Your lost keys glisten on a plinth near the entrance. You remember the 1992 Dodge Neon that these belonged to, and how the entire car felt hollow and plastic and unsafe above sixty miles per hour. But much of your life felt unsafe then, in that studio apartment on Buckman Street, unemployable and drowning in debt.
A nest of old wired earbuds dangle from the ceiling, tangled into an unfathomable mass, whispers of old iPod mixes linger. Rancid, The Distillers, Suicide Machines, NOFX. Also, more Katy Perry than you’d ever admit.
Next, you find a framed opera ticket, soggy and water damaged, as if run through the washing machine. F— had been so upset with you, saying that you were the least responsible person they knew, and of course you’d lose it, and of course they’d still go to the opera without you because it was your own damn fault.
Near the center of the cavernous exhibit, you find a gigantic mound of every coin you ever lost. Mostly pennies and dimes. Each metallic disc is nondescript in isolation, yet a collective memory appears, feeling in your jeans to feed the meter, knowing a few dimes should be there, only finding a gaping hole in your pocket instead.
You cross to the other end of the museum and pass a large hermetically sealed glass pillar full of rotten food. A few mold plumes somehow survived despite the museum’s preservation efforts, and they snake up the glass in a polka dot pattern. You never thought of this food as lost, but here it is. Pickles and tomatoes that slid off your burger and onto the sidewalk. Pieces of popcorn scattered across movie aisles. That fat meatball that somehow slid off your plate and rolled away into some abyss beneath L—’s furniture, never to be a seen again, despite how often you and L— looked for it.
You walk by three pairs of eyeglasses. Two look brand new, one is cracked. The two new pairs were from Zenni, and you probably left them at the library. The cracked pair were from an expensive eyewear boutique after you finally got a full-time job with vision insurance.
You notice a framed copy of that lost Matrix DVD. Blockbuster had charged a huge replacement fee plus a late fee plus a threat to report you to creditors if you didn’t pay.
You notice dozens of soy sauce packets.
You notice H—’s earring.
E—’s expensive backpack.
Several once-lost umbrellas are propped in the corner of the museum, a monument to every hastily exited bus or café booth.
A stack of books from graduate school, coffee rings on each cover from late nights and early mornings spent either studying, making out with K—, or both.
On the far wall, you find that slip of paper with your urgent and brilliant story idea scribbled at two in the morning: It’s about a guy who eats bees or something.
Object after object, you find what you once missed, whether momentarily or deeply.
Then you come across an object you do not recognize: a bright yellow yoyo. You don’t remember losing it, you don’t remember owning it, you don’t recall ever having touched it. It is so lost that the memory of it is lost. You sidestep museum etiquette and grab the yoyo. It is yours, after all. This entire museum belonged to you at one time, long before any of these items were lost.
You put the loop around your finger, and it feels natural. You instinctively know a few simple tricks: walk the dog, around the world, swing the baby. You don’t recall ever learning how to use a yoyo, but it’s reflexive. This delightful toy from some long distant childhood fills you with joy and pride as you try another trick: sidewinder, it’s called.
The yoyo digs into your finger. The string is not string. The string is a thin metal filament. It slices. It cuts deep, draws blood, and remembers how you lost it.