My father stormed around the house in a state of panic. “All of the credit cards are gone,” he said, his nerves making his voice hit high notes. “I don’t know where they are…someone must’ve stolen them.”
For one week, sometime circa 1990, things were not well in the Panara household. Actually, things were rarely well in the Panara household, but this week was slightly worse than the norm. How had this happened? Had someone really stolen all of my father’s credit cards and, if so, how had the person done it? My father’s wallet was still there. Was it feasible that someone pick-pocketed him, took the credits cards out of his wallet, and then returned it to his back pocket? No one knew. It was like trying to figure out how they get the ship in the bottle, only it involved credit cards and had nothing to do with ships or bottles.
The mystery of the credit cards was eventually solved when my father realized that he had hid them in the basement. I don’t recall if he stumbled upon them accidentally or if the light bulb went on above his head. Fearing that the credit cards would be stolen, my father hid them under a rug in the basement. Somehow he forgot about it afterwards, and then, strangely, believed that they were in fact taken. He sat on the basement couch, overcome with confusion. “What’s wrong with me?” he asked, rhetorically. “What’s wrong with my brain?”
I didn’t answer him; I was too busy searching the basement, hoping maybe he’d forgotten about a stack of money of money he’d hidden away in similar fashion. Or some traveler checks. Or a coupon book. I was desperate.
Now I’m getting older. In what seems like the blink of an eye, I’m my early thirties, and I find myself doing inexplicable things, a la my father and his credit cards, all the time. Just this week I’ve tried riding the bus by swiping my gym card; I got in the elevator after walking in my apartment building and desperately hit the ‘1’ button over and over again, curing and on the verge of having a breakdown because the elevator wasn’t going anywhere; and I put a fork in the refrigerator after cleaning it. At school, I have two black markers to use on the white board. I’m well aware that one works and the other is dead. Do I throw the dead marker away? Of course not. Instead, every time I go to write on the board, it’s like playing Russian Roulette with markers. I’m constantly trying to write with the dead one and, in my head, saying, “Why the hell didn’t you throw this marker out? It’s dead you moron! Throw it away.” And then I put it back down with the other markers.
What’s going on with my brain? It’s all little stuff, but it’s adding up and getting annoying. I wanted to go to the bank this week, on Monday afternoon, and I looked for my bankbook. I looked in the drawer where I keep my important stuff – there was my passport, and my TEFL certificate, and even some forms from the bank. The bankbook, however, was no where to be found. Why in the world didn’t I put it with everything else? For the next hour, I tore up the apartment looking for it. I went through everything, even my luggage, trying to find the stupid missing bankbook. In my head, I did that thing where you try to retrace your steps. “Okay, I went to the bank last month. What would I do? I come in the apartment. I’ve got the bankbook. I put it…”
Who knows where I put it. It’s still MIA, and although that’s not a big deal, it’s bugging me something fierce. Similarly, I got a letter – all in Korean – regarding my pension money. I brought it to school to have my boss Leah translate it for me. At the end of the day, when neither Leah or I had class, I wanted to show her the letter. Could I? No. It was gone – completely vanished. So I got to waste a solid half hour searching for the pension letter. I finally found it folded and stuck in one of the textbooks. That meant that I’d gotten to school and thought, “Hmm, where should I put this important letter? Oh, I know! I’ll fold it and stick in a random part of this textbook here, and then put the book back on the shelf with the other twenty textbooks. Yeah, that’ll make it easy to find.”
If I had a machine that could track my thoughts and give me a daily print out of the things that go through my mind with the highest frequency, the list would probably look something like this: Where’s my phone? What the hell did I do with the pen? Where are my white socks – I can’t possibly be out of white socks already? Why didn’t I buy toilet paper at the store – I specifically went to the store for toilet paper and then bought potato chips? What in God’s name is my password to log into (insert online account) – oh, (after doing the password retrieve thing) why did I pick that? I’ll never remember that! I’ll change it later.
It’s maddening. I’m not going insane, just batty enough for it to be highly irritating. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that’s fine. I must remind myself sometimes that I’m not losing my mind – I’m just losing everything else.
(Here’s the song from which I stole this tittle, by the amazing and outstanding band Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers!)