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The Things I’ve Lost

By Brian Arundel

Fleece hat and gloves: in the backseat of a Boston cab in 2002, before driving back to Maine. Round, purple sunglasses: in an Atlanta pool hall over drinks with Ashby, whose wife was determined to save their marriage by having a baby. A measurable dose of self-skepticism: at about 14, when I realized I was very good at both playing violin and baseball, while not necessarily everyone else was. A school-wide presidential election in sixth grade, after I was drafted to run by Mrs. Sticoiu, the most frightening teacher in the school, while I was out of town. A copy of The Little Prince, in Mrs. Sticoiu’s class the previous year. A floppy disk that contained my paper on ideological subversion in Wendell Berry, the first essay I’d written after returning to graduate school following a four-year respite. A black scarf from Pigalle: somewhere in Maine before moving west.

The chance to kiss Leslie Wertmann, and, later, that redhead in seventh grade with a smile that could buckle steel—Kim, Christine, or Kathleen maybe—and the blonde at the freshman dance because I couldn’t recognize flirtations, even when told that I looked like Bruce Springsteen. My virginity: in 1980, a couple weeks short of 16, in a ritual so brief, awkward and forgettable that I have, in fact, forgotten it. My heart, or so I thought, in 1985, when Susie dumped me; my naivete, three months later, when I learned that she’d slept with at least three other guys I knew while we’d been dating.

Belief that my mother was somehow more than human: in 1972, the first time I saw her fall down after getting drunk. Belief that my father was more than human: a few months beforehand, after learning that he’d had an affair and was being thrown out of the house. The belief that my sister was stable: 1976, when she began pointing at random objects and saying their names, a few months before getting arrested, the first of many times, for disturbing the peace by refusing to leave a Western Union office until they gave her a job. A ten-dollar bill on a DC subway in 1985, on my way home to my friend Tommy’s, where I was staying after leaving my father’s house—after he’d moved back in, once my mother remarried and moved south.

The chance, in 1986, to meet Raymond Carver: the only person invited to sit in on an interview, I instead drank all night with friends and overslept. A quarter-inch off the tip of my left thumb, in 1987, while slicing Muenster cheese on an electric Hobart slicer. My shit, figuratively, that same summer when Bob Weir sang “Looks Like Rain” just as my acid trip was peaking at a two-night Dead stand in Roanoke, Va. The Buick a friend had given me as a tax write-off in 1996, which I let someone take for a test drive without holding collateral.

The thought that officials were somehow more evolved than those who elect them: in 1972, listening to my father explain the Watergate burglary. Faith in politics—particularly a two-party system relegated to fundraising contests perpetuated by shallow sound bites, mudslinging and outright lies for the Mindless American Voter so that each party can pursue a majority with which to repress the other, with complete disregard for actually trying to improve the lives of citizens: gradually over time, culminating in 2000. Fundamental hope that Americans really would overcome their vacuity, fear and greed to evolve beyond sheep determined to re-elect George W. Bush: 2004.

The ability to drink until late at night and go to work the next day without feeling like I need to be zipped inside a body bag: sometime in my early thirties. General insecurity and inadequacy: during the past seven years, as I’ve tried to allow myself to be loved without guilt or judgment. Self-pity and -importance, at least most days, while striving to look beyond the borders of my own desires in a steady ascent that some might refer to as maturation. The desire to remain in this country: since 2004. A black beret: in a Minneapolis bar, just a few days before relocating to Georgia in 1993. A taste for soy sausage patties: inexplicably, sometime in the past six months, leading up to a Saturday brunch three weeks ago.


 

Brian Arundel received an MFA in creative writing from Louisiana State University, and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American Review, Under the Sun, The Strange Fruit and Bryant Literary Review. He works as an editor in Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Manuela.

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