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Lost Things

From: New England Review
Volume 34, Number 1, 2013
pp. 35-37 | 10.1353/ner.2013.0033

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

We’ve lost teeth, for one thing. One hundred and sixty baby teeth among us, not counting wisdom teeth. Some of them fell out easily. When they didn’t, my father gave us two options: the pliers or the door. Each choice inflicted its own particular kind of pain. The pliers bore a pain of certainty—the pain of knowing that once they were clamped down tight, the tooth would come out carefully, slowly, achingly. The door held a pain of surprise. My father would tie one end of a piece of string to the tooth and then tie the other end to a door handle. Then he would pretend to slam the door several times until he finally did it for real and the tooth would go with it. If we were lucky, the suddenness of it all would override any actual pain. I, thankfully, lost my first tooth at six while eating an apple in my parents’ bedroom.

We’ve lost twenty-eight wisdom teeth collectively. Mine never grew in and I felt that I lost out on the experience of missing school, watching movies, and eating popsicles all day long. My father suggested that I might be a more evolved species, outgrowing the need for wisdom teeth altogether, which is strange because my father says he doesn’t believe in evolution. His wisdom teeth were yanked out by the military when he was in his mid-twenties. He was given no anesthesia.

My father lost part of his right index finger on the band saw in the garage while making us a Barbie house one Christmas and then paraded the finger in front of my mother, who fainted.

Sara, after winning the Junior Miss pageant, lost the Miss Florida pageant.

We lost at least five cats and three dogs.

We’ve lost loved ones to cancer, drugs, dementia, accidents. We once lost a woman we loved to murder.

When we were kids, my mother lost her purse at least once a day. We were often late for things because of it. She would say frantically, “Kids, quick! I’ll give a quarter to whoever finds my purse!” and then we would run off, pushing each other out of the way, so we could get to the purse first. We would finally find it tucked away in some messy corner of the kitchen or caged beneath an inverted laundry basket. At some point, we got smart and started hiding the purse so we could get a quarter. My mother, to my knowledge, never found out.

We’ve lost, over the years, the desire to hurt one another, compete for attention, be right all the time.

We’ve lost weight. Jimmy lost it before every wrestling match. Amy and Sara lost it in high school by sucking on ice cubes when they were hungry. My mother lost it by counting calories and eating carrots. My mother, Sara, and Amy lost it quickly after their babies came, fitting into their old jeans the week after they got home from the hospital. Since reaching adulthood, I’ve gained as much weight as I’ve lost.

We’ve lost four pregnancies.

I’ve lost countless embryos. Lost them to medical waste bins labeled “biohazard” because they didn’t have enough cells or because they weren’t symmetrical enough or because they were too fragmented. They’ve been frozen and thawed and I imagine that, like me, they just didn’t like the cold. Dozens of others have been lost inside me, unable to attach to my uterine walls. In my mind, my uterus is an ocean, large and impenetrable, a Bermuda triangle for embryos. Once they are placed there by the physician, carefully squirted into just the right spot, they disappear forever.

I’ve lost sleep thinking about where those embryos go. I wake up suddenly, in the middle of the night, and need to know whether they were absorbed into my uterine lining or whether they were expulsed by my body. I need to know whether they came out in the toilet or landed in my underwear at night. I need to know the exact moment this happened. These...

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