The car keys are missing.
And if they’re not missing right now, just wait like an hour or so. They’ll disappear. They always do.
Monica, my wife, will walk into a store holding her fancy cell phone and her small, sofa-sized Momlette™ (mom wallet, she hates purses) in her hands and I will follow behind her, picking the wallet up off of the sunglasses rack where she had laid it in a swift huff when she had stopped in the nick of time to prevent Henry, our two year-old tyrant, from bailing himself over the side of the cart in the name of liberty.
Twenty paces behind her, I am the unsung caboose, pulling up the rear and casually gathering up her phone from the rack above the cat food, where she had placed it while she slung another crate of the stuff she feeds to the neighborhood ferals into the cart next to the chocolate milk and the hummus and the celebrity gossip rags.
The kids cry in the cart; they dangle off of it like prisoners desperate to leap from a bullet train no matter what the cost might be. Monica pushes them along, barely stopping to glance at anything but the absolute necessities. Me: I like to dawdle, to stare at rows of camouflage steering wheel covers as if they were priceless works of art in one of your finer museums instead of bottom-of-the-barrel useless vinyl junk taking up space in the Walmart.
But not my bride.
She plows through the colors and the shiny things as if they weren’t even there.
And along the way, things get lost.
I don’t recall the exact moment that I realized that I had married a scatterbrained woman. It doesn’t even matter, I guess.
Truth is, it wasn’t long after we got married that I began to notice that phones were disappearing. Her phones. I’d help her to look for them, of course, and often it was me who ended up rescuing the thing from the dark french fry crypt down between the driver’s seat and the center console. Or I’d spot it in the garbage can in the kitchen, nestled up with a bunch of junk mail that Monica had tossed out.
Once, I found one of her lost phones in the freezer. I’m serious. Apparently it had been in her clutches at the very instant that she had been reaching for the chilled Jagermeister AND decided that she had best bring out the ice cubes, too. Naturally, she had then just set the phone down in the very first place she could given the nature of the extreme and urgent circumstances: on the ice lump to the left of the two year-old freezer-burnt Italian sausages.
I’d give her the benefit of the doubt though. We were newlyweds and then we were people who had only been married for a couple years. I figured this will go away; she’s just still all excitable about getting married and all.
Last April, when we shoved the winter coats into their trash bag summer cottages and I dragged them all up into the hot attic, who would have guessed that Monica had left the car keys in the pockets of the last winter coat she would wear/see/even remember for the next seven months.
I guess I should have. Well, to be fair, I actually did guess it. Otherwise, we’d both have calf muscles rippling like a live trout in a sack from riding our bikes everywhere.
I’ve approached the subject several times down through the years, but it is always messy. My wife doesn’t take kindly to me questioning her ‘responsibility’ when it comes to leaving the debit card on every single check-out counter she has ever whipped it out at.
“That’s just me. It’s not something I can change.” That’s what she says in so many words. I sense her tense up when I try and talk about it. Sometimes I feel as if she might be armed. That is a weird feeling: knowing that you might get gut-shot by a small snub-nose derringer that your own wife pulls out of her bosom and points at your belly.
I know enough just to let sleeping dogs lie.
Steam trickles from her ear holes and slips slightly from her clenched nostrils and I get the hell out of dodge, turning away from her meekly, and quietly make my way downstairs to the recycle bin behind the washroom door where, unseen by all mankind but pulled along by some supernatural beacon of burrowed Yoda wisdom, I walk right up to an old plastic soy sauce jug, flip it over, and gently pick up my wife’s very valid United States Passport from a soda-saggy nest of discarded catalogs and papers she had thrown out yesterday.
How do I find these things?
God only knows.
If I were a serious artist and not the kind of lazy unfulfilled bar stool dreamer that I am probably turning out to be, I would be taking the pictures for this wonderful idea I have for a photo series that would definitely get me featured on some hot websites and, quite possibly, on to the Dr. Phil show. It would be a series of, I dunno how many…(fifty maybe, maybe a hundred), of pictures I take of the many various displays that my wife leaves in our parked car for thieves and rapscallions to enjoy while we are away.
Here is an example, a description of what Picture #62 might look like:
On the dashboard we see in very plain view – almost as if it were being offered up to some higher power (or lower power, as these things often go) – Monica’s behemoth wallet. It sits alone on an unfettered plain of plastic, it’s filthy old weird polyester seeming to glint in the sun since it just looks so damn out of place. Just below that, on the center console, we notice the keys to the unlocked Honda Pilot laying motionless in plain view.
In the bottom left of this exquisite photo, upon the driver’s car seat, we easily notice a copy of a signed blank check for five-hundred dollars. And beside that, a healthy nugget of pure gold the size of a Halloween Snickers.
To the artful eye, the scene conjures up the reckless forgetfulness of a multi-tasking society driven to scatterbrain moments that have possible painful consequences. To the criminal eye, the scene conjures up a turducken; a delectable steaming triumvirate of the best life has to offer us all in one place at once.
I feel like it would be a hit. I feel like people everywhere would relate to my pictures and they would sympathize with a guy whose bank cards and car keys are out there somewhere, on a daily basis, hidden in the ether.
But, I can’t do that to my wife, you know?
I’m not gonna parade her out in front of Dr Phil and his goonies and let them praise my Da Vinci-like visions of artfulness while they rip her a new one for being wildly irresponsible with the tiny important treasures that hold our family’s physical world together. That would be lame.
I would never throw her under the bus like that, dude.
All of these bloggers spilling out all of their happy horseshit.
Some things are just meant to be private.
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