The Noise in the Car
Halfway down the valley, in the dark, something slithered onto the floor, irrevocably, undoubtedly, lost somewhere in the vehicle. Logically, I know things are not really lost, just misplaced, but if you don’t retrieve them immediately, they slip out of your consciousness and might as well have vanished. It is hard enough to recall the purpose (let alone names) of things plentifully obvious these days without having to remember where the thing that slithered away went, or wondering what it might have been.
There were several loose objects on the console: a wallet, a cell phone, papers and sunglasses. The most worrisome was the wallet – containing, as it does, several items of its own, including I.D. and licenses and money, all so thin and insubstantial they could lodge sideways and obscure themselves from sight. One year after she’d been in the car, I discovered a work pass belonging to a woman we had transported one dark morning to a fifty kilometre mountain run (another story). It was wedged in the back seat with a pad of dog hair. Bet she didn’t fathom it would be there when she thought about looking for it. It probably slithered in the dark out of her wallet. I’d double my bet and say it likely bothered her more wondering where it might have gone than not having it at all.
Anyway, there we were hurtling out of the darkness, one and a half hours past the slither, and my husband asked, “Where are my sunglasses?”
“Well,” I replied, a little smugly, “something slid under your seat awhile ago…”
“No,” he countered, “I think that was my cell phone.”
Several thoughts occurred to me at once. First, I thought about how odd it was that both our brains had registered a slither, and viewed it as a serious enough occasion to store the information in long-term memory until we needed to retrieve it.
Secondly, I realized that whatever I thought the noise might have been, he was bound to recognize it as something different.
Thirdly, I ranted against the thought that he might expect me to know where his sunglasses, which he had nonchalantly cast upon the floor, might have ended up.
We have a long standing joke, stolen from comedian Rita Rudner, who tells her husband that whatever he’s lost is “behind the milk” given his propensity for gazing into the fridge and not finding the missing item, which is staring back at him from behind the carton of milk. It’s shocking how often this statement is true.
In any case, I searched my side of the vehicle, and not very thoroughly, as I distinctly recalled that the whisper of disappearance had come from under his seat. Then came the capper for me, as my husband said, “Never mind. I don’t need them now.”
All my senses had been mustered to locate the source of that illusive object that had slipped out the realm of the here and now and into the black hole of missing objects. I could even tell that my heart rate had gone up, knowing the search might be difficult. I had remembered it and thought about it and puzzled myself only to hear that it didn’t matter.
Perhaps one day though, when I search yet again for something that is lost, it will be under the car seat, behind the milk.