One night, during the years when I was commuting into San Francisco on BART, I wandered around the parking lot for an hour before I realized that my car was stolen. The thought occurred to me about fifteen minutes after I got off the train. But I kept saying to myself, "it can't really be gone..."
The disbelief of its absence was pure denial. I went up and down every aisle of the station parking lot looking left then right. From one end to the other, then back again. I covered the lot at least three times. I kept looking at the spot where I thought I'd parked it, as if it would materialize since the last time I looked there. But cars don't materialize. This one was given to me from a friend who was a pastor. It was a 1958 Ford Fairlane. I loved that car. The real treasures were in the trunk though.
I was newly married and had filled the trunk with about $1,000 worth of wedding gifts we didn't know what to do with. The loot was headed for a thrift store, some of it, and some would be rewrapped for other wedding gifts. Something about it being stolen was infuriating. Even though I wasn't going to keep the gifts, the fact that someone just took them upset me.
Up one row, down another... until my feet hurt. I never found it. The absence was cavernous. I felt sorry for my car. And for myself. I finally resigned myself to the fact that it had been stolen, called Melinda for a ride home and found a policeman to fill out a report.
The car was discovered two years later, after we had moved to the Los Angeles area. I had to pay for a plane ticked north, parking tickets, the impound fees and towing. And of course, the trunk was empty. I drove the car back south and gave it away to a single mother who needed transportation. She may have sold it for drug money.
All the time I didn't have that car, I would reminisce about it. I tried wishing it back, and of course, none of that worked. I was just left with a gap there. My car lost forever. But when it came back to me, unexpectedly, it was a great joy. I gladly spent what it took to go retrieve it, not even knowing what condition it would be in. I was sure the years and the man-handlers who stole the car would have left nothing for me. But I was wrong. The car was almost as I had left it in the parking lot.
Might I be so lucky that everything I lose could find its way back home as though nothing was different. There are things that have, for whatever reason left my life. There are people who were an intimate part of my daily details, giving and taking words of kindness, who have now grown silent. No matter that I look to see them, even where we last spoke, they are not there. I keep coming back to that place, expecting to see their faces, or hear their voices, and have not gotten used to missing them. That's the final admission that they're not there. We'll all likely go to the grave without seeing some of those people who have made an impact on our lives.
Through some act of grace, perhaps at some unanticipated moment, I'll get a call or a notice in the mail, that something of mine will be found. A car, or a soul friend from the past. I'll come many miles and at some sacrifice either out of curiosity or for some other reason just to see that nothing, really, has changed...