, in a not quite sure stance. Hesitant, he said “Hi.”
“Hi.” I just looked at him. “Well, are you coming in?”
I stepped aside and Gary entered, quietly. He was the only man I’d ever known who could walk without his shoes making a sound.
We sat down on opposite ends of the sofa and looked at each other. I didn’t say anything. What could I say?
“Sandra, have I lost you?”
“I, I don’t know Gary…” and then, as I looked at him, suddenly I felt as though I was way up high on a shelf, stuck between a thousand new Teddy Bears, and there was me, with just my eyes peeking out. “Gary… what color are my eyes?”
“Blue,” he said, “blue, like the sea.”
And now I found myself suddenly remembering how to smile on the inside. “Maybe you did loose me…but if you want…I’m willing to be found.”